Bilal (American singer)
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|Birth name||Bilal Sayeed Oliver|
|Born||August 23, 1979|
|Origin||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Genres||Neo soul, R&B, funk, jazz, hip hop|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, singer, songwriter, producer|
|Instruments||Vocals, keyboards, guitar|
|Associated acts||The Roots, Kimbra, Soulquarians, Common, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Cee-Lo, Musiq Soulchild, The Dresden Soul Symphony, J Dilla, Nottz, Kendrick Lamar|
|Website||BilalMusic.com, Bilal on Twitter|
Bilal Sayeed Oliver (born August 23, 1979), better known mononymously as Bilal, is an American singer-songwriter, musician and producer. He is currently an independent artist residing in New York City.
Bilal is noted for his wide vocal range, his work across multiple genres, and his live performances. He has been well received, both nationally and internationally, with an extensive list of collaborations including Kendrick Lamar, Common, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Guru, Kimbra, J Dilla, Robert Glasper, The Roots, and many more.
Bilal was born as Bilal Sayeed Oliver in Germantown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up in a religiously mixed household, his mother being a devout Christian and his father, a Muslim. He regularly attended church with his mother in a small church that consisted of mostly family members. It was where Bilal grew an interest in music and singing. Bilal attended The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. Attended and Graduated from the High School for Creative And Performing Arts (CAPA) in 1998.
1999–2010: Debut and hiatus
Bilal began to familiarize himself with the music scene in New York City, meeting big talents such as Common, The Roots, and Erykah Badu. 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 landed him a record deal with Interscope. In 2001, he released his debut album 1st Born Second, which featured contributions from the Soulquarians as well as high-profile producers such as Dr. Dre and J Dilla. The album peaked at number 31 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, and it has sold 319,000 copies. 1st Born Second received universal acclaim from music critics; and holds a score of 82 out of 100 at Metacritic. The album earned rave reviews from publications, including The Village Voice, Chicago Sun-Times, and USA Today, and it also received comparisons to the music of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Sly & the Family Stone, Prince, and Curtis Mayfield.
The album showcased a wide variety, from the emotionally charged fan-favorite "Soul Sista", which peaked at No. 18 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, to the political viewpoints of "Fast Lane" and "Second Child". Bilal managed to gain a sizable following and high attendance at his live shows, as well as much acclaim and respect from his peers, many of whom noted his range and ability to sing in a freeform style, and his classically trained falsetto. The soulful feel of the album caused Bilal to be labeled as "neo-soul." Bilal stresses that this term does not fit, and throughout his career, his expansion in music and pushing of boundaries proved his point.
In the following years Bilal continued to appear on projects by other artists of both high profile and avant garde, while recording and developing his follow-up set to be released on Interscope Records and featuring contributions primarily from producers Dr. Dre and J Dilla. These plans proved to be changeable and the final result, Love for Sale, was an album that appeared to be built around Bilal's own musicianship. Bilal switched it up on Love For Sale, which includes live instrumentation and a vibe completely new and different from its predecessor. However, his anticipation was shot down after receiving disapproval from Interscope. Unwilling to start from scratch, Bilal continued to push his LP. However, near the album's completion, the album was leaked in its entirety on the Internet. Interscope shelved the album indefinitely, hinting that it saw little commercial potential in it. The event sent Bilal into a period of distress, and was considering quitting music; however, Love for Sale received over half a million downloads on the Internet, and Bilal began touring, despite there not being a proper release of the album.
2010–present: Musical return
After nine years without a properly released album, Bilal made a comeback on 14 September 2010 with Airtight's Revenge, a sophomore LP released under independent record label Plug Research. Bilal describes the album as a retrospective album: an album that explores his experiences and things that he's learned since his last release. An experimental album, Airtight's Revenge blends jazz, hip-hop, electronic, rock, soul, and blues into one raw, genuine collection of music.
In 2012, Bilal revealed plans for a new album under a new label, eOne Music. During several interviews, Bilal described the new project as "a lot warmer and [more] sensual" than its conceptual predecessor. The new album, titled A Love Surreal, has a more acoustic sound, as Bilal worked very closely with his entire band. To set up the album's release, on 5 December 2012, Bilal released a mixtape titled The Retrospection via Facebook.
Six days after the release of The Retrospection, Bilal released "Back to Love," the first single off A Love Surreal. A video was released for the song on 8 January 2013, telling the story of a drug-addicted love doctor who ironically uses the advice he gives to his patients to help his own relationship. The song sets the tone for the album, which Bilal says embodies "the whole process [of love]: meeting, the break-up, [and] the get-back-together." A Love Surreal was released on 26 February 2013.
With the release of A Love Surreal, Bilal immediately achieved commercial success, debuting at No. 1 on iTunes' R&B Chart. On Billboard, the album debuted at No. 17 on the Independent Albums Chart, No. 19 on the R&B Albums Chart, and No. 103 on the Billboard 200, ranking higher than its predecessor, Airtight's Revenge. The album also received numerous high reviews, including an 8/10 from SPIN Magazine, a 4.5/5 stars from Allmusic, and a 4/4 stars from USA Today.
