“His voice is like a Van Gogh painting … A Salvador Dali … His voice has so many textures to it.” – Janelle Monae
His latest album, Airtight's Revenge, was released on September 14th 2010 and features Bilal's famous falsetto and Afro-futuristic sound. The music is progressive whilst still having its roots placed firmly in the jazz traditions that originally inspired Bilal’s music. The album contains the soulful song "Little One" which was nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards earlier this year. The smooth track is dedicated to his sons: the eldest has Autism and the youngest has Sickle Cell; Bilal wrote the song for them.
Bilal was recently featured in Diddy-Dirty Money's hit album "Last Train To Paris" and with various other artists over the years. ________________________________________________________
Q&A with Bilal
Q: Thank you first of all for taking the time to talk to us and answer our questions. How are you doing?
A: Fine, thank you.
Q: You first made airwaves with the song “Soul Sista” and your debut album “1st Born Second”, which was called remarkable by Rolling Stone Magazine and acclaimed by critics as one of the most significant debuts in black pop in the past 25 years. What was it like going from obscurity to signing with a major label and working with guys like Dr Dré, Dre & Vidal and Raphael Saadiq?
A: It was great. One day I’m a college student and the next I am hanging with people I considered heroes. The other side to that coin was, I wanted to be able to do my own thing as well. Too many cooks in the kitchen doesn’t always work out.
Q: Speaking of your debut, one of that album’s most praised tracks “You Are” was penned by Marsha Ambrosius, who has just released her own debut album which has also made a big impact. Have you checked it out and if so what did you think of it?
A: Marsha is awesome.
Q: In the time since your debut and the release of your most recent album (Airtight’s Revenge) you’ve parted ways with Interscope, had to deal with the leak and eventual cancellation of your sophomore album “Love For Sale”, before resurfacing on an independent label. How was that whole process and how have you adapted to changing technologies and trends in music?
A: Well, the process has been the process. I was kinda like the prototype for the “leak”. I don’t think I have had to adapt to it as much as other artists have had to. It happened to me and for worse, my record didn’t come out. For better, it fed my existing fan base and they loved it. It kept them waiting while I released another officially. Its been an interesting process, but all in all, I am just grateful for everything in my life.
Q: You’re very much an artist’s artist. In the ten years since your debut, you’ve worked with a plethora of top-notch artists, including plenty of big mainstream names. Jermaine Dupri, Clipse, Tweet, Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z, The Game, Solange Knowles, and most recently alongside Lil Wayne and Justin Timberlake on Diddy-Dirty Money’s song “Shades”. Being something of an underground artist, what is it like to work with those guys, and how do these collaborations usually come about?
A: Working with those cats, is like working with anyone else you respect. I don’t really see anyone as different. We are all on the same wave length and these folks look for me to do my thing. They usually contact me or my manager.
Q: You also notably collaborated with diva Beyoncé Knowles on a song for her movie Fighting Temptations. What was it like working with her and how did you come to feature on that track?
A: She was very sweet. Everyone involved was.
Q: Your second commercial album “Airtight’s Revenge” came out last September. Pop Matters named it one of the best albums of 2010 and critics in general acclaimed the album as well, if not better, as your last two offerings. What was the source of inspiration behind this record? Did you feel pressured during the creative process to match or better your past records?
A: I felt no pressure at all. I have never stopped making music. I just stopped sharing music. Airtights revenge was my revenge against the industry politics. Its not a negative thing, its all love. I just wanted my revenge to be me still doing my thing. That’s all.
Q: Your two most frequent collaborators over the years have been Common and Erykah Badu. What is it that unites you guys and keeps you working together after all these years?
A: I collaborate with a lot of folks. I think you mean the folks folks I have been featured with the most. Music unites us. Our love and passion for music.
Q: For you, what is the relation between spirituality and music?
A: Music and spirituality, for me, are the same thing. I am a vessel or a channel to which other folks can feel a source of energy. Just like every musician, artist, ball player, etc. people that are able to channel something and share it with others.
Q: You’ve always been linked and cited as part of the Soulquarians collective alongside not only Erykah and Common but a whole range of Soul and R&B heavyweights. A while back Common said that Soulquarians have never made good business moves together but are still a beautiful family and still a collective. What’s the situation with that, as of right now?
A: We are all family and its all love.
Q: What does the future hold for Bilal? Is there anyone who you’d like to work with, any new sound you’d like to explore?
A: The future holds, family, music and sound exploration in the future. A lot of performing as well. I really love to perform.
You can follow Bilal on twitter @Bilal_Oliver
Find out more about Bilal’s music, free downloads and upcoming tour dates at www.plugresearch.com/Bilal
Questions by Fantini Blake, follow @FOTPurban for more R&B and Hip-Hop news
Peep the awesome videos for "Robots" and "Everything I Do" with Beyoncé below.
Bilal - Robots
Bilal & Beyoncé - Everything I Do