Airtight's Revenge

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Airtight's Revenge
Studio album by Bilal
Released September 6, 2010
Recorded 2007–10
Genre Neo soul
Length 47:52
Label Plug Research, RED Distribution
Producer Bilal Oliver, Steve McKie, Nottz, Shafiq Husayn, Conley "Tone" Whitfield, 88-Keys
Bilal chronology
1st Born Second
(2001)1st Born Second2001
Airtight's Revenge
A Love Surreal
(2013)A Love Surreal2013

Airtight's Revenge is the second studio album by American recording artist Bilal, released September 6, 2010, on independent record label Plug Research. Production for the album took place during 2007 to 2010 and was handled by Bilal, Steve McKie, Nottz, Shafiq Husayn, Conley "Tone" Whitfield, and 88-Keys. The follow-up to his debut album 1st Born Second (2001), it was conceived following the shelving of Bilal's Love for Sale project in 2004 and conflicts with his former label Interscope Records. Airtight's Revenge is a neo soul album with elements of jazz, funk, and psychedelic rock.[1]

The album debuted at number 106[2] on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 4,600 copies in its first week. Although it charted modestly, Airtight's Revenge was well received by music critics upon its release. PopMatters ranked the album number 61 in its year-end list of best albums for 2010, calling it a "wildly inventive, wildly enjoyable album".[3]

Background and recording[edit]

Bilal worked on the album for three years, according to an interview with The Root in September 2010.[9] Bilal said of Airtight's Revenge: "The concept beyond this album was really just to write short stories and dark tales of life in general. I used a lot and drew a lot from my own life and my own experiences, but I also took a lot of things from fiction and tried to make certain statements, from a love standpoint." Bilal said that his experiences with his leaked, unreleased album Love for Sale and the ensuing conflict with his then-record label Interscope led him to the "dark underworld" storytelling showcased in Airtight's Revenge.[10] The track "Little One" references Bilal's eldest son's autism. The album features Bilal's famous falsetto and Afro-futuristic sound.[11][12] The album was released earlier in the United Kingdom on September 6, 2010.[13]

Title significance[edit]

In an interview for The Root, Bilal elaborated on the album title's meaning, stating:

Well, the meaning of the title is reflecting all the stuff I've been through in the last nine years, with my album Love for Sale being bootlegged, and getting in conflict with my label and it never coming out. Just the whole long, drawn-out standstill behind it and how it kind of turned into a phoenix-rising type of deal, with people giving it mad love online and just became this underground type of sensation. So that's the real revenge, the music couldn't be shut down or hidden, but people got it and they loved it, just like I loved making it. That was the meaning behind 'revenge,' and 'Airtight' is just an old nickname that I got. Back in the day, I used to really be into reading Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim. I casually read both of their whole catalogs, and they inspired me as a songwriter also, but there's a book Iceberg Slim wrote and the title is Airtight Willie & Me. I kind of kept that name, 'Airtight.' And I think even back then I thought it would be dope to have an album with the title Airtight-something, so Airtight's Revenge sounded like a black exploitation film. It kind of fit the scenario.[9]

— Bilal

Cover artwork[edit]

The album's cover art is a reference to the iconic photo of Malcolm X peering through his window while holding a M1 carbine rifle. Instead of a rifle, Bilal is holding a microphone, and instead of peering through his bedroom curtain, Bilal is peering through a heavy red stage curtain.[14] In an interview with Parlour Magazine, Bilal elaborated on the message behind the album's cover art, stating:

I'm killing them with the words. This album was my version of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and a retrospective look on the world and where we are today. There’s not a lot of music like that these days. It almost like some people today have the mental concept of if the world’s going to blow up tomorrow, let’s just get drunk, high and party and if shit blow up, we blow up… I made a record that was my retrospect on that mentality.[15]

— Bilal


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[16]
The A.V. Club B+[17]
HipHopDX 4/5[18]
Philadelphia Daily News A[19]
The Philadelphia Inquirer 3.5/4 stars[20]
PopMatters 9/10[21]
Spin 8/10[22]
Time Out 3/5 stars[4]
URB 4/5 stars[23]
USA Today 3.5/4 stars[8]

The album debuted at number 101 on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 4,600 copies.[24] It peaked at number 21 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and at number 23 on its Independent Albums chart.[25][26] Airtight's Revenge has sold 4,800 copies in the United States.[24]

Airtight's Revenge received widespread acclaim from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 87, based on nine reviews.[27] AllMusic writer Andy Kellman called it "one heavy, messy, dynamite album — one that could take a decade to be fully processed".[16] Tyler Lewis of PopMatters cited the album as "a generation-defining masterwork of unflinching vision" and wrote that it is "all about texture and musicality. Songs more than shout or intimate their ideas, they envelop you fully, so you feel the full weight of what it is Bilal is talking about".[21] Los Angeles Times journalist Jeff Weiss noted its "formless floating funk" and praised Bilal as "ludicrously soulful and endearingly experimental", calling the album "a soothing anodyne to the often over-processed come-ons that pass for contemporary R&B".[7] The Philadelphia Inquirer's A.D. Amorosi stated, "Bilal - the vocalist - opens the valves and bleats, glides, coos, and cajoles like Coltrane at his freest".[20] The A.V. Club's Nathan Rabin perceived a "brooding, airless intensity" and praised its "claustrophobic introspection and soul-searching".[17] Sputnikmusic's Nick Butler said that, "musically, there are dozens of neo-soul records in the past three or four years that reach far beyond the limits of most of Airtight's Revenge [...] but nobody is writing or delivering lyrics like this. Emotionally, [it] is so revealing that it gets difficult to listen to".[28] In a year-end article on overlooked albums in 2010, Edna Gundersen of USA Today described Airtight's Revenge a "buried jewel that really deserved a wider audience", commenting that "It's personal, idiosyncratic, complex, dense, sophisticated and messy, a thoroughly contemporary soul record with a defiant indie-rock sensibility, which is why it never found a home on radio".[29]

