Don’t front, you know Bilal’s “Soul Sista” was your JAM in 2001. From the consistent chords to his whispered lyrics, it was a sexy song that made you embrace your body and soul. Where have all the neo-soul cats gone! Well, if Bilal’s any indication, they’ve all gone on tour internationally…
PARLOUR: How’d you come up with “Soul Sista?”
Bilal: That shit was dope. My homie found the original tape of “Soul Sista” where it’s just me on that track. We did that song in Raphael Saadiq’s garage in his house. We found the tape of us messing around, jamming. We was at the house just listening to it, bugging out. It’s cool yo. I love that song.
P: What happened to your last record, it leaked right?
B: Yeah, it was called Love For Sale.
P: Who leaked itâ€¦do you know?
B: No. I got suspicions but I don’t know. Ain’t nothing I can do about it. When I do the shows, the crowd literally sings along. I let it go, you know? I write music all the time. I justâ€¦it happened.
It leaked about a year ago in December, and the versions that were leaked were just my demo versions anyway. The label wanted me to totally redo songs, make a whole new album with producers and shit. It’s just weird, the songs that I produced and wrote were the songs that got bootlegged. So, right after that got bootlegged they came back and were like, “we gotta do a whole new record.” Before my shit got leaked they were telling me how it just sucked and it was terrible. And then out of nowhere it got bootlegged, and I don’t know what happened. It was weird, very weird. It made me mad and I just started having ill feelings.
P: Sounds like they were trying to force you into a strict R&B lane, how do you define your own lane?
B: My own lane means I’m on that level where the people don’t care what it is I do, they just wanna hear it. They have no genre expectation. They’re not expecting me to do anything but me. They put our music in a box, meanwhile, the rest of the world is loving everything. You ask a young Jewish kid what he likes, he says “I like a little hip-hop, I love Radiohead, fucking Coldplay, and yo, I love M.I.A.” They mix it up. But you ask a black kid what he likes, “Soulja Boy, I like Jay-Z, he old school,” everything they say is in the box. And then if you say something else, they’re like “what the fuck? Ew. What? That shit’s weird.”
P: What did you listen to growing up?
B: I grew up in the church and my dad was a big jazz head. Before I was born, he owned a jazz club with his homie. When I grew up he had sold his half of the business, but a lot of the jazz clubs knew my pops. When I was young, he used to take me to the club with him. I would have to sit in the coatroom, but I still saw a lot of jazz as a kid. My dad was Muslim and my mom was Christian, so I would go to church with my mom. I sang in the church choir, then my dad would take me to the jazz club. By the time I was fifteen I had my own band and we were playing in the jazz clubs, lying about our age and everything. It was cool. I have never had a regular job. I have just always been fortunate enough not to have to get one. You know, hanging out being creative. That’s beautiful.
P: What music are you making now?
B: My music is starting to take on all of the songs I’ve been listening to. Me and my band, we’ve been gigging and delved into our own sound. You might listen to it and call it…you can hear some rock. You might listen to it and hear some funkadelic tendencies or some straight up hip-hop, or jazz. I see it like techno jazz rock. Soul. Blues.
I’m gonna put it out myself, don’t tell nobody. I’m at the point where I’m about to put a mixtape out and do that with DJ Static. I’m not into the mixtape thing but I’ve turned into a gorilla. If I can’t make an album within my situation, I’m going to do it myself.
P: You going on tour this summer? You going to pop up on The Roots and Erykah Badu tour?
B: Maybe, depends on where they are and where I am. I’m about to do a weekend at New York City’s Blue Note Jazz club on June 4 and 5.
P: Who are your top five artists?
B: Curtis Mayfield, Miles Davis, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Sun Ra
Here are a few other Bilal gems, (who else do you want us to find ladies?):
Common’s “The Sixth Sense” ft. Bilal- “And you KNOW, YES YOU KNOOOOOW!!!”