Robert Glasper On The Houston Rockets And Hakeem Olajuwon Almost Being His Stepdad

Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter & keyboardist Robert Glasper
Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter & keyboardist Robert Glasper

With three Grammy Awards to his credit, New York-based pianist and record producer Robert Glasper has collaborated with the who's who of modern performers. His credits include Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Erykah Badu, Maxwell, and Esperanza Spalding. His latest recording project is R+R=NOW, which also includes multi-instrumentalist Terrace Martin, jazz trumpeter Christian Scott, bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Justin Tyson and multi-instrumentalist Taylor McFerrin; the debut album of R+R NOW will be released on June 15th.

While I was in town for the St. Lucia Jazz Festival, I had the pleasure of seeing R+R NOW perform live. On-stage, Glasper was wearing a James Harden jersey, showing his Houston Rockets fandom. After the gig, I had the pleasure of speaking with Glasper about the Rockets and more. During the chat, Simon Rentner -- host and producer of the WBGO podcast The Checkout -- made a cameo appearance.

More on Robert Glasper can be found online at, while more on St. Lucia's festival season can be read at

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You just said that Hakeem Olajuwon was almost your stepdad. Can you explain that?

Robert Glasper: My mom was a singer, she passed away in 2004. She used to play this club every Saturday and Olajuwon used to come to watch her play. He would ask her out every time... She was like, "Nah"... I was like, "Let's make this happen"... Rudy Tomjanovich was the coach of the Rockets, so Rudy Tom and Olajuwon would go see my mom all the time. But I'm a big Rockets fan, a huge Rockets fan,

Is Olajuwon your favorite player from the Rockets?

Robert Glasper: Olajuwon was my favorite player on the Rockets. He is in my Top 10 of all time. He's my favorite center of all time.

Interesting. So then how do you feel about Yao Ming by comparison?

Robert Glasper: There's no comparison. What can you compare?

Did they both have steakhouses? Did you go to Yao Ming's steakhouse?

Robert Glasper: No, I didn't.

On purpose?

Robert Glasper: I didn't know, but I don't live in Houston anymore. I moved in '97. We won the '94 and '95 championships, then I graduated college and we went to New York. They hadn't won a championship since '76.

Is there any team that you feel even as remotely as passionate about as the Rockets?

Robert Glasper: No.

Simon Rentner: The [Golden State] Warriors?

Robert Glasper: I don't feel passionate about the Warriors. I respect them, I do like them. I'm not going to lie, I like them... Once Tracy McGrady left, he's one of my favorite players... We have the '94 and '95 Rockets. That happened, then it was over. Mario Elie, Otis Thorpe, everyone was gone.

Simon Rentner: Sam Cassell.


Robert Glasper: Sam Cassell, with his alien-looking ass, he's gone. Then we have the Rockets with Charles Barkley, Robert Horry, Clyde Drexler, that world. They were just trying hard to get a [championship] ring, didn't really work out for us. McGrady is my dude. Anyway, we get James Harden and I'm like, "oh s**t, killer, but we just have James, nobody else." Then we get Chris Paul, we have a chance. Chris Paul is hungry because he's never been to the finals. He's a brilliant basketball player. He's probably one of the most brilliant minds in basketball, top three -- basketball IQ.

So the 2017-18 season, feel good about it?

Robert Glasper: No, I feel strongly about it. I'm very passionate about it, but the Warriors, when they are on, no one can beat them. No one can guard [Kevin] Durant. Everybody else we can kind of match up. Obviously Chris Paul and [Steph] Curry, [Draymond] Green and [Clint N'Dumba] Capela. Capela is a beast on defense. Durant just has so much speed. He's a big ass guard. Capela is not a fast guard. If they're on, it's going to be hard for us to deal. But it's going to be interesting to watch, it's going to be fun to watch. I'm just happy we've gotten there now. I'm just happy we're here.

So in closing, any last words for the kids?

Robert Glasper: For music? Follow your heart, follow your dreams, follow your mind. Whatever you go to sleep thinking about and wake up thinking about, that's your passion. Follow that. Whatever you do the best that comes with the least effort, that's what you're supposed to be doing.

And go Rockets?

Robert Glasper: And f*****g go Rockets. (laughs)


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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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