It’s been a decade since Philly crooner Bilal first entered the music scene with his debut album ‘1st Born Second’. After hitting a snag with his sophomore attempt ‘Love for Sale, which leaked prematurely, he ended up parting ways with his recording home at Interscope Records. But the Grammy winning singer-songwriter finally released his follow-up album ‘Airtight’s Revenge,’ which was received with unanimous positive reviews.
From the start, Bilal’s music has shown his reluctance to stay within a box. He has flexed his creativity skills to the max to infuse sounds from different genres to create a musical masterpiece laced with stellar storytelling. Shifting from writing about real-life experiences, we got the Neosoul singer to dish to us his take on relationships and his type of woman. —Connie T.
VIBE: I’ve noticed that your latest album was more soulful & more focused on the world rather than personal experiences. Was this a conscious change?
Bilal: Nah. There’s been a progression of my life performances. I’ve been playing with a band for the last three years, and our sound has evolved into a thing that [incorporates] all of the different styles and genres of music… [We] just kind of show that in music [and] in a way that’s just the way I started to write the music. I went to school for jazz, I grew up in church, and my dad checked me into jazz course as a kid. Those three things are in my music. I studied classical music, and hip-hop is my love.
One of the main things that drives me is [what] I have learned in the past. One of the main people that have taught me are hip-hop producers. With my first album, I got to watch a lot of really dope producers do their thing. One of my main influences was J.Dilla.
J.Dilla pulled from all different genres, and he had a record collection like I’ve never seen before. In that record collection, it was everything from rock, jazz, electronic, everything. And he mixed it all into what he did – which was hip-hop. My music, I would say, is a hybrid of that – a hybrid of hip-hop. I’m not rapping, but I’m mixing a lot of concepts just like a hip-hop producer would think.
Being a singer and songwriter, has anyone ever figured out you were writing about them? Has it ever gotten you in trouble?
Yeah! I write from my experiences, but I also write from other people’s experiences. I usually never write stuff verbatim. I try to just take certain things and stretch the truth a little. I’ve gotten in trouble for that over the years. [Laughs]
Shifting gears slightly, I recall an article where you were giving some advice, where you said that men don’t want to spend hours talking about their feelings. Well, in your case, why are you so willing to put your feelings out as a songwriter, especially to people you don’t even know?
I don’t know. Sometimes it’s hard to express matters of the heart. When I make music, it’s kind of like poetry and puzzles that I’m putting together. So it’s as if I’m looking at it from a different aspect.