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Bilal

If there was one R&B artist for whom the neo-soul categorization seemed limiting, it was Philadelphia native Bilal. None of his recordings resembled the sycophantic worship of soul artists who thrived in the '60 and '70s, and it wasn't just because his voice -- classically trained, capable of singing opera in seven languages -- was so unique. While some inspirations were detectable, his recordings were wholly modern and became increasingly creative. His individuality led to being dropped from a major label, and he went several years without releasing any solo material. Through evangelism from his peers and word of mouth from his early fans, Bilal gained an insatiable following and was supported by sympathetic independent labels, where he was finally able to thrive creatively.

Bilal Sayeed Oliver came up in Germantown, a northwest neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A deep interest in jazz was fostered by his father, who took him to the city's clubs. Singing eventually became more than an interest. He attended New York's New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, where he received voice training, as well as training in jazz and big-band arrangements.

Grenique's Black Butterfly, a 1999 release on Motown, was the first major album to feature Bilal's vocals; he contributed to three songs. The following year, he established a deep connection to hip-hop by appearing on Common's Like Water for Chocolate and Guru's third Jazzmatazz album. These recordings led him into the Soulquarians, a rotating collective of collaborators who included Common, Jay Dee (aka J Dilla), the Roots' Ahmir Thompson, D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Q-Tip, and Raphael Saadiq within its ranks.

A turbulent solo deal with Interscope resulted in Bilal's debut album, 1st Born Second. An exemplary neo-soul release featuring collaborations with Mike City, Robert Glasper, and many of the Soulquarians, it was issued in July 2001 and reached the Top Ten of Billboard's R&B albums chart. One of its three singles, "Soul Sista," peaked at number 18 on the R&B singles chart, while "Fast Lane" -- co-written with Damu and Faulu Mtume (the sons of James Mtume and two of the singer's earliest supporters) -- narrowly missed the Top 40. At that point, the closest points of comparison were D'Angelo and Maxwell, yet Bilal was more dynamic than the former and less mannered than the latter. 1st Born Second carried an energy that neither one of those singers, as hot as they were at the time, could boast.

Bilal recorded a second album, Love for Sale, and handled much of the songwriting and production duties, while Jay Dee, Dr. Dre, and Nottz assisted in limited capacities. Promo vinyl was pressed and the album leaked online, prompting Bilal's label to put it on ice. Bilal was subsequently dropped, but his following increased significantly. He must have had some mixed feelings when he performed the material to appreciative crowds who knew the material -- off a technically unreleased album -- inside out.

Meanwhile, nine years passed without a commercially released follow-up to 1st Born Second. Bilal had been a featured artist on songs by Beyoncé, Musiq, Clipse, Sa-Ra, Jay-Z, and several others, including many of his fellow Soulquarians, but it wasn't until 2010 that he released his second proper album. Airtight's Revenge was released on the Plug Research label and saw Bilal working extensively with Steve McKie, along with Sa-Ra's Shafiq Husayn (Bilal had appeared on Husayn's own Plug Research album, Shafiq En' A-Free-Ka), Nottz, Conley "Tone" Whitfield, 88-Keys, and several studio musicians who gave the set a loose, band-like feel. Its "Little One" was nominated for a 2011 Grammy in the Best Urban/Alternative Performance category. In February 2013, after appearing on the Roots' Grammy-nominated Undun and Robert Glasper Experiment's Grammy-winning Black Radio, Bilal released A Love Surreal on eOne. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
full bio

Comments

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This cat is the TRUTH!!
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One of my favorite singers. Very down to earth
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Wow!! Look at him a grown man!! I remember when he was a little kid singing in the Church Choir at the Baptist Worship Center. He used to tear that church up. We would all get the holy ghost!!
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tkeyah944
He is truly a deep man... Poetic... Neo-Soul Gil
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Come back to us.......
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Bilal is a musical genious
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Yaaaasss!
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True music! Thx bro! B blessed.
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I listen to this song all day
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dbarkleya
this brother is from my home town city of brotherly love this is a cold a** song!!!
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Bilal! Is the bomb.com! Always has been!
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This the s**t hear
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Love this song and the whole album♡
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My heart thumps heavy to this
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Man don't care what no1 says, if don't wanna move after hearin that U CRAZY, love that song
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Listen to it u will like it
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You Are One the best songs; lyrics & beats. ...sexy smile, ..sexy frown!
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KILLER
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one of my favorite romantic songs
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The best doin it
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I love me some Bilal, ever sense he performed Soul Sista on Soul Train!!!
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Soul sista.
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I love him!
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How bout i bought 1st born 2nd 3xs. It was played so much the cds were scratched
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This cd was nice as hell real R&b
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Been lovin Bilal since his first album 1st Born Second.
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Been listening since 17!!!!!:)
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oooo, I love this song... He better sing that daggone song
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Bilal is the Man .. Love his voice soulful!!!
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SomeTime ,:)
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Love this song ��������
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nostaljaak01
Love him too!!
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kysascott
Love this song❤
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laurynoverbe y
Love Him!!!
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Just saw him in concert last weekend. This brother is baaaaad and so underrated but people who know real music know BILAL!
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Its nice, the music is very soothing. Something I could play during a candle lit dinner with my Cupid. #KRNTheBuild n
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Nobody can touch a bilal track... That broths can saaaang!!!
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Bilal has an unreleased cd titled Love For Sale , look it up, this dude is very underrated !!!!!!!
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First born 2nd one of last cds that I purchased but 1 of my most treasured truely a gifted artist stay cool and smooth my man lookin for your next thunder!!
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I have always enjoyed Sir Bilal music, and I have been told that we look alike..
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I love his music
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niyamoton
I saw Bilal for the first time opening for Erykah Badu at Constitution a l Hall in D.C. and was like WOW, that dude is amazing! Had to get the album once 'Soul Sista' dropped! Very pleased! Thanks Bilal for being you and not changing!
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Bilal is soulful in the vein of Curtis Mayfield , bringing muti-layered textures of blues, r&b, gospel and narrative with a strong groove driving the compositions . Yeah!
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please tell me his neck not as long as it is in robots... O_o
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That n**ga
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Keepin makein music Bilial!!
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Amazing
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love this music at is best.. keep doing you and God will keep in his arms..
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Google the original second Bilal album that was never released but leaked Love for Sale.... great stuff
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Creative music at its own...
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