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Bilal | Musicians at Google

Bilal | Musicians at Google


SPEAKER: People were asking me
what to expect today, and I was like, he’s a vocalist,
he’s a performer, he’s an artist. Just come. You won’t regret it. So if had to introduce yourself
to people who don’t know you as a musician,
and also as a person, what would you say? How would you do that? BILAL: I would do it just
as you said it. I’m a musician. Pretty much it. Musician, singer. SPEAKER: How about as an
aside for music, how would introduce yourself? BILAL: Bilal. SPEAKER: I notice you have
a lot of nicknames. BILAL: Oh yeah. Airtight Willie. Pillow. In the studio I come out with a
lot of different names just to get me out of a
certain mindset. SPEAKER: Mr. Wonderful? BILAL: Mr. Wonderful. I bring a lot of people in
to help me with ideas. SPEAKER: Cool. And how did Mr. Wonderful
come about? BILAL: Mr. Wonderful, that’s
a nickname of my pop’s. That was his old nickname. So I’m actually Mr.
Wonderful Junior. SPEAKER: I have a similar
nickname. Mr. Slightly-Above-Average. OK, so, tell me about
high school. You went to the performing arts
high school coming up. Was that a rigorous, or was it
just something that was right in tune with what you needed
and wanted at the time? BILAL: It was cool. I wanted to go there. I grew up singing in the
church on a choir. Since I was four years
old I’m into music. So when I found out that there
was a performing art school, I just went there and tried out. It was cool, I liked it. It was almost like fame. We had a dance department, art
department, drama department, music department. SPEAKER: Was there anything you
did in high school that was rebellious? BILAL: Everything. They voted me the weirdest
cat in the school. I didn’t understand that shit. SPEAKER: There’s a category– BILAL: What the hell? But I guess in school
you’re weird. But I used to go to school
with my pajamas on. With the buttons. The awesome button-up
ones with the pants? SPEAKER: The onesie? BILAL: Not the onesie. It’s a twosie. It’s like grandad pajamas. It’s got the pants, it’s got the
awesome prints, and then the shirt with the
big buttons. I thought that was cool. SPEAKER: That’s really cool. Cool. So then after high school
you went to The New School, in New York. Can you talk about how that
changed or modified or whatever your career trajectory,
and how that supported you going forward? BILAL: It helped me
a great deal. Like I got to see other people
my age that could play on a really high level. You know what I’m saying? So it was inspiring. SPEAKER: Cool. And who do you meet during those
years that you still work with or are in
touch with today? BILAL: Well, there is
Robert Glasper. Robert– I met him– we came in school at
the same time. He pretty much at the
same kind of musical upbringing is me. Like, he started out playing
in church, his mom’s a musician, and she had him
playing at a young age. I had the same concept. So our musical understandings
kind of meshed. SPEAKER: This is just a
personal story, but my favorite live show I think
I’ve ever seen was you, Robert, Chris Dave, and Tone
at Yoshi’s Oakland. BILAL: Oh, awesome. SPEAKER: That’s a good set. Did you plan to work together? Or were you all just available
during the same time? And then is there plans that– do you guys all want to
come back together at a certain point? BILAL: That was just–
it was– everybody is like– has their own thing going. That was a time, a cool
period, where– Robert actually played
on all my records. I played on all his records. But he helped me write some
of my early tunes. Like When Will You Call? We wrote that at school
in a practice room. SPEAKER: Really? So that was– you were real young when
that happened. That’s a deep song for–
when I was 19– BILAL: Actually it wasn’t, I was
like a hopeless romantic, so at that period I was writing
a lot from high school, and I got played
a lot in high school. SPEAKER: Speaking of
that– me too. How do you deal with
heartbreak? That’s a deep question, but I
tend to crawl into some hole or something. It seems like you’re able to
write your way out of it. BILAL: Yeah, that’s been my
therapy through the years. SPEAKER: That’s cool. So let’s talk about D’Angelo. I didn’t know that Bilal
sang background for D’Angelo for a period. Can you tell me about
that experience? BILAL: It only lasted one gig. It only lasted one gig,
but I used to hang out at Ahmir’s house. He used to have jam sessions
in his living room. And through hanging out with
Ahmir, I got a gig to sing background for D. And we only
did one gig, but he rehearses so vigorously that the
rehearsals were like two months long. So I felt like I was in a
band for a long time. But actually I only
did one gig. And by then I had gotten signed
so I started to work [INAUDIBLE]. SPEAKER: Another relationship I
wanted to talk about was you and J Dilla. How did that come about? When did you all meet, and how
quickly did you guys start working together
after you met? BILAL: I met Dilla when I was
working on 1st Born Second. And at that time Dilla, Common,
Ahmir, The Roots, everybody, they kind of was
