Bilal is the Biggest Beast of Our Generation, And Here's Why!

I have been meaning to post this Q&A session I had with Bilal for a long time (since we did it back in August), and being that I saw this marvelous video of him spazzing out on the B3 hammond to his rendition of "Tainted Love," it only felt right. The highlights from this interview can be seen at Xposure magazine, so feel free to check out that site because the print edition should be coming out really soon! So enjoy the video, then scroll down to see the entire interview unfold before your eyes!

I’m gonna give you the floor and let you explain your sound and craft to me. Well, I do genre-bending music. I’ve approached jazz, which is what I have come out of, and soul is in me because I started singing in the church at about 3 years old. But it’s just whatever I feel like doing – a mash-up of a lot of things, a mash-up of different sounds and a lot of different genres of music.

You’ve worked with almost every artist, underground and mainstream, from Common and Erykah Badu to Robert Glasper and even Zap Mama. What other artists do you want to collaborate with before you’re done? I want to do some stuff with Thom Yorke from Radiohead actually though. I like their stuff. They’re dope! Their style seems really organic. A lot of the collaborations I’ve done are with people that just kind of happen that way. Cats would just hit me up, and we would work something out. I’m really in a space right now where I’m developing my own type of sound and creation.

Is that what happened with your last label that made you wanna work with Plug Research? Well, what made you want to leave the label you were with and go work with Plug?
Plug is an independent label and it really just kind of happened. I wouldn’t know if I could really be able to do an album on a large scale until I know I can recreate this whole business aspect in a different way. I think the best way to do things now, if you want to be original, not to be too general, but you get a lot more leverage these days when you’re independent first. That’s the meal ticket, not to mention that I like Plug Research. The people that they choose to bring out like Flying Lotus, Exile, and they give people the freedom to create however it is that they want to create.

So how did you meet them?
I had met them not too long ago. The way I had met them was they were doing a record with Shafiq Husayn, the dude who’s a part of Sa-Ra. I was doing a thing on his album, and then one of the guys from Plug Research came to the studio and heard what I was doing. Me and Shifiq was trading off, like if I did a song for him then he’d do a song for me. The guy from Plug got to hear the song that I was doing for Shafiq, and he was like “oh my God, what the hell are you doing this for?” And I’m like “I’m doing this because I love it. I’m doing music man!” He just kept calling me up afterwards wanting to do an album with them like “come on, you gotta do an album! You wanna do an album right?” And I really didn’t know what I was going to do because I been in a lot of contractual things and hang-ups. After I had got everything right and together, I don’t know, things just started to go in the way that they should do. Being divine and organic, just flowing correctly.

So, your new album Airtight’s Revenge, for starters, why that title?
Revenge is a way of turning that word on your side of what I have encountered in this business. I haven’t officially put an album out in 9 years. I had an album 6 years ago that I was doing, but that got bootlegged… It really had me down, and I almost, I really wasn’t thinking about music at that point, but then in being bootlegged a lot of cats started loving my sound even more. Then I started doing gigs, and getting calls from Jay-Z wanting to do music, and going on tour like I had an album out. What all that did was make me want to do it even more from the soul and from the heart, and not let myself be dumbed-down, and just do music! And that’s what Airtight’s Revenge is. Airtight is my own frame of mind, and Revenge is the fact that I have more love and more drive and more energy and more inspiration now more than ever to do music.

The cover of the album, similar to Malcolm X holding the piece and KRS-One and BDP’s album cover as well, so can you explain the significance of the album cover and their similarities?
Malcolm X was willing to do things by any means necessary, and that photo really represented that. In that photo he was doing his thing, and he was willing to break down and fight what it is in his calling. With BDP, they took it and did the same thing because they came in with that reckless sound that was all their own. Both KRS-One and Malcolm X were throwing it down, they were on the frontlines, and the photos really represent that. So when I’m doing Airtight’s Revenge I took the rifle out and put in the mic because that’s my sound. I’m representing my sound and I’m in a place right now where I’m doing it regardless. I’m doing it for the love, and in all my way and my style. That’s what I’m about – being new, fresh and different, by any means necessary, of course!

What is the story within this album? What content should the audience expect to hear?
There’s a lot of short stories on the album. Got some blues songs. Some were made to really spark conversation afterwards. It’s not all A and B type of songs about love or crooning about it. A lot of it is just things that I deal with in my mind and questions that I talk to myself. A lot of these songs really help me understand a lot of these things going on. That goes along with my children, who I talk about. I talk about the economy. I talk about religion and spirituality. I talk about a lot of different things. I look at what I do as a standpoint to really do those type of things, like how Bob Marley did or Curtis Mayfield.

I wanna ask this out of shear curiosity because I’ve seen a shift from you as an artist in what you want to sing. What is your ultimate goal as a musician, beyond just developing your own sound? Or do you just see that being enough?
My ultimate goal, well, that’s a good place to start. But definitely to doing it to where the whole world understands and knows about it, and loves it. I want to make music that’s gonna last like all the greats have done. >>>> I want to get to the point where my son can put this on for his children and be like “this is Granddad,” and they’ll be like “oh my God! Granddad was good, he was on some shit Dad!” Then he’ll be like “yeah, I know. And now you know why you play like that son.” <<<< MY FAVORITE QUOTE!!!

Would you care to share some advice to the young folks trying to get their feet wet in the music business at all?
Yeah man, come up with a sound yourself, and really, really, really work that thing and work it out. Don’t be afraid to do things people don’t normally do and have your own sound first. Do it that way, and you know, come from the heart for the art. Don’t do it for the money, do something that’s new.

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