Bilal Sayeed Oliver was born August 23, 1979; 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.
Now 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 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.
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 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 (as heard by Dilla himself). 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. A forever evolving artist, 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 a proper release of the album.
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.
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 Common, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Guru, J Dilla, Robert Glasper, The Roots, and many more.
This is why he is the Fanzyflaminfro’s Neo Soul Artist of the week!
Now check out this video by Bila; called (Love It)