At the major-label department of artist grievances, Bilal can take a number and wait in line until he decomposes. Though his career was placed on a worn path, the fact that he joined the land of the leaked, shelved, and dropped borders on tragic. When he debuted in 2001, he was the one for whom the neo-soul tag seemed most limiting, as he was more ahead of his time than a throwback.
The term “neo-soul” has been the subject of intense debate ever since Kedar Massenburg coined it as a way to market Erykah Badu’s Baduizm 13 years ago. Given the way black music has been named by (usually) outsiders ever since the blues, the reaction to the name by artists who ostensibly fit into the “neo-soul” category represents a wonderful example of black self-determination in an industry that is still defiantly wedded to narrow definitions and images of black folks. Besides, the term “soul” (like “R&B”, which was the original name for rock before it was appropriated and renamed) has devolved so much that it basically means “music by black people who are not pop stars and/or do not dance” and is almost completely meaningless as a descriptive term.
When asked about singer and songwriter Bilal, Erykah Badu remarked, "What a frequency." Her word choice is appropriate, considering the music he has slowly cultivated over the past decade. Unlike most male artists in R&B and hip-hop, Bilal expresses emotions as opposed to making statements or delivering messages. His songs are often a feeling or about feelings.
Review Summary: The forgotten man of neo-soul goes on a painfully personal journey of catharsis. There's a good chance that you've never even heard of the guy, but in some hidden corners of the soul world, Bilal's Airtight's Revenge is one of the most anticipated albums of the year. It seems quite a few people (mostly Soulquarians devotees, admittedly) were impressed enough by his classically-trained voice and his 2001 debut 1st Born Second to let it have a lasting impact on them, enough to mean that bootlegs copies of his aborted second effort Love for Sale earned a cult following, and enough to mean that there's still a buzz about an official follow-up coming out a full nine years (!!!) later.
For a while it seemed that Bilal was destined to be a bridesmaid, but never a bride. Since the release of his debut in 2001, the Philadelphia-based soul singer appeared on more guest spots than albums of his own. (His 2006 album, Love For Sale, was shelved and then subsequently leaked.) Now resurfacing four years post-Lovegate, a debacle that left Bilal disillusioned with the music industry and wrung dry of creativity, he has returned with a newfound focus and widened scope to his sound.
An experimental third LP, but still full of hooky, modern soul. Louis Pattison 2010 Airtight’s Revenge marks a definite change of scenery for Philadelphia-based singer/producer Bilal Sayeed Oliver. Bilal made his debut back in 2001 with 1st Born Second, jazzy neo-soul affair that won a stack of critical praise but generally failed to convert such good will into sales.