1st Born Second

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
1st Born Second
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 27, 2001
Recordedc. 1999–2000
StudioElectric Lady (New York)
ProducerBilal, Mike City, Aaron Comess, Dahoud Darien, Megahertz, Dr. Dre, Dre & Vidal, J Dilla, Andres Levin, Mel-Man, James Poyser, Questlove, Raphael Saadiq, Soulquarians
Bilal chronology
1st Born Second
Love for Sale

1st Born Second is the debut album by the American singer-songwriter Bilal, released on July 27, 2001, by Interscope Records.[3] Bilal recorded the album at Electric Lady Studios in New York with a host of record producers, including Aaron Comess, Dr. Dre, Mike City, Megahertz, Raphael Saadiq, and J Dilla. It was a critical success and charted at number 31 on the U.S. Billboard 200, eventually selling 319,000 copies.[4] According to AllMusic biographer Andy Kellman, the album was an "exemplary" release of the retro-inspired neo soul genre, although Bilal's subsequent work would become increasingly distinctive and modern.[5]


In 1999, Bilal went to New York City to train at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music[6] and began to familiarize himself with the local music scene, meeting professional musicians such as Common, The Roots, and Erykah Badu – then-members of the Soulquarians musical collective. Eventually, he was discovered by Aaron Comess from the Spin Doctors during an after-school jam session. It was with him that Bilal recorded his demo that led to a record deal with Interscope.[7] Bilal was trained in jazz and classical music before recording and joining the Soulquarians, who contributed in producing the album.[8]

Aaron Comess (pictured in 2014), a producer and instrumentalist on the album who originally demoed with Bilal

After signing to Interscope in 1999, Bilal wrote songs and improvised with a band at a warehouse in New Jersey in preparation for the album's recording,[9] which took place at Electric Lady Studios in New York around 1999 and 2000.[10] In December 1999, while reviewing Bilal's Prince tribute performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Village Voice reported that the album was expected by Spring of next year.[11] However, the release encountered delays as Interscope pressured the singer into collaborating with more popular record producers,[6] including Dr. Dre and J Dilla, who helped refine Bilal's stylistically-varied and free-form approach into more structurally-defined songs to the label's liking. This process extended the recording for approximately another year.[9]

1st Born Second features an eclectic sound with elements of jazz, hip hop, scat, reggae, and rock music.[12][13][14] According to Mark Anthony Neal, its title originates from the idea that Bilal is the "first born prodigal son of the second generation of contemporary soul stirrers", referring to the group of artists associated with the neo soul movement.[3] The singer's name also serves as an acronym for "Beloved, Intelligent, Lustful and Livin' It".[15]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[16]
Blender4/5 stars[17]
Chicago Sun-Times4/4 stars[1]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[18]
Los Angeles Times3/4 stars[19]
Q3/5 stars[21]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[22]
USA Today4/4 stars[24]

1st Born Second was met with widespread critical acclaim. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from professional publications, the album has an average score of 82, based on 17 reviews.[25]

The album received rave reviews from The Village Voice, Chicago Sun-Times, and USA Today,[1][24][26] and it also received comparisons to the music of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Sly & the Family Stone, Prince, and Curtis Mayfield.[25][27][28][29] Reviewing for PopMatters, Neal hailed the album as "one of the most significant debuts in black pop during the past 25 years".[3] Vibe's Tamika Andeson called it "one of the best R&B albums of the year".[2] According to AllMusic's Andy Kellman, "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."[5]

Some reviewers were less impressed. Spin magazine's Tony Green said that the album is musically expansive but lacking "that killer tune or two that would bring it all home, that one memorable melody that would make the album more than the sum of its incense 'n' dreads textures".[23] In an essay accompanying the Pazz & Jop critics poll, in which 1st Born Second finished in the top 100, Robert Christgau named Bilal among the "profusion of R&B also-rans" that he hopes "will develop material nobody can deny".[30]

Track listing[edit]

Information is taken from the album's liner notes.[31]

1."Intro"Dubble, Richie RichBilal1:47
2."For You"Bilal OliverMegahertz3:47
3."Fast Lane"Oliver, Damu Mtume, Fa Mtume, Michael FlowersDr. Dre4:37
4."Reminisce" (feat. Mos Def & Common)Oliver, Dante Smith, James Yancey, Lonnie LynnJ Dilla4:35
5."All That I Am (Somethin' for the People)"Oliver, Dahoud Darien, LynnDahoud Darien3:56
6."Sally"Oliver, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Richard SerrellDr. Dre3:41
7."Sometimes"Ahmir Khalib Thompson, Oliver, James PoyserJames Poyser7:12
8."Love It"Mike CityMike City3:48
9."C'mere (Skit)" Andres Levin2:12
10."Soul Sista"Oliver, James MtumeRaphael Saadiq5:21
11."When Will You Call"OliverAaron Comess4:47
12."Queen of Sanity"OliverAaron Comess5:21
13."Love Poems"Oliver, Keisha WhatleyAaron Comess5:25
14."You Are"Marsha Ambrosius, Natalie StewartDre & Vidal4:17
16."Slyde"Oliver, DarienDahoud Darien4:07
17."Second Child"OliverBilal6:49


Charts (2001) Peak
US Billboard 200[32] 31
US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[33] 10


Credits are taken from AllMusic.[34]

