Soul born again

Sep 12, 2001 at 12:00 am

Yeah, Bilal’s dope.

Anyway, after Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and D’Angelo kicked in the door, Maxwell, Jill Scott and India.Arie walked in and established this latest trend in black music. The industry is calling it “neo-soul.”

The music is wonderful, but that category is pure garbage. Don’t believe the neo-hype. It’s soul music, through and through. You just hadn’t heard it in a while because you’ve needed time to sift through the deluge of throaty, oversinging hip-hop/R&B artists crowding the market since 1994.

So, here’s this cat Bilal. Another Philly guy. Trained in classical music. Plays a number of instruments, including drums and bass. Sounds reminiscent of D’Angelo. And Al Green. And Prince. And Curtis Mayfield. Writes some very awkward arrangements. Called his album First Born Second. Took some photos with dreads, big glasses and thrift-store gear. Typical, you say?

It’s working, guy. And in the end, you’ve got personality all your own.

If the aforementioned artists kicked and walked through the door, Bilal must be trying to knock out a wall and expand the room. Dude is blessed with sick amounts of talent, and lets you know on the album’s first song, “For You.” That’s as in “For you, I’d rob and steal. For you, I’d ride or die. Please believe it, ladies and gentlemen.”

The best eclectic artists push the envelope, but give you enough vernacular and street savvy to keep you feeling familiar. This is the album you want to have, and know the words to, before all your friends. You can go to the club and kick it at the bar, telling everybody they need to get up on it. Then be the first to buy your ticket when Metro Times announces Bilal’s first Detroit concert.

Khary Kimani Turner writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].