Mikael Wood of Time Out was less enthusiastic, finding it overlong, particularly the second half, which he said "bogs down with an abundance of noodly slow jams. But the strong stuff here is very strong".[4] URB's Anupamistry wrote that it lacks "the cut-loose, flailing vocal work" of Bilal's previous work, but ultimately complimented its "more progressive, less structured, arranging".[23]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Producer(s) Length
1. "Cake & Eat It Too" Bilal Oliver, Steve McKie 4:00
2. "Restart" Bilal Oliver, Steve McKie 4:54
3. "All Matter" Bilal Oliver, Steve McKie 5:21
4. "Flying" Bilal Oliver, Nottz 4:21
5. "Levels" Shafiq Husayn, Bilal Oliver 5:27
6. "Little One" Conley Whitfield 3:59
7. "Move On" Bilal Oliver, Steve McKie 3:28
8. "Robots" Bilal Oliver, Steve McKie 3:17
9. "The Dollar" Bilal Oliver, Steve McKie 3:29
10. "Who Are You" Bilal Oliver, Steve McKie 6:03
11. "Think It Over" 88-Keys 3:49



Charts (2010) Peak
US Billboard 200[24] 106
US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[25] 21
US Billboard Independent Albums[26] 23


  1. ^ Roberts, Chris (September 1, 2010). "Bilal, Airtight's Revenge". eMusic. Retrieved April 29, 2013. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Staff (December 24, 2010). The Best 70 Albums of 2010. PopMatters. Retrieved on 2010-12-31.
  4. ^ a b c Wood, Mikael (September 16, 2010). Review: Airtight's Revenge. Time Out. Retrieved on 2010-09-27.
  5. ^ Nishimoto, Dan (September 8, 2010). Bilal: Airtight's Revenge. Prefix. Retrieved on 2011-06-13.
  6. ^ Martin, Andrew (February 1, 2011). Bilal: "The Dollar" (Black Milk Remix). Prefix. Retrieved on 2011-06-13.
  7. ^ a b Weiss, Jeff (October 28, 2010). Bilal Breaks the Dollar, Headlines Echoplex Thursday Night. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2010-11-01.
  8. ^ a b Jones, Steve (September 18, 2010). Review: Airtight's Revenge. USA Today. Retrieved on 2010-09-27.
  9. ^ a b Bilal Talks About His New Album, Airtight's Revenge
  10. ^ Bilal - the EYE WEEKLY interview
  11. ^ Bilals neues Soulalbum: Psychedelik für die Couch -
  12. ^ Robert Glasper joue le jazz de demain -
  13. ^ Pattison, Louis (August 27, 2010). Review: Airtight's Revenge. BBC Online. Retrieved on 2010-09-27.
  14. ^ [1]. SoulBounce. Retrieved on 2011-11-1.
  15. ^ [2]. Parlour Magazine. Retrieved on 2011-11-1.
  16. ^ a b Kellman, Andy (September 10, 2010). Review: Airtight's Revenge. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2010-09-27.
  17. ^ a b Rabin, Nathan (October 12, 2010). Review: Airtight's Revenge. The A.V. Club. Retrieved on 2010-10-14.
  18. ^ Gibson, Luke (September 22, 2010). "Bilal - Airtight's Revenge". HipHopDX. Retrieved October 11, 2016. 
  19. ^ Takiff, Jonathan (September 14, 2010). Review: Airtight's Revenge. Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved on 2010-09-27.
  20. ^ a b Amorosi, A.D. (September 26, 2010). Review: Airtight's Revenge. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved on 2010-10-15.
  21. ^ a b Lewis, Tyler (September 28, 2010). Review: Airtight's Revenge. PopMatters. Retrieved on 2010-09-28.
  22. ^ Reeves, Mosi (October 29, 2010). Review: Airtight's Revenge. Spin. Retrieved on 2010-10-29.
  23. ^ a b Anupamistry (September 30, 2010). Review: Airtight's Revenge. URB. Retrieved on 2010-09-30.
  24. ^ a b c Jacobs, Allen (September 22, 2010). Hip Hop Album Sales: The Week Ending 9/19/2010. HipHopDX. Retrieved on 2010-09-27.
  25. ^ a b Bilal Album & Song Chart History - R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-09-27.
  26. ^ a b Bilal Album & Song Chart History - Independent Albums. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-09-27.
  27. ^ Airtight's Revenge (2010): Reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2010-10-14.
  28. ^ Butler, Nick (September 20, 2010). Review: Airtight's Revenge. Sputnikmusic. Retrieved on 2010-09-27.
  29. ^ Powers, Ann (December 30, 2010). The ones that got away: Music critics reveal what they left off their year-end lists. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2010-12-31.

External links[edit]