During the pandemic, the Roots co-founder Black Thought fell into a collaborative rhythm with the soul group El Michels Affair, soaking in the material sent to him by their frontman Leon Michels. Soon enough, the musicians had crafted a complete album’s worth of material, now set to be packaged and shared as Glorious Game, out April 12.
Black Thought and El Michels Affair launched the collaborative project with “Grateful,” a succinct preview of the former’s hip-hop storytelling wrapping itself around the latter’s scene-setting, cinematic production. The lead single pulls from lessons learned in the environments that have shaped the rapper most.
While considering his approach to working with Black Thought, Michels leaned into hip-hop’s affinity for sampling. According to a release, the musician began his process by creating soul tracks from scratch, then using them to sample himself and use chops or loops to create fresh instrumentals for Black Thought to rap over.
“What I write about is determined by the equation of the producer’s energy and my energy, it’s about where we meet,” Black Thought explained in a statement. “To me, these songs are like scenes from a film that is my life. That’s the way it evolved.”
Michels added: “This is an effing rap record. He’s a storyteller; the point is to listen to the story. It’s not a verse-chorus, verse-chorus approach. Listen to what he has to say and the way he has to say it.”
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Glorious Game features appearances from Kirby, Son Little, and Brainstory. It follows Black Thought’s 2022 album Cheat Codes, made in collaboration with Danger Mouse.