Bilal's New A Love Surreal Was Inspired By Salvador Dali
Even though Bilal Sayeed Oliver -- that's Bilal, to his fans -- has a new album, A Love Surreal, ready for fans to consume, he is still hounded by that one question: Will Love for Sale ever get the proper release it deserves?
"Well, I don't know," Oliver says. "I would like for it to, but it's a lot of stuff mixed up into that whole record - you know, Interscope and everything. I was also signed to a publishing company, so it's just a lot of hands mixed into that."
For fans of the 33-year-old, Philadelphia-born, Brooklyn-based soul crooner, Love for Sale is considered his masterpiece, albeit an unfinished masterpiece that never got a proper release since most of the music was leaked and bootlegged during production. Guess we need to go back a bit on how this began.
Fresh off his acclaimed 2001 debut 1st Born Second, Bilal headed back in the studio to work on a sophomore effort. While the first album featured some A-list producers -- Dr. Dre, ?uestlove, Dre and Vidal, Raphael Saadiq, the late J Dilla -- Bilal wanted to be more hands-on with in the production side of things. "That album was kind of when I started to experiment with just trying to produce things on my own, you know," he says. "Things are different then the way they are now, you know. Back then, you couldn't really spearhead your own project and kinda have the vision for it. And I went to my people and I told them that, you know, I wanted to really spearhead the project. And I did a bunch of songs and, then, I brought them in. In the process of me doing the latter, I guess, part of the record -- it was bootlegged, you know. I don't know how it was bootlegged."
Around 2006 or so is when 12 tracks of Love were leaked online. Even with the leak, Bilal wanted to move on and work on more tracks, but he says his label, Interscope, wasn't having it. "They wanted to discard everything and start from the top, and I kind of didn't want to do that," he says. "I was really happy with the work that I had done, and we just started to go back and forth."
For a while there, the passed-around Love became the black-music equivalent of Fiona Apple's once-shelved (and also notoriously bootlegged) album Extraordinary Machine, with fans singing its praises online and speculating that Interscope was holding the album back because it was too different, too daring, too unmarketable. The popularity of Love began to turn Bilal into a cult hero. "When it got back to me, I started doing tours off of it, you know," he says. "I started doing mad shows, and it was kind of crazy." He also became a sought-after hook man, doing guest spots for everyone from Jay-Z to Clipse to Erykah Badu to Robert Glasper (who has performed on all of Bilal's albums, including Surreal). "It was, like, a bad thing that turned into a - I wouldn't say a good thing because it would've been good if it came out. But it kind of turned into this little, ironic twist to my life, you know."