Grammy-winning jazz pianist Robert Glasper returns to Napa Valley this weekend for his annual Blue Notes Jazz Festival. Headlined by Nas, Mary J. Blige, and Chance the Rapper, Glasper, alongside his superstar cohorts, will provide an enriched Black experience through high-end art, live entertainment, exquisite food, and more during the three-day soiree. Joining Glasper will be three-time NBA Champion and Class of 2023 Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade, who looks to bring his brand of fun and excitement to wine country this Friday (July 28).
“Last year, I came in with eyes wide open to see what the experience was, and I left there like, ‘When are the dates next year?’” says Wade, the appointed director of culture and vibes for this year’s festival. “I wanted to be back here. I wanted to experience this again, which had nothing to do with me. It had something to do with everybody creating this vibe and putting on for us.”
Attendees will feel Wade’s presence beyond the vibes he intends on setting this weekend as his wine company, Wade Cellars, joins a sea of Black-owned vendors and businesses. “We must show how high-level, sophisticated, and dope we are in this game and all the realms of it,” says Glasper on the importance of highlighting the wealth of talent within the Black community. “It’s important that we do that — from the comedy, the music, the visual arts, the wine, and the chefs — because we’re not represented enough [being] at the high level we are.”
Billboard spoke to Glasper and Wade about the upcoming Jazz festival, empowering Black businesses, and their favorite hip-hop albums.
Rob, what went into your decision of giving D-Wade the title of director of culture and vibes for your festival?
Robert Glasper: He’s given so much to the culture already. He’s a champion, he does everything at a high level — not just at basketball, but doing the wine and fashion. You have a high-level family, man. I’m a fan of the father that you are. Just overall, it’s an honor and privilege just to have you. When you pulled up on us last year, I didn’t know you was coming. I just saw him and [his wife] Gabrielle in a golf cart. [Laughs.] I’ve been a fan for a long time, so i’m just looking forward to this collab.
D-Wade, considering the vibes were already present last year, what more can fans expect with you at the helm for this year’s event?
Dwyane Wade: Man, in life, you just always wanna add, and never take away. I just wanna add to the vibes that are already being created. To me, obviously, it’s in Napa [Valley]. I have my own wine brand. I’ve been in this for nine years as a Black vineyard. So when I looked at into that space last year and we had the VIP sections and I saw all the food, I said, “This is what we do. This is where we lay.” We lay in the middle of food and music. I thought it would be amazing if Wade Cellars can have an imprint and be a part of this in Napa.
First of all, a lot of people were coming up to me in Napa while we were there, and [asking], “Yo. Where can we find your wine at?” I said, “Oh s–t. We don’t have any available.” We weren’t ready. So this year, we’ll be ready. We’re gonna make sure we go in there and we create a vibe. It’s just exposure, bro. This culture needs exposure, so that’s what we’re gonna do with our wine brand — expose them to what we created.
Rob, you’re building a place where Black businesses and vendors can showcase their products. Why was that such a priority for you outside of the music for your festival?
Robert Glasper: Because Black people are high-level in so many different ways. I feel like it’s important we showcase that, because we’re not represented at our highest level in the world in a real way. We’re represented in the things you see on TV, and even on the platforms we provide ourselves — it’s like, ‘Why are you showing this?” We have so much more to offer than what people are seeing.
You guys are pushing the Wine Unify Scholarship. What went into bringing that into the forefront?
Dwyane Wade: You always want to have an element of community or charity. So outside of the Blue Note, there’s other things going on. Wade Cellars will be a part of dinners going on Friday and Saturday, so to be able to tap into the community is what it’s about. We’re gonna have fun, we’re gonna create experiences, but what else can we provide?
I’m looking forward to what goes on at those dinners and what kind of relationships that I can build. The wine industry is like sports to me. If I like a team and you like a team, Carl, we may not know each other and come from two different forms of life — but we can high-five, we can chest bump, we can look at each other to a point, because we love Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. So the wine world to me is a connected world, that if you love this experience of what wine brings, no matter where you’re from, you’re gonna end up cheering that glass with somebody. You’re gonna end up having a conversation and getting to know somebody.
So we just want to continue to create that vibe and more exposure to things. So to be able to be a part of exposing them to so many things in the Blue Note week, that’s what it’s all about. It’s always great to have that charity aspect to it.
Rob, how has music become that central connector to everything going on in sports, comedy, media and so many other sectors in the world today?
Robert Glasper: I mean, music has been the connector since the beginning of time. It’s how people communicated in many ways. It’s how slaves communicated to each other and let you know where to go and where to be. It’s one of the reasons we have a Martin Luther King Day — songs. Music is literally the universal connector. That’s the one artform where, if you don’t know somebody who doesn’t have a favorite song, you can’t trust them. Period. With music, you don’t have to have a favorite visual artist or favorite dancer — but music is such a communicator in such a way of connecting people within all walks of life all over the planet. You don’t have to speak the language, because music is the language. That is literally the language.
Because it is Hip Hop 50, I need you both to list out your three go-to albums.
Robert Glasper: Three?
Dwyane Wade: Three go-to albums?
Robert Glasper: I’ll go first so I don’t have to think about it. I’m gonna go Chi-Town. I’m gonna go Common, Like Water For Chocolate. Part of the reason because I was there when he was making that in New York. I was at some of the sessions and it’s also nostalgia for me. Two, whew. Midnight Marauders, Tribe. Classic. One more album? My son is giving me the look. [Laughs.] You gotta have this one because it is what it is, Illmatic, Nas.
D-Wade, the pressure is on you now.
Dwyane Wade: Let me go Chicago first. I’m actually gonna go Kanye West, Graduation. I’m a Chicago kid and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” is one of my favorite songs. I feel like you can’t tell me s–t. I love Graduation.
Robert Glasper: Wade, you know I’m on “Touch the Sky.” That’s my first hip-hop recording. I did it in 2004 when Just Blaze called me into the studio. I played on “Touch The Sky.”
Dwyane Wade: Wow. OK. Now, my favorite artist is Jay-Z and it’s so hard to pick, but I’m gonna go with — because at the time of my life it was important — The Black Album. That’s when I got into the league, I just got a little money. You couldn’t tell me s–t boy, I’ll tell you. And the last one? This is tough. I’m playing between 2Pac and Lil Wayne right now in my mind. I’m just going with some of my favorite artists, and I’m trying to think what album of Lil Wayne I would pick.
Were you a Carter II or Carter III guy?
Dwayne Wade: I’m going Tha Carter ’cause that was 2003, 2004 as well. That’s when I was in the Olympics. Matter fact, I’m gonna put that on when I get in the car and go to the meeting.
Go play some “Go DJ”, D-Wade.
Yeah, I’m gonna do that now. That was my s–t. [Laughs.]