The artist Bilal comes to Cleveland for an 8 p.m. show Tuesday, Sept. 6 at the Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Road in the Collinwood area of Cleveland along with Kid Frost and The Funny Sound. You can check them out for a mere $20 bucks!
By FELICIA C. HANEY
Although his talent is unmistakable, singer-songwriter-musician Bilal at times has been branded (for lack of a better term) “strange.” But then again, what great musicians haven’t? None that come to mind. Unfortunately, when anyone has the gall to step out of a pigeonhole, the pigeons left inside will think its “weird” to see that person fly. In a previous interview with CP2, we got to peer behind the artist’s outward perception and into what makes up Bilal. The artist comes to Cleveland for an 8 p.m. show Tuesday, Sept. 6 at the Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Road in the Collinwood area of Cleveland along with Kid Frost and The Funny Sound.
You can check them out for a mere $20 bucks if you buy your tickets in advance, $22 if you wait ‘til the day of the show. But why would you want to wait to hear such a great talent that only comes around every few years? We couldn’t wait, which is why we’re giving you a chance to hear a few words for yourself prior to the melodic ones he’ll be spewing at the Beachland.
CP2: So, you’re gearing up to come to town, what can we expect from the show?
B: It’s gonna be very high energy. It’s gonna be soulful and uhh… fun. And if you let go, to me it’ll be like an out of body experience. Yeah we go in like the Greatful Dead.
Well I have to make sure I am in attendance for that because I have never had an out-of-body experience before.
Oh, it’s easy. Hold your breath.
That sounds like I might end up dead.
Well, that’s an out of body experience.
Well, let’s talk a about some things that are alive and well, like your independent artist movement. I’m sure you’ve been asked about it a million times but with so many Indy artists in Northeast Ohio, everyone wants to know how that movement has worked out for you?
Being independent is definitely more of a grind than if you’re on a major. Everything you do is off your own back but the reward of that is that you’re making your own music. You don’t have anyone creatively telling you how things should be done. You can be as free as you want. You just have to push a lot of things on your own which means you end up spending your own money before you see money.
What is your biggest hurdle with being independent?
My biggest obstacle really has been figuring out tour support and getting different sponsors. The thing with independent is that everything is not as overnight like if you were on a major. It takes a little more patience.
So how can your fans be more supportive in the process?
The fans have been helping me by coming out to shows and checking me through the net.
Let’s talk a little more about the new album. I was watching some online clips of you and you mentioned that the album is a natural progression of what you’ve already been doing. Where do you feel you’ve been already with your music and where do you feel it’s going?
My music has always been soulful and I’ve always had the concept of blending hip-hop music with what I do vocally. On my first album I wanted to work with hip hop producers and I wanted them to approach my music just like I was an MC. So I was writing songs over hard beats… dr. Dre beats, J. Dilla beats… So, where I am now I’ve really gone back to just a musician standpoint, kinda like singer-songwriter deal, instead of writing the song from a track, I write the song first then we make a song around the song that I wrote on the piano.
Before the release of this album there had been a bit of time that passed since your last official release. How have you managed to stay in the loop?
Mostly the fans not forgetting about me and coming out to my shows. I attribute it to my fans and just having a good band, ya know?
Listening to your CD I picked up on a few social issues. Just out of curiosity, do you ascribe to any particular religion or political party?
I’m all religions.
All? Even when they conflict with each other?
The ones that conflict are the ones that are the most similar to each other. That’s the problem with the world. The world just jumps on what it hears and sees but no one has any real knowledge. If people had real knowledge they would see how stupid they’re being. Religion really kinda started with the Egyptian concept of one God, then the Jews took it, Moses took it to Israel and then from Israel spawned three different religions Christianity, Judaism, Islam. But if you read the Quran, the Torah, the Bible… they’re all the same stories. So, it’s really stupid when people say that those religions are so different because they’re not. They all came from the same concept, that’s like family trying to kill each other.
Is that kind of the premise for your lead song “Robots?”
Yeah, it’s the premise for my song “Robots.” It’s the premise for a lot of the songs on this album, including “Who Are You?” I try to make music that is informative but not preachy, you know? I don’t wanna be a know it all or go over people’s heads. I just like to put the information out there a little bit like Bob Marley would or Curtis Mayfield.
Do you ever feel it difficult to change creatively? Sometimes being independent has a stigma on it and people don’t want you going too far left or right...
Well, you know… I don’t care! [erupts in laughter]. I just try to stay true to myself and focus on growth. I feel like the people who truly love what I do understood that I was gonna grow from my first album. And if not, I’m sure there are a bunch of Neo-Soul albums out there that they can go buy. That’s just not me. I’m about growth and progression. One of my favorite people in the world was Miles Davis and I’m sure somebody told him “while you’re playing, don’t turn your back to the audience and smile like Louie Armstrong” but, thank God he didn’t and he stayed true to himself. That’s what I’m about.
So why do you love doing this?
It’s the only thing I’ve been doing since I was three years old. I really don’t know anything else.
What would you like the Bilal musical legacy to be? How do you want people to remember your music?
I want my music to live on. I want to stretch the boundaries of music and what can be done in music. I’m looking to be an icon just like all of the greats I look up to. They defied conventions and made something new. And that’s what I’m about, really changing people’s lives with what I do.