You may not hear a Bilal song on Top 40 radio stations, but he’s fine with that. Since parting ways with Interscope Records and the leak of “A Love For Sale,” Bilal has gone independent, working with artists like Common and Jay-Z. At his first ever “Ladies Only” show at New York City’s SOB’s club, the self claimed blues singer talked to Parlour about touring the world, killing fans with his words and showing his softer side.
PARLOUR: How was it performing to an all-female audience?
Bilal: It was crazy! All those women… it was like living out a fantasy.
How do you feel about the loyalty and response from your fans after such a hiatus?
The love the audience gives me back is dope. Even though I haven’t been in the public eye all these years, I’ve been featured on a lot of songs so people won’t forget about me. I never stopped doing music because that’s what I do for therapy. I’m thankful to God for bringing to where I am in my career now and my fans still showing support.
Your latest album is titled Airtight’s Revenge, with your indie success following your departure from Interscope, do you feel you’ve gotten revenge?
I never thought of it as a hateful revenge. Certain events can happen in someone’s life that causes tribulations and it burns out their inner urge and fire to pursue their dreams. I admire artists like Marvin Gaye who told a story with their music, that’s what I [drew from while I was] away for so long. I used this experience to catapult me higher in my musical expression. I consider myself a blues singer and now being on an independent label I am able to sing the blues.
The cover of Airtight’s Revenge is reminiscent of Malcolm X’s infamous “By Any Means Necessary” photo but instead of a rifle, you have a microphone. What’s your message?
I’m killing them with the words. This album was my version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and a retrospective look on the world and where we are today. There’s not a lot of music like that these days. It almost like some people today have the mental concept of if the world’s going to blow up tomorrow, let’s just get drunk, high and party and if shit blow up, we blow up… I made a record that was my retrospect on that mentality.
What else do you have coming up this year?
We just got back from a European tour and are gearing up for Australia. We’ve just been playing for the fans, that’s all I’m focusing on. I love interacting with people. We are also working on releasing the next song “Little One” from the album. It’s a Daddy’s song, which is dedicated to my sons. There are so many “mom” songs out there, I wanted to represent the men so I wrote a song for my three boys so that they can play for their kids and be proud of me. Hopefully they’ll all be good dads!
Looking over the last ten years in the music industry, are you happy with your career?
I am always happy. I don’t judge my success by record sales, I judge it by how well we can reach the people, how open-minded people are with the music and how much I can stretch my style and people can still understand me. With my last album being an independent project I can’t really look at Billboard charts, I can only gauge it by the response of fans at live shows and it’s cool.