hitting at the same time, jamming with each other. Roots used to do a little jam
session at this place, Wetlands, I think, and
everybody used to come down there. Working with Dilla– he was part of that
whole situation. Working with him is amazing. Cause he was just such a
naturally talented cat. The stuff he did, it was a lot
of it was self-taught. So he had a certain
understanding that was crazy, but at the same time, he knew
the intricacies of the music because his pops was
a jazz musician. His pops actually played on
a lot of jazz records. I didn’t even know that. But his understanding was so
deep, because he was around it at such a young age. SPEAKER: That’s cool. I didn’t know that
about is dad. So did you– when he passed, that was
a loss for music. But as a friend, I’m sure
that was just very hard to cope with? How did you cope through that
period when a good friend of yours and– BILAL: It was shocking. It was like one of the only
friends of mine that I knew, and then they passed away so. It was kind of– it was weird. SPEAKER: Yeah, that’s
definitely– BILAL: I still think about it. SPEAKER: Yeah. I mean it’s not natural
when it’s that young. But I mean it’s just incredible,
the amount that he’s been able to– in such a short time– contribute to music, BILAL: Yeah, it was like
he was on a mission. Dilla could do 50 beats
a day if he wanted to. He did Reminisce, my song,
in 10 minutes. SPEAKER: Wow. OK. BILAL: From scratch. From sampling the record, to
finding what record he wanted to use, to chopping up the
drum sounds, all of that. 10 minutes. SPEAKER: Wow. That’s incredible. I’ve never done anything
in 10 minutes. Cool, so let’s talk about–
you’ve collaborated– one of the things I like, you
collaborated with J Dilla, you collaborated with
a lot of people. From really independent
folks to people that everybody knows. Can you tell me about one
of your most memorable collaborations that you
remember, like, whoa, that happened just there? Or like just a weird kind
of story around a collaboration you did. BILAL: I have so many,
you know, so many memorable moments. I’ve worked with so many
awesome people. Like Dilla. Watching him put together
a beat was just amazing. But first time I met
Dr. Dre was crazy. Because of the way he records,
he records just so loud, he likes it be so loud
in the studio. And this was before he
had the headphones. Oh my goodness. The first time I walked into the
studio to work with Dre, he wasn’t in the room yet. And I noticed that– normal studios, they have two
gigantic speakers that you could turn up and listen
to music [INAUDIBLE]. This cat had six of those. Three big ones at the
top and then three sub-woofers at the bottom. And when I saw that, I noticed
everybody in the studio had on earplugs in their ear. Then Dre walks in place,
like, yeah, hell yeah. Want to play you this track. Sits down and turns
it all the way up. I couldn’t even– First off, I thought that the
thing was going to explode. But nothing fed back, nothing
went crunchy. Nothing. It was just a wall of pain. I’ll never forget that. Crazy. SPEAKER: That’s cool. I did not expect that
to come out. That’s cool. So you’ve worked with a
wide range of people. You’re also one of the most
creative people that I’ve seen and heard. Creativity– I’m going to do the Google
tie-in right now. So creativity is really
important at Google and innovation. How do you write, and is
that process the same? Do you create conditions that
you can be creative in, or does it just pop up, or– BILAL: I try to be as open
and optimistic as I can when I’m creating. I write different shapes
and then I just wait until the moment– the moment of actually putting
it down to really bring everything and allow myself
to think of it is a complete thought. SPEAKER: Yeah. So for non-musicians,
does that transfer? Do you think that would be the
advice you’d give people? Be open? What other advice would you
give to people about creativity and that
whole area? BILAL: I don’t really
have a set way. I try not to put so much on
myself, like I have to do this, this is going to save my
life and make me feel a whole lot better about myself. I just try to remain as natural
and inquisitive as I can, like when I first started,
when I was a kid. SPEAKER: Yeah. That’s really cool. We talk about that
here, actually. We have these classes and we
talk about how sometimes you lose that kid as you grow up. So I think that’s cool you’re
able to hold on to that. So let’s talk about technology
a little bit. Do you use any Google
products? BILAL: I Google a lot. SPEAKER: Yeah? That’s our main one. So I think we’re doing well. And how do you discover
new music? Do you just have word of mouth
from friends, or do you use any of the stuff that’s
out there on the net? BILAL: Yeah, I mean, I got
a Twitter page, Facebook, [INAUDIBLE], Instagram
thing, I guess. SPEAKER: Yeah. BILAL: You have to be. SPEAKER: Has it changed the way
you think about creating records, or is it just kind of
once things are done, that’s going to happen? BILAL: No, it’s just something
that’s happening while we’re doing what we do. Because a lot of is just like
