STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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Jazz/R&B/hip-hop singer Bilal frequently gives credit to his producer, Adrian Younge, when he talks about his latest songs.
“He’s very much into arrangement and very much into composing,” he said.
“(Recording software) Pro Tools makes you lazy. It was recorded with all-’60s recording equipment, from the reel-to-reel (tape recorder) to the old-school sound effects. I had been missing that warmth and that organic-ness of the studio,” he said of the new album “In Another Life,” for which there will be a CD release party June 30 at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live.
It’s a homecoming show for Bilal, who grew up in Philly in a mixed-faith household, with a Muslim father and a Christian mother. “It definitely made me more open-minded to things and people’s religion. It made me study religion and find my own thing. It made me more understanding of different lifestyles,” he commented.
According to Bilal, “In Another Life” was recorded in less than a week, so using vintage gear didn’t slow anything down. “I never created music that quickly,” he remarked.
Another reason for going analog was a precautionary measure to avoid the leak debacle that marred Bilal’s 2006 album “Love for Sale.” It was supposed to get major record label release and promotion by Interscope Records, but was virtually abandoned as it had already been leaked in its entirety online.
Bilal said he has “a bunch of theories” as to why it happened, but the one he mentioned specifically in a phone interview was that too many people had access to the album’s tracks, which were being recorded in several different studios.
The “bittersweet” flip side, however, was “it felt good to go to a show and everybody knew the songs,” he said.
Bilal has since started his own eOne label, and among the 12 tracks on “In Another Life” are cameos by Kendrick Lamar and Kimbra. “We just did a show in Los Angeles … and Kendrick came out and performed one of the songs we did on the new album,” he said. The new Bilal song on Soundcloud, the electronic-tinged, Prince-influenced-bedroom-come-on “Pleasure Toy,” features rapper Big K.R.I.T.
Bilal’s influential circle of friends — who don’t appear on the new album, but are worth mentioning — includes Beyonce, Erykah Badu, Common and Aaron Comess of Spin Doctors.
If you can believe it, Younge was frequently playing records by ’70s prog rockers King Crimson during the sessions, and Bilal said that had an influence on his new music’s sound — “the stops and the psychedelic-ness and the theatrics.”
The songs talk about “things that are going on in society” and love and romance, according to Bilal. “We try to play with your emotions while listening to it,” he said.
IF YOU GO
What: Bilal CD release party.
When: 8 p.m. June 30.
Where: World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia.
Info.: Call (215) 222-1400 or visit www.worldcafelive.com.