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.
Another thing I remember from your advice columns is that you constantly implicated that males are likely to cheat. Tyrese even said “it’s expected for men to cheat”. Do you think men are more prone to cheating? And in your opinion, do you think a woman should tolerate it if it’s only physical versus emotional?
I don’t know; that’s according to the persons and their relationship. I think that the way society is set up nowadays, yeah, men do cheat; even women cheat. I think the lines are very hard to see nowadays in relationships. Relationships are kind of taking on a different kind of meaning nowadays. It’s not as cut and dry as it was in my mother’s time.
A lot that has also changed is female independence, which has been promoted by female role models like Beyonce. Her comeback now is about to continue this female empowerment movement. How do you feel about having a self-made woman?
I think it’s sexy. I like a woman that knows what she wants and isn’t waiting for someone to get it for her. [Someone] that is aggressive with her ideas and her drive, that’s what I like. No one likes a needy person, or a person that just feeds off of your energy. It’s good to have someone whose energy you can feed off too.
Would it ever bother you if she was more successful than you?
Oh hell yeah! F*ck yeah! [Laughs] Nah, I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’ve always been the kind of person that doesn’t need much anyways. I don’t think someone having more than me would really affect me. I really don’t need much with how my lifestyle is anyways
A lot of women are gaining success and money from these reality shows like Basketball wives, Hip Hop Wives, Mob Wives, where they use their past (or current) relationships to make a name for themselves and be “independent”. How do you feel about this?
Man, I don’t know. I don’t really dig that too much. But I guess they can say they are somewhat. I mean, reality TV is big money now.
How would you react to one of your exes being on one?
My kind of person wouldn’t even want to be on a reality TV show. But if that were to happen, I don’t know. It’d just be comedy. [Laughs]
Would we find out some good secrets about you?
Aw yeah. [Laughs] You might. I don’t know what a person would take from their experience of being with me and putting it on TV. I don’t know what they’d share.[Laughs]
Now you’ve made some sexy music before… What is your definition of the best kind of sex?
Hmm. That’s easy. Best kind of sex is if you both climax at the same time! That’s the best kind of sex.
What kinda music would you put on to set the mood?
I don’t really even do that anymore. I like natural sounds.
Are you currently working on more music?
Yeah, I’m always writing music. Always.
When can we expect more music soon?
I don’t know; whenever I’m finished. I don’t think it’s going to take that long for me to do a record. It usually only takes me two to three years to make a record. It’s been so long for me to come out with Airtight’s Revenge because I was going through a lot of behind the scenes shit. As far as creativity and making the music, it doesn’t really take that long.