Common, Karriem Riggins & Robert Glasper on Bringing More Live Music to Hip-Hop as August Greene

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From left: Riggins, Common and Glasper.

Common, Karriem Riggins and Robert Glasper were friends and collaborators before the idea of forming a band came to mind. But after the trio recorded Common’s 2016 album, Black America Again, the group’s longstanding brotherhood and musical chemistry culminated in the creation of the artists’ new jazz- and hip-hop-rooted collective, August Greene, and an eponymous debut (out now) that mixes Common’s lyrical sensibility, Glasper’s complex piano arrangements and Riggins’ polished, Dilla-inspired beats. The members explain how the supergroup fell into place.

The Rapper: Common

“Because we were working together so much, the timing was right. We rented this house with a studio [in Malibu, Calif.], and we thought of August Greene. It was my birthday and we were having fun, and my trainer was like, ‘Yo, y’all should be a group,’ so that’s when we formed.”

The Drummer: Karriem Riggins

“The album has been a year in the making. Whenever we found a week to work, we would book a studio and record at Electric Lady Sound Studios [in New York] or in Los Angeles. One of the key instruments I used was the Mellotron [synth]. The record is moody, soulful and makes you think, and that’s our sound.”

The Pianist: Robert Glasper

“Common is a legend, so when you have stuff under his name, you have to deliver what people expect. With this, we didn’t have to do that. We went out of the box with song choices and styles, touching on Hurricane Harvey, police brutality, Donald Trump, black excellence. Musicality in hip-hop is sort of a lost art, and Common always used real musicians. It’s keeping real music alive at a time where most people aren’t.”

This article originally appeared in the March 24 issue of Billboard.