Bilal – The Modern Soul

We recently caught up with an O.G. in realm of rhythm and blues. Bilal Sayeed …

We recently caught up with an O.G. in realm of rhythm and blues. Bilal Sayeed Oliver, better known as Bilal is one of the silent kings when talking neo-Soul, R&B, and funk. A project that would forever imprint his legacy took place 12 years ago he released his first album, First Born Second that featured contributions from Dr Dre, Soulquarians, and the even the late great J Dilla. The project wasn't a commercial triumph, however it received positive acclaim from music critics from all around and praise from his peers such as The Roots, Common and Erykah Badu. We revisit his roots and talk about his latest project he's that's a little more acoustic and warmer from working closely with his entire band. A Love Surreal is out now through eOne Entertainment.

What are you musical influences?
I'm influenced by all styles of music: jazz, rock, hip-hop and soul with a twist of R&B. I just bring them all together to come out with my own sound.

What inspires you?
I'm inspired by life in general - my life, other people's life. I just like to make stories. Life can give you a lot of influence & inspiration it all depends on how you look at it and how you process a situation.(For me at least)

Tell us the idea and concept in creating your em>A Love Surreal album?
I wanted to make art piece music, a vibe record not necessarily a radio single record. I aimed at using more of my jazz chops this time. Dali's art inspired me as well. After seeing his work
up close it fascinated me how 3-D the paintings looked in person I wanted to make 3-D music. Music that makes you jump every time you hear it.
What people should expect or have received from the record is a more soulful sound that blends elements of rock, jazz and hip-hop. The LP was also inspired by all the different aspects of love, the highs, the lows and in-betweens. I tried to write this project from more of a woman’s point of view, my wife even co- wrote a track with me. My last album Airtight’s Revenge was written from more of a man’s perspective.

Production-wise, what was different this time around compared to your previous releases?
The key thing, I would like listeners to know is that this was the shortest time, I have ever spent creating an album. I usually spend six to 12 months creating a body of work. However, with this album I literally sat down with my band and we produced it in a much shorter time frame; three months to be exact. I didn’t overthink this album and that is probably why the response to it has been so positive.

How would you put your sound into words?
It's a combination of a lot of styles of music blended into a soulful setting. It's organic I never really put that much thought into a style I just do what I like.

What are your thoughts on the music genres you represent and what changes would you like to see if any?
I don't have any thoughts really there's good music and there is bad music. I'm a musician you know, I just make the music and leave the judging to the critics.

If you have the opportunity, tell us who you would want to work with presently and in the past, and why?
It will be cool to work with Miles Davis I don't think he's done much with a singer and besides I'd love to pick his brain about concepts. I like Squarepusher as well I think his music is pretty cool, it would be awesome if I could do something with him and see his process. Flying Lotus and The Gaslamp Killer are two producers I’d love to do something with.

If you weren't doing music what would you be doing right now in life?
That is a tough question to answer. I've been doing music my whole life in some way or the other. If I wasn't doing music I wouldn't be me, I’d be another person. I think you should ask God that question (laughs).

What songs are you currently enjoying
A lot of stuff, I've been into Sun RA a lot lately. A friend of mine gave me his whole collection and it's pretty bugged out in a really good way.

Any final words?
I'm really excited about the project and I can't wait to get on the road and perform the music, it should be really fun. Check out for additional tour dates.

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