*Lil’ John Roberts recently began a new chapter in a career already filled with achievements, great music and moments shared with legends that range from George Duke to Janet Jackson and just about everyone in between.
The book of John Roberts began in the pews of a Philadelphia church where his father presided over a congregation and the rhythm of the drum ran through his veins and ultimately beckoned him towards a seat behind a kit.
From that seat, he’s reached the world, maintaining the tempo of various grooves until the time came to create his own. The time came on June 3rd as he released his debut album, The Heartbeat (Starburst Music/Nia Music Distribution), a collection of ideas developed over his travels and melded together by the various influences he’s had through the years.
Those influences, Dr. George Allen, Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder and the aforementioned Duke built on the foundation laid by the drummers in his family and his time at Berklee College of Music, helping Roberts create the “voice” that is so evident throughout The Heartbeat. The varied influences has allowed Lil’ John to realize that his voice can’t be contained by genre or style; instead, it should be used to reach the various corners music provides lights to. Of course, there’s the funk/jazz feel that his roots are steeped in, but there’s also hints of rock, soul, blues and hip-hop, creating a spectrum of sounds, lyrics and vocals that make this fuel this album’s persistent pulse.
As he gains more comfort with composing and songwriting, Lil’ John Roberts decided to call on a few friends to assist in the recording of the album. Utilizing relationships and technology, he was able to construct many songs without having artists in the same session, yet still managed to maintain a quality that feels unforced, organic. The mood of the album is preserved because while Roberts has been collecting experiences over his 20-year career, he’s also compiled relationships that transcend the music and spills over into life. Those relationships coalesced on The Heartbeat and creating combinations music lovers have been merely fantasized about.
One such combination is that of Eric Roberson, Musiq Soulchild, Anthony David and Stokley Williams of Mint Condition, who combined on “Space”, a funky song with a jam session feel. Each of the fellas take on the track is unique, as they issue warnings, anecdotes and musings about various definitions of “space”. The video is as playful as the song, with cameos from Avery*Sunshine, Robert Glasper and Lalah Hathaway amongst others.
The Heartbeat also features appearences from Ursala Rucker, Robert Glasper, Sa Roc, Sol Messiah and George Duke on “In a Duke Kinda Way”, Roberts’ tribute to his late mentor, who encouraged him to step out on his own and give the world his sound. The music world is grateful for that motivation from George Duke, because we can now all feel the rhythm of Lil’ John Roberts’ Heartbeat.
Check out the recently released video for “Space” featuring Eric Roberson, Anthony David, Stokley Williams and Musiq Soulchild directed by Konee Rok.