Usually when you think of Neo-Soul, a picture of candles and oil burning in a basement lounge with fingers snapping or a scene in ‘Love Jones’ comes to mind but, Bilal’s ‘s 2001 debut album ‘1st Born Second’ broke that mold. His collaboration with Hip Hop super producers Dr. Dre and J Dilla blended gritty soul backgrounds with complimentary lyrics focusing on the fast life and love. During Diddy’s shiny suit era, Bilal changed the perception on Neo-Soul while capturing mainstream urban audiences by offering lyrics that were relevant to thugs, pretty boys, nerds, soul, Rastas and individuals from all walks of life.
On ‘1st Born Second’ Bilal captured snapshots of life. His lyrics visualized the tales of the hood in “Fast Lanes” and defined feelings of affection on “Love It.” Today the only recent soul record that caught mainstream appeal was Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” but, outside of that, autotune has pushed R&B/Soul to the back. Now the question is, who will bring that good soul back ? Today’s soul scene is starting to shift towards mainstream music with artist such as Chrisette Michelle and Raheem Devaughn winning the respect of their peers and online audiences.
Now that Jay-Z has announced the death of autotune, rappers may rap again and singers may record soul songs recapturing the sounds of the past. This is a perfect opportunity for Bilal to return to the game as mainstream music experiences a shift in sound and style. He has only released one album to date but rumors are floating that Bilal will finally release his second album after a nearly eight year absence.
—— By: Adeniyi Omisore