Bilal entered our hearts in 2000 with mellow grooves like “Soul Sista” and “Love It,” during a period when the phrase “Neo-Soul” was attached to any artist who had a jazzy, soulful or earthy vibe (and in most cases, they could actually sing without digital enhancement). His debut album, 1st Born Second,Â received rave reviews but then his follow up never came. He made guest appearances on other people’s tracks but when he released A Love For Sale as a mixtape, when it was originally supposed to be an album, rumors surfaced about label drama.
Bilal aka Airtight (his industry nickname) struggled for nearly 10 years to find a new home but he persevered and found respite at Plug Research. His new sophomore effort, Airtight’s Revenge, is scheduled for release tomorrow (September 14). I previewed the entire project earlier this summer and it’s great. Seriously. You can check out my brief review in the current issue of VIBE magazine (Diddy/Eminem and Dr. Dre cover) but in short, I give it a 10. It’s a lot darker than 1st Born Second so don’t expect the same type of project but sonically, Bilal managed to successfully combine various genres of music. It’s like Marvin Gaye meets Led Zepplin Meets Bob Marley meets Nina Simone meets Curtis Mayfield. It sounds like that would be all over the place but it works. Plus, Bilal’s beautiful 7 octave voice hasn’t changed.
I had the pleasure of interviewing the visionary and he explained what his inspiration was behind the new project, what he hopes fans take away from it and why he never considered himself to be “Neo Soul.”