Soul singer Bilal paid the Baltimore Soundstage a visit this weekend for “A Love Surreal” CD Release Concert, but not before taking the time to sit with TheBobbyPen.com to discuss what this project means to him, the state of mainstream music today and working with legendary producer J. Dilla.
Here’s what Bilal had to say:
TheBobbyPen.com (TBP): You have your new project coming out called “A Love Surreal,” what would you say was your inspiration behind this album?
Bilal: The inspiration behind this album was two things: reaffirming passion—you know, I think every artist gets to a place where they have to reaffirm their reason, so that was the concept. You know, reaffirming love, reaffirming the fire. And then visually it was Salvador Dali; he was the inspiration—the muse behind that. I wanted to make music that you can almost feel like you can see as well as hear.
TBP: What do you mean by reaffirming the passion? At a point did you feel like you were falling in love with music again?
Bilal: Yeah. Falling in love with music, falling in love with creating—creativity, ya know? And really enjoying it again, ya know?
TBP: Any collaborations or features to look forward to on this album?
Bilal: Most of the record is just me and my team that I work with. I guess you can say Robert Glasper. Robert Glasper is an incredible Jazz piano player. He just won a Grammy the other day for his album “Black Radio.” Me and him did a duet song—just a vocal and piano.
TBP: I’m glad that you brought that up. With him winning that Grammy, what do you think that means for other Jazz artists and just music in general right now?
Bilal: I think it’s good. To me it’s like—man, the lines are really blurring as far as what’s what. For him to get—for a Jazz artist to get an award in the R&B category it’s like the lines are really blurring. I think it’s cool because it’s giving black music dimensions again. Usually with black music we go as far as trends and what’s hot and then it’s kind of an American concept. It’s out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new all the time. So, it kind of really stunts our culture. I think with that happening it will make people go back and listen to Jazz like, “Oh man! What is that?! Who is Miles Davis?! Who is Billie Holiday?!” or whatever, because that’s a culture that has been lost. I think it’s something that should be taught in the schools. So hopefully that will bring it back.
TBP: Do you think it will be a rebirth of that in the near future?
Bilal: I think it should. With that, with Esperanza [Spalding,] I’m even hearing R&B people trying to stretch out and encompass other sounds and styles of music in what they do, so I hear it coming.
TBP: J. Dilla Day was on February 10th and I know you worked with him throughout your career, how was that experience?
Bilal: Awesome! I learned so much working with him. Dilla was just such a natural talent, like, he was one of those cats you grew up with that made everything look really easy, and then you try to do it and you look silly. His swag was just like always on two-hundred and fifty, you know what I’m saying? So everything just looked like, “Oh, this is too easy for me.” He did the song that me and him did on my first album—he did the whole beat in 10 minutes. Like, from scratch while we’re having a conversation, rolling up cigarettes. It was like, by the end of the conversation we get finished playing video games, he’s done the track. And we thought he was playing video games with us. So, he was just “like that.” It was just what he did.
TBP: You’ve been in the game for a while. What do you think has helped you stay relevant and what advice would you give to a new artist starting out?
Bilal: Ummm… I really don’t know what keeps me relevant. I’ll leave that up to everybody else. I just always try to do the best that I can, and I’m always pushing myself to another high that I haven’t really reached yet. That’s what I would tell any artist. Keep pushing yourself and finding new levels and pushing your talent to another place; never be comfortable.
TBP: What is your Artistic Manifesto?
Bilal: The principle that I stand by is “Don’t do nothing that I don’t like,” and not let anyone force me to do nothing that I don’t want to do. Pretty much. Anything else, I don’t keep any rules. I’m all about breaking them.Artistic Manifesto, and Lauren Gill and Amanda Paris for being street team TheBobbyPen and getting these questions answered for us. I’m glad you ladies got to stay and enjoy the show. You guys rock! For future events at the Baltimore Soundstage, check out their website. A huge thanks to Gypsy Soul Ent and Soulcial Grind PR.
- Album Stream: Bilal “A Love Surreal” (complex.com)
- First Listen: Bilal, ‘A Love Surreal’ (wnyc.org)
- Bilal Gets Real About Still Being Underrated & The Power In Erykah Badu’s Eyes (oldschool945.com)