I had this album for about three months before I sat down and really listened to it. This was at a time during college where every Tuesday, I would hit up the Mom & Pop record store that was on Howard campus at the time and pick up a stack of the newest CDs, then see the bootleg CD dude outside the store for the latest DJ Clue or other street mixtapes. I was knee deep in the game, folks. Anyway, I had seen the videos for “Love It” and “Soul Sista” and was impressed that the guy had two dope singles and I’d never heard of him before. When I finally broke through the plastic and gave this a spin, I was instantly a believer.
The intro lets you know off top that Bilal doesn’t plan to play any games here, claiming he just wants to “put a little paint where it ain’t”, which can easily be taken as bringing some much-needed originality into the R&B game as it was then and even as it is now.
“For You” is almost a continuation of the intro, as it gives you some more insight into the artist’s style and approach. “Fast Lane” features Jadakiss on a beat that was unmistakably crafted by none other than Dr. Dre (who also produced “Sally” on this album). This song provides social commentary while not being preachy and maintaining its entertainment value, a balance that many artists fail to achieve.
“Reminisce” featured Mos Def and Common pontificating on past lovers over a J. Dilla beat. Bilal is without question considered a neo-soul artist (or was at the time) and was a member of the Soulquarians collective. This song in particular and the album as a whole is indicative of that movement and Bilal’s hand in its progression.
“Love It” and “Soul Sista” are easy to like and were the obvious choices for singles, though I would have loved to see a visual treatment and single for “Love Poems” as well, a song about making the leap from friendship to romance.
I think most Bilal fans would agree that “Queen of Sanity” is easily the crowning achievement on this album, much like “White To Gray” is on his slept-on (the label apparently shelved it) classic Love For Sale album. “Queen” is a raw, heartfelt ode to a woman whose very presence brings about peace and comfort.
Bilal is very much a complete artist. As much as people would like to compare him to Prince or D’Angelo, you’d have to only be half listening to not notice the subtle and not-so-subtle nuances of Bilal’s sound. His next album, Love For Sale was shelved by his label but, if you can find it, is equally great if not better than this one. But to get the whole experience, you’ve got to go support the man’s live show, as Bilal and his band tend to guarantee you will get your money’s worth and then some. In the meantime, if you don’t have this album, please buy it.
Love Poems x Bilal
Love It x Bilal
Queen Of Sanity (Live at Berklee College of Music) x Bilal