Bilal was born as Bilal Sayeed Oliver in northwest 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 creative and performing arts high school of Philadelphia in 1998.
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 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 whom noted his range and ability to sing in a free-form 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.
Since his major label debut on Interscope Bilal has gone the independent route releasing 2 albums Airtight’s Revenge (2010) and A Love Surreal (2013). Airtight’s Revenge debuted at number 101 on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 4,600 copies. It peaked at number 21 on Billboard ’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and at number 23 on its Independent Albums chart. His 2013 release of A Love Surreal peaked at #103 on the Billboard 200 at #17 on the Billboard Independent albums chart and @ #19 on Billboard’s top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. The album’s title was also inspired by John Coltrane’s 1965 album A Love Supreme. Bilal wrote A Love Surreal for female listeners with lyrics about love. He described writing the album as a surrealistic exploration of love. He was inspired by the surrealism of Spanish painter Salvador Dalí, after viewing a 2005 Salvador Dalí exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He also drew on the shelving of his unreleased album Love for Sale, which inspired A Love Surreal ’s title.
For his 2015 album “In Another Life” Bilal has joined forces with Mr. Adrian Younge to create a album that is a classic indeed. “In Another Life” As Bilal has stated this is the first album that he has done that features one producer and one sound and that sound is golden for Bilal. The union between Adrian Younge and Bilal is just so natural. Adrian Younge is a master of analog and classic recording, using those dusty old instruments to get an analog sound that compliments Bilal’s range perfectly. Its like they went back and created the breaks and old soul records that they may have sampled. The album is experimental jazz soul with a hip hop flavor. The only features on the album ironically are Big K.R.I.T, Kendrick Lamar & Kimbra. At some points the album sounds like the soundtrack to some artsy blaxploitation movie but it all fits.
TAKE A LISTEN
WHAT BILAL HAS TO SAY ABOUT HIS ALBUM
VIDEOS FROM “IN ANOTHER LIFETIME”