Back in June, I was invited to be part of BILAL's private listening party at his recording studio in New York. I first heard the album in its entirety while driving to Philly back in the spring, when he was performing at the same fundraiser for Haiti that I was booked to live paint at, but this listening party was the first time I heard it on a real sound system. I've listened to it innumerable times since and it still has the same impact.
The highly-anticipated "Airtight's Revenge" is one of the landmark albums of the year, and undoubtedly will score many awards (def Grammys-material). It is one of those groundbreaking records that defies all the boxes and labels people have been trying to force BILAL into...(it is time to drop the derivative 'Neosoul singer' label which he never really identified with). Classically-trained with a range of an opera singer and the dynamism of a rockstar, BILAL's spectrum of musical background ranges from jazz, soul, R&B as well as funk, pop, rock, hip-hop and electronic music, and this album is a true testament to his genius not only as a singer but as a producer and songwriter who can make music that pays homage but transcends the limitations of genres. Like Prince or David Bowie, BILAL is his own genre, and this album proves that without a doubt. Born from the ashes of his disappointing relation with his previous label, Interscope, Airtight's Revenge is a true labor of love & personal struggle and victory. With this album, BILAL took his time to find a label that would give him the artistic freedom his vision required to fully manifest (for instance, Interscope would tried to control who produced his songs and would make him write love songs based on market demands). LA-based independent label Plug Research, which has Shafiq Husayn, Exile, and Quadron on its roster, have recognized that an artist like him needs total green light because real music comes from a place of creative freedom and no one else could do the job better than he himself.
BILAL worked with a small crew of close friends who have supported him from the inception of the project, like Steve McKie (Jill Scott, Estelle, Kindred, Vivian Green) who co-produced the album with Bilal, as well as Nottz (Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Drake), 88 Keys (Mos Def, Macy Gray, Musiq Soulchild), and Shafiq Husayn of Sa-Ra and Tone Whitefield, which makes the project all the more intimate and real. It is more guitar-driven and experimental than his previous albums, but the end product is a bigger, more cinematic sound, that will sweep huge outdoor festivals the same way it will more unusual venues.
Like I heard Michael Jackson, Prince or Dam-Funk stress before, good music comes from the heart---this project has definitely got that heart-piercing emotional soulpower which you can feel while listening (only topped by hearing him perform live)...it is an emotionally charged personal journey through BILAL's life moments and visions, at points dark (Flying) and political (Robots, The Dollar) at others spiritual (Who Are You, All Matter) with an underlying forward-seeking, elevating tone (Move On, Restart, Who Are You) and a power to uplift and transform one's life. It stands in the line of the best works of Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, Erykah Badu, David Bowie, or Radiohead to mention only a few.
Please show your support for true artistry by not bootlegging the album.
You can PRE-ORDER the CD or the Vinyl (comes with digital tracks as well) on plugresearch.
New Yorkers can see him live on September 18th at BB King. For tickets and more info, follow link.
[note: the correct album title is 'Airtight's Revenge & the song is 'Flying'..I didn't have the full album info yet]
You can pre-LISTEN to the tracks on nrp.org
Check him talk about the album on his recent interview on Greedmont Park.
[via Greedmont Park.] Make sure to check out part 1 & 2 where he talks about his musical background and his musical carrier collaborating with Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, 88Keys and others.
Also check out another interview that sheds light on Bilal's less known spiritual side as well that my NY fam, Nikki NTU & Thony Remy had produced for Young, Gifted and Black here.