The Root Interview: Bilal on Making a Comeback

Bilal gets his payback on the new album Airtight's Revenge.

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B: It was a record I was working on for Interscope. I had just about finished it, I was in the process of mixing it and it was bootlegged. When it was first happened, I was really f***ing mad. Then it kind of turned around for me. I started to get a lot of Internet buzz, and I tried to get the label to put the record out, but they winded up shelving it, and we kind of started to have disagreements on creative direction and we just decided to part ways, basically.

B: Well, Love for Sale was kind of like a singer-songwriter deal, like I wrote this new album. I sat down at the piano and wrote all of those tunes, a lot of them, and the ones that I didn't do, I was with my own producers. [Interscope's] whole concept was work with all the hot producers and that will be your album, and that's never been my deal. If anything, I'd like to have two or three producers. But I see myself as a singer-songwriter and I can pretty much produce myself if I wanted to.

TR: Besides bootlegging affecting potential record sales, what else upset you about Love for Sale's leak? You said it wasn't finished, and people still loved it.

B: I always knew it was a good album, and I fought tooth and nail over that album because my label didn't really understand what it was that I was doing, and they didn't understand I didn't want to work with a bunch of producers. It was also like they're asleep, because I felt myself arguing over it all the time. They really felt the record was kind of dark and not really sexy. I went to battle on that album on a daily basis, which I felt was kind of stupid because I felt the music was really dope, and most people I was playing it for were feeling it and loving it. Whenever we would play it out live, people were enjoying it. It was one of those deals that while I was creating it, I had that feeling like, "Oh, this is dope."

TR: When I was at the listening session for Airtight's Revenge earlier this year, you said people who liked 1st Born Second were probably not going to like this album. Explain.

B: Well, the concept beyond this album was really just to write short stories and dark tales of life in general. I used a lot and drew a lot from my own life and my own experiences, but I also took a lot of things from fiction and tried to make certain statements, from a love standpoint.

TR: One of the life experiences you drew upon is your oldest son for the song, "Little One." What's the story behind that?

B: My son has autism, my oldest son, and I was just inspired to write a song that kind of would inspire parents and children alike to press on. It was kind of an inspirational type of deal for me and my son. I really like to use my music nowadays as a platform to raise awareness and speak on different issues, and autism means a lot to me because it's such a mystery to me. A lot of people don't really understand it, know where it came from or how to face it. I felt like I'm in a good position to raise awareness on that. I wrote the song for my child, but I also write in a way that every parent can identify with that song.

TR: Is it difficult for you to balance the demands of being a musician and a family man?

B: It's life. Life is life. I draw from life to make art ... nothing really kind of fazes [me] as far as my life is concerned. I kind of look at it like Einstein looked at it; there was no real title on what he did; he just did it. So I don't think I'm one of those types of people that sacrifices my personal life for my artistic endeavors. I think everything in life is art; you just have to have an eye. 

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