Leaks happen when promo copies and advance releases are sent to those irresponsible few music journalists, bloggers and chronologists who use their power for evil. Or when an industry insider lets a big ego get the best of the product he’s holding. Or when a few confidants betray their artist friend. Or when a manager becomes disgruntled. Before you know it the distant drip, drip, drip of a faulty faucet rushes deep into the cavern of the ears of the masses, like some Niagara Falls of song. And it all starts with that one evil-doer and his or her promo and power, or so they say.
They. The proverbial They, that shadowy group of finger-pointing, holier-than-thou, stone-casting folks who bear no brunt of the responsibility for why albums like Bilal Oliver’s progressive Love For Sale are shelved indefinitely.
Well this is the week of Airtight’s Revenge. And we here at TSS held our advance of Bilal’s new album with unflappable stoicism and white knuckles, because this is a project you want to own and you need to pay for. As I found out from the man himself, projects this comprehensive come along after a lot of time, consideration and artistry. And for that, you must reward the laborer to enjoy his harvest.
Bilal Oliver has been a brawny, muscled force in music’s Homeland Security Department of Quality Over Quantity. Whether you first heard his smokey tone wisp over the horn and organ cover of Radiohead’s “High And Dry,” or hook on the inside of the door to Common’s classic “6th Sense,” or float lithely betwixt the roots of a career and man that grew from the line “Sometimes I hope I live to see 25,” you know Bilal.
Because we wouldn’t leave you, our faithful friends, in complete want of cost-free entertainment, here’s our 15-minute opportunity to get to know the man a bit better, and find out how an artist gets flood insurance against a leak in the age of the Internet.
TSS: So are you happy that you lived to see 25?
Bilal: (Laughs) Yeah. Yes, I’m very happy about that.
TSS: Well, what has happened in the past 10 years that you feel you’ve grown as a person or an artist that has brought you to this point that has brought you to Airtight’s Revenge?
Bilal: I mean a lot of shit has happened. I’ve done some awesome shows, I’ve done some cool collaborations with good people, and personally I’ve had some beautiful children and I’ve got a cool little family going now.
TSS: As an artist, what is it about Airtight’s Revenge that defines who you are now? Explain to me a little about the evolution of this album; how you came to the album name and how you created the music.
Bilal: The name Airtight’s Revenge was kind of addressing the last couple of years. One of the reasons why I hadn’t put out an album in the last nine years was because the album I was doing in 2006/2005 was bootlegged. It was the album I was doing for Interscope.
TSS: The Love For Sale album.
Bilal: Yeah. And I’m really addressing the fact of it being bootlegged, me leaving Interscope, and kind of being in the wind for a minute from all of that. A lot of people would have been done, you know what I mean, and just finished by now. But me? Some really cool things happened, like I got a really cool underground following who really love my music and love to come out and see me perform. So it kind of gave me new legs and a new drive for this thing to just make music and just follow my heart and my own intuition on things. Thing will work out. And no matter what has happened to me, I’ve used that to get better. So my resilience is just my continued drive for this thing. And “Airtight” is just an old nickname.
TSS: After all that happened with [Love For Sale,] it blew me away that you were going to release this song “Free,” for free. What made the decision to actually put something out and give it away, even though a whole album of yours was basically given away?
Bilal: Well, I couldn’t clear the sample, and I really liked the song, so I just put it out that way. The sample, they weren’t going to allow me to clear it, so I just put it out.
TSS: You don’t have any animosity toward the Internet at all?
Bilal: Nah. I know I should, but… it was messed up how it happened, but if it was never bootlegged no one would even know about it, because my label didn’t really understand Love For Sale. So it kind of turned into a bittersweet kind of thing for me, really. Like at first when it was bootlegged I felt like “Aw shit, like, this is bootlegged, everybody’s going to have it.” But what it really turned into was me doing like nonstop shows and touring. It was almost like I had an album out. So, I’m not mad.
TSS: That’s pretty big of you.
Bilal: [Laughing, does impression of LC] “I want you to be mad! I want you to be really mad!”
TSS: I’m not surprised, listening to your music, that you’re not angry. I guess if I were in your place, I’d be angry.
Bilal: It’s nobody for me to be angry at, so, fuck it.