a little comment or– I don’t leave that many
comments, though. But I try to take pictures
and stuff. SPEAKER: OK, cool. We’re going to do– I know a lot of people ask you
what’s your favorite this or that, or the most– I was not going to
do that, but I’m actually going to do that. What’s one of your most
favorite jazz spots in New York? BILAL: In New York? Fat Cat. SPEAKER: OK. Is that– what part of town? BILAL: That’s on 7th Avenue. It’s actually like a ping-pong
pool house, but on the side they play jazz and
it’s real funky. A lot is just real cool. It’s like a jazz cat spot. Most of the cats in the audience
are musicians too. So cats go there to burn out. They go there to like,
out-play each other. It’s nice. SPEAKER: How about one of your
most favorite vocalist that you’ve heard over the
course of your life? BILAL: My most favorite
vocalist? Is, I’d say, Betty Carter. SPEAKER: Wow. And what distinguishes
her, in your mind? Or what distinguishes a good
vocalist, or a great vocalist from just a good vocalist? BILAL: Well I like a
person’s approach. It was very open ended, but at
the same time, high level. SPEAKER: And you scat
and things as well. Is that– BILAL: Yeah, definitely. That got me into her, too. SPEAKER: Cool. BILAL: She really had an
understanding of the music, other than the surface things. She really understood the chord
changes, the rhythm. So she was like a hardcore
bandleader just as much as like Miles Davis or anybody. She really was known for finding
killer musicians and putting all those [INAUDIBLE] things together. SPEAKER: For those of you
who haven’t heard her, check her out. BILAL: She’s ill. SPEAKER: She’s incredible. So what– let’s switch
gears a little bit. What’s one of the most– one thing you’re most proud
that’s non-musical? BILAL: Oh man. I have to say my kids. SPEAKER: Your kids. BILAL: Yeah. SPEAKER: You have two kids? BILAL: I got three kids. SPEAKER: Three kids. BILAL: Three boys. SPEAKER: Oh wow. And how old? BILAL: I got a one-year-old,
a 12-year-old, and a seven-year-old. SPEAKER: What’s one of the
things you learned most about yourself, being a father? BILAL: Patience and
having fun. I’ve learned to laugh
with my kids. SPEAKER: I think that’s
really important. We have a lot of people becoming
fathers at Google. When you start at a young
company, you get to kind to see people grow and
have babies. OK, cool, so– BILAL: Kids are cool. Kids are cool. I love kids. SPEAKER: Let’s talk
about the album. The new album, A Love Surreal,
comes out February 26th? BILAL: Yeah. SPEAKER: Tell me how it’s
different from other work you’ve done, or what went into
it as something you haven’t done before? BILAL: Well, this album was,
for me, was a part of like every creative section of it. When before I would
just really do the music and be done. But this time I thought about
the visual side and how it would relate to the musical. SPEAKER: Cool. So how did you get involved
with the visual aspect? BILAL: Well with the visual
aspect, I just thought about Salvador Dali. While we were putting one of
the songs together in the studio, I was like man, this is
almost like an art piece. And then that kind of got me
in a mindset of well, what would I do visually? And so what we winded up doing
is using Salvador Dali as kind of the muse for the project. In trying to make the sound
feel visual when you listen to it. Like almost 3D. SPEAKER: OK, cool. Is it– the last album was, you
talked about a lot of different stuff. Is that the case here, is
it more about love? I’m just basing that
off the title. BILAL: Yeah. This is a more sensual record. I always say as opposed
to my last record. My last record was, I would say,
for me and for a mellow experience in this world. And this one is more for
the females, and for a relationship, and the journey
through that. SPEAKER: Cool. Well I’m looking forward
to hearing that. So any goals going forward
that are– you do albums, you do music,
you do live shows. Do you have any other goals that
you want to accomplish? BILAL: I’d like to do film. SPEAKER: Oh, cool. BILAL: Landscaping in
music in the films. I would love to do that. Making this record really
got my mind to thinking about it more. SPEAKER: Yeah. Yeah, I think the way that you
seem to think that would be a really good fit, just based on
the performances and the music that I’ve heard. Cool. All right, well, thanks
a lot for being here. I’m really excited, Bilal’s
about the play some tunes. Thanks for being here, thanks
for what you do for music, as an independent music fan then
a music fan in general. We’ll be all passing that onto
our kids for a long time to come, I’m sure. So you ready? BILAL: Yes. SPEAKER: Everybody
welcome Bilal. [MUSIC PLAYING –
“BACK TO LOVE”] [MUSIC PLAYING – “LONGING
AND WAITING”] BILAL: I should’ve ended with
a sexier face, sorry. [MUSIC PLAYING – “NEVER
BE THE SAME”] [MUSIC PLAYING – “ALL MATTER”] BILAL: Thank you.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. You go Bilal! The Musician – The Vocalist – The Artist! He is back doing his way! Great video and showcase of real talent. Thanks Musicians @ Google. PEACE!!!