- Studio albums
- 1st Born Second (2001)
- Love for Sale (unreleased)
- Airtight's Revenge (2010)
- A Love Surreal (2013)
- In Another Life (2015)
- The Return of Mr. Wonderful (2007)
- The Retrospection (2012)
- "Love It"; No. 61 R&B
- "Soul Sista"; No. 71 US, No. 18 R&B
- "Fast Lane; No. 41 R&B
- "Something To Hold On To"
- "Little One"
- "Back To Love"
- "West Side Girl"
- with Common
- "Funky For You" (Common & Jill Scott) from Like Water for Chocolate
- "Nag Champa (Afrodesiac for the World)" from Like Water for Chocolate
- "The 6th Sense" from Like Water for Chocolate
- "Heaven Somewhere" from Electric Circus
- "Aquarius" from Electric Circus
- "Star69 (PS With Love)" from Electric Circus
- "Faithful" (Common & John Legend) from Be
- "It's Your World/Pop's Reprise" from Be
- "U, Black Maybe" from Finding Forever
- "Misunderstood" from Finding Forever
- "Play Your Cards Right" from Finding Forever
- "Joy and Peace" from Black America Again
- "Home" from "Black America Again"
- "A Bigger Picture Called Free" from "Black America Again"
- "Letter To The Free" from "Black America Again"
- with others
- Grenique on "Let Go", "You Say" and "Love Within" from Black Butterfly
- Scratch, on "Square One" from The Embodiment of Instrumentation
- Talib Kweli on "Waitin' for the DJ" & "Talkin' to You" from Quality
- Da Ranjahz & Ras Kass on "Da Dopest"
- Jaguar Wright on "I Can't Wait" from Denials Delusions and Decisions
- Tweet on "Best Friend" from Southern Hummingbird
- Cherokee, on "A Woman Knows" from Soul Parade
- John Ellis, on "John Brown's Gun", "Nowny Dreams" and "The Lonely Jesus" from Roots, Branches & Leaves
- Beyoncé on "Everything I Do", from the soundtrack of The Fighting Temptations
- Musiq on "Dontstop/Her" from Soulstar
- Boney James's "Better With Time", from Pure
- Robert Glasper on "Maiden Voyage" and "Don't Close Your Eyes" from Mood
- Max Herre on "Playground" from Max Herre
- Robert Glasper on "Chant" from Canvas
- Luvpark on "Fade Away" and "Luvtheme" from Luvpark
- Pete Kuzma on "High and Dry" from Exit Music: Radiohead Tribute
- Clipse and Pharrell Williams, on "Nightmares" from Hell Hath No Fury
- A-Alikes on "What You Give" from I Eat You Eat
- Hezekiah on "Looking Up" from I Predict a Riot
- Timbo King & The Last Poets on "Trust Factor" from Spookz Who Kicked Down The Door
- Sa-Ra on "Sweet Sour You" from The Hollywood Recordings
- Jay-Z on "Fallin'" from American Gangster
- The Randy Watson Experience on "Can't Hide Love" from Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of Earth, Wind & Fire
- Common on "Play Your Cards Right" from Smokin' Aces soundtrack.
- Ghostface Killah & Prodigy of Mobb Deep on "Trials of Life" off an unknown DJ Green Lantern mixtape.
- Erykah Badu on "The Healer","My People","Soldier","Twinkle" & "Master Teacher" from New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)
- The Game (rapper) on "Cali Sunshine" from LAX
- Solange on "Cosmic Journey" from Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams
- M.O.P. on "Get Rich"
- 88-Keys on "M.I.L.F." from The Death of Adam
- Scarface on "Can't Get It Right" from Emeritus
- J Dilla on "Remember"
- Zap Mama on "The Way You Are", from ReCreation
- Shafiq Husayn on "Cheeba" from En' A-Free-Ka (Plug Research)
- Robert Glasper's "All Matter" and "Open Mind" from Double-Booked
- The Terence Blanchard Group's "Journey" and "When Will You Call" from Choices
- Marvwon on "Need To Know" from Way Of The Won
- Erykah Badu on "Jump in the Air & Stay There" from New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)
- Little Brother and Darien Brockington on "Second Chances" from The Leftback
- Reflection Eternal on "End" from Revolutions per Minute
- Nottz on "Right Here" from You Need This Music
- Diddy – Dirty Money on "Shades feat. Lil Wayne, Justin Timberlake, James Fauntleroy" from Last Train to Paris
- Daedelus on "Overwhelmed" from Bespoke
- Kindred the Family Soul on "Take a Look Around" from Love Has No Recession
- Stimulus & Chris 'Daddy' Dave on "Full Grown" from 3rd 1st Impression
- Georgia Anne Muldrow on "More & More" from Owed to Mama Rickie
- The Roots on "The OtherSide" from Undun
- Robert Glasper on "Always Shine Ft. Lupe Fiasco" & "Letter to Hermione" from Black Radio
- Lupe Fiasco on "How Dare You" from Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1
- Chrisette Michele on "Can the Cool Be Loved?" from Better
- Kendrick Lamar on "untitled 01 | 8.19.2014." from untitled unmastered.
- J Dilla on "The Ex" from The Diary
- Mac Miller on "Congratulations" from The Divine Feminine
- The Roots on "It Ain’t Fair" from "Detroit_(film)" Original Motion Picture Soundtrack/Audio
Awards and nominations
Bilal has been nominated for four career Grammy Awards, winning one.
- Little One Tour (2011)
- Price, Emmett George (2010). Encyclopedia of African American Music. 3. ABC-CLIO. p. 656. ISBN 0313341990.
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- [dead link]
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- Hey everybody, as.... Facebook. Retrieved on 2013-03-07.
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