  • Bilal – vocals, drums, clavier, producer
  • Dr. Dre – producer
  • Greg Burns – assistant engineer, mixing
  • Larry Chatman – project coordinator
  • Mike City – multi instruments, producer
  • Aaron Comess – bass, drums, producer, engineer, mixing engineer
  • Tom Coster, Jr. – keyboards
  • Jim Danis – assistant engineer, mixing
  • Dahoud Darien – producer
  • Vidal Davis – producer, engineer
  • Russell Elevado – mixing
  • Mike Elizondo – guitar, keyboards
  • Todd Farrell – assistant engineer
  • Drew FitzGerald – art direction
  • Serban Ghenea – guitar, mixing
  • Robert Glasper – keyboards, keyboard accordion
  • James Hurt – string arrangements
  • Jay Dee – producer
  • Gintas Janusonis - drums, percussion
  • Andres Levin – engineer, mixing
  • Steve Mandel – mixing
  • Artemio Villeda Martín – executive producer
  • Alan Mason – mixing
  • Sid McCoy – narrator
  • Mel-Man – keyboards, producer
  • Peter Mokran – mixing engineer
  • Mike Moreno – guitar
  • Mos Def – rap
  • Damu Mtume – executive producer
  • Neil Pogue – mixing engineer
  • James Poyser – organ, producer, Fender Rhodes
  • Raphael Saadiq – producer
  • Jon Smeltz – engineer
  • Soulquarians – producer
  • Mike Starr – guitar
  • Kendal Stubbs – engineer
  • John Tyree – assistant engineer, mixing


  1. ^ a b c Columnist. "Review: 1st Born Second". Chicago Sun-Times: August 12, 2001. Archived from the original on 2009-08-12. (Transcription of original review at talk page)
  2. ^ a b Anderson, Tamika. "Review: 1st Born Second". Vibe: 242. September 2001.
  3. ^ a b c Neal, Mark Anthony. Review: 1st Born Second. PopMatters. Retrieved on 2021-01-02.
  4. ^ Herrera, Monica. Bilal To Release Electro-Jazz Rock Album In 2010. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-01-03.
  5. ^ a b Kellman, Andy (2013). "Bilal". AllMusic. Archived from the original on August 10, 2020. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Reyes, Andres (Autumn 2010). "Cool on the Outside". Shook. No. 9. Retrieved August 19, 2020 – via Issuu.
  7. ^ "Bilal". Ontheroxentertainment.com. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
  8. ^ Columnist. "Review: 1st Born Second". The Washington Post: T.14. October 12, 2001.
  9. ^ a b Foege, Alec (October 14, 2001). "History's on His Side". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  10. ^ Hammer, Elliot (n.d.). "Bold as brass". Thomas Mason. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  11. ^ "Music". The Village Voice. December 14, 1999. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  12. ^ Kot, Greg. "Review: 1st Born Second". Chicago Tribune: 23. September 28, 2001.
  13. ^ Farley, Christopher John. Review: 1st Born Second. Time. Retrieved on 2009-08-12.
  14. ^ Phipps, Keith. Review: 1st Born Second. The A.V. Club. Retrieved on 2009-08-26. Archived 2009-09-04.
  15. ^ Needham, Alex. Review: 1st Born Second. NME. Retrieved on 2009-08-12.
  16. ^ Conaway, Matt. Review: 1st Born Second. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-08-12.
  17. ^ "Review". Blender. No. August/September 2001. p. 121.
  18. ^ Sinclair, Tom. Review: 1st Born Second. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-08-12.
  19. ^ Nichols, Natalie. Review: 1st Born Second. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2009-08-12.
  20. ^ Odell, Michael. "Review: 1st Born Second". NME: July 25, 2001. Archived from the original on 2010-08-22.
  21. ^ "Review". Q. No. Summer 2001. p. 96.
  22. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony. "Review: 1st Born Second". Rolling Stone: 64. August 2, 2001. Note: Rating archived
  23. ^ a b Green, Tony. "Review: 1st Born Second". Spin: 158. September 2001.
  24. ^ a b Jones, Steve. "Review: 1st Born Second". USA Today: D.08. July 31, 2001.
  25. ^ a b 1st Born Second (2001): Reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2009-08-12. Archived 2009-08-16.
  26. ^ Cepeda, Raquel. Review: 1st Born Second Archived 2012-10-17 at the Wayback Machine. The Village Voice. Retrieved on 2009-08-12.
  27. ^ Columnist. Review: 1st Born Second. The Independent. Retrieved on 2009-08-12.
  28. ^ Product Page: 1st Born Second. Muze. Retrieved on 2009-08-26.
  29. ^ Caramanica, Jon. Review: 1st Born Second[permanent dead link]. Blender. Retrieved on 2010-03-29.
  30. ^ Christgau, Robert (February 12, 2002). "Pazz & Jop 2001: Not Just Your Old Man's Takeover". The Village Voice. Retrieved July 25, 2020 – via robertchristgau.com.
  31. ^ Track listing and credits as per liner notes for 1st Born Second album
  32. ^ 1st Born Second - Bilal Billboard.com, August 18, 2001
  33. ^ Songs In A Minor, Alicia Keys Billboard.com
  34. ^ Credits: 1st Born Second. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2010-03-28.

External links[edit]