  2. I love how Bilal is so himself and can bring his music to life everyone he hits the stage. It's las if your on the journey with him! Amazing!

  3. This album plus this particular video on constant repeat….my 2 year old son watches this and picks up something where he acts like he's playing the guitar. Tawanya you said it correctly is appears that Bilal is very comfortable with this album….being himself. As a singer I am so inspired been a Bilal fan from day 1!

  4. im soo in love with his style, as a singer I pay close attention to pitch range and runs and he has it all down to a science!

  5. No worry. Demographic science proves that if everyone one likes something, then either its not that good to begin with, or it will soon become washedout and played out.

    A true artist always has detractors.

  6. is it me or does Bilal look high as s***! lol! Love his music tho….."Flying" is my cut right now…

  7. lmao! that was funny, but my man was on some deep shit with that cut tho! lol! thanks feezboy for having me rollin' on that comment, thank u bruh!

  8. I miss the bullring, new street, ladywood, worked at tesco in sutton coldfield for 8 years man. Crazy shit is I'm in LA, still representing Brum hard in Hollywood

  9. 30:03 those lil random Bilal high notes is what I LIVE for. Ughhh give this man his props godamnit!! I always always ALWAYS go see him when he's performing, bc his catalogue just keeps getting more and more beautiful and soulful. Watch this man, im telling you (and ride his cray-cray lol, you'll enjoy it hahahaha).

  10. "When We Was
    Talking on the
    Phone.. Last Night
    Said You
    WOKE WET
    From A Dream
    A Vision Of You
    LOVING ME
    Cold Sweats
    Body SHAKING.."

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