Miles Davis, Robert Glasper, Bilal - "Ghetto Walkin'" (Singles Going Steady)

by PopMatters Staff

21 April 2016

The tempo of "Ghetto Walkin" is noticeably faster than the Davis original, yet it creates a rich texture of sound that is well paced by the dry percussion.
 

Nathaniel Schwass: “Ghetto Walkin’” is a raw, soulful single from the up and coming Miles Davis and Robert Glasper project entitled Everything Is Beautiful. On this jazzy track, master takes from Davis’ work with Columbia Records have been compiled and reworked by Glasper to create a remote, somber affect that is well represented by the creative artwork of its complementary video. The harsh stoicism of the urban-sprawl is emoted in the sketchwork of the animation, seemingly influenced by the artwork of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The complementary video highlights the existential crisis of black, urban subjecthood as vocalist Bilal sings “So low I’m thinking one way out / In a box, In a church, and the people shout / Grandma’s hands prayed for me / But these streets still preyed on me.” The remorseful interiority of urban life expressed is similarly expressed in Mac Miller’s song “Friends” from his Faces mixtape, which also samples Davis’ “The Ghetto Walk”. The tempo of “Ghetto Walkin” is noticeably faster than the Davis original, yet it creates a rich texture of sound that is well paced by the dry percussion. The layering of sound on this single is incredibly rich, from the powerful emotive qualities of the vocals to the sweet nuances of it’s forlorn strings. This modern re-working of Davis’ sound is well arranged by Glasper, but it lacks the thought-provoking surprise of Davis’ improvisation. Given the nature of the project, this lack is lessened by the aesthetic cohesion of Glasper’s work, and the euphony of the track breathes life into the work of Davis and his musical legacy. [8/10]
  

Emmanuel Elone: “Ghetto Walkin’”, a song off of Robert Glasper’s upcoming Miles Davis tribute album, is as relaxing as a calm, late night stroll. Bilal’s vocals are excellent as usual, with his distinct, slightly nasal tone to them. While the R&B singer takes the spotlight, Glasper’s smooth compositional playing establishes the tone of the song, and matches perfectly with the uplifting, cool lyrics coming out of Bilal’s mouth. “Ghetto Walkin’” is not flashy, nor is it even new; it’s simply a great jazz piece that’s worthy of honoring Miles Davis. [8/10]

Chris Ingalls: The Glasper/Davis collaboration was a mixed bag for me when I first heard the track “Violets,” and this time, I’m not inclined to change my tune. Again, props to the usually fascinating Glasper for attempting to mine Davis’ legend in new and interesting ways, but this track isn’t all that interesting and I still think that tacking MIles’ name to the project smacks of exploitation. [5/10]

Pryor Stroud: Through its steady hip-hop groove and mellow jazz-inflected tone, “Ghetto Walkin’” instantiates a definitive sense of place and mood that imprints itself on your memory. As its title suggests, the track doesn’t run or leap or barrel forward, it walks: one foot after the other, each step eminently felt, and the sidewalk these steps fall upon is not a sidewalk in some insulated suburban idyll, but a sidewalk cracked and covered in cigarette butts, empty glass bottles, and the makeshift bedding of homeless people who have left, perhaps for good, to search for something to eat. The drum beat marches in time with these steps, imbuing them with ineluctable sonic weight. “Ghetto walkin’ / Streets define me / Devil’s watchin’ / They can’t hold me down”, the lyric resounds, and the sociological conflict it depicts—street versus individual, oppression versus freedom—seems deeply embedded in the aspirational yet beaten-back resilience of the vocal. [7/10]

Chad Miller: The vocals are amazing here, soulful and wispy on a perfectly jazzy R&B melody. They do a lot to imbue the track with the passion and the lasting feeling of hope. It ends up as a very powerful number with a timeless sound. [9/10]

SCORE: 7.60

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