For Glorious Game, cinematic soul maestro Leon Michels made wholly composed and recorded soul songs in his studio, sampled himself, and then chopped and/or looped his sounds to create instrumentals for legendary Roots emcee Black Thought. On some tracks he took a more traditional hip-hop approach, starting from samples of other people’s music but then adding live instrumentation on top. But for the most part, it’s him reinterpreting his own compositions into something new.
El Michels and Black Thought have been in each other’s orbit for a while now. The two first met in the 2000s when Thought was first getting familiar with the contemporary soul scene. “Out of that whole world, Menahan Street Band was probably my favorite,” recalling the funk and soul group Michels was a founding member of back in 2007.
Fast forward a few years and musicians from that collective—Dave Guy on trumpet and Ian Hendrickson-Smith on sax —are now full time players with The Roots. This connection eventually led Leon and Thought to doing a few fundraising events around NYC and Philly together. “Before long, Black Thought was coming around the studio and would jam with us from time to time,” Michels explains. “Then, fast forward to 2020 and COVID lockdowns, he just hit me up out of the blue, wanting me to send him stuff to write to. We both were looking to stay busy.”