That situation with his old label was a learning experience for the artist. “It taught me a lot about the business side of things,” says Bilal. “When I was younger, it was just about the music. I didn’t even wanna know what was going on behind the scenes. The people that were manging me at the time, convinced me that that it would ‘cloud my creative sensibility.’ Of course, that was all bulls–t! [laughs] That’s what I learned.”
Now that he’s landed on eOne (“A much better deal,” he says) he’s been able to refocus his art. And he’s allowed the creative control that is so important to any artist; which has given him ample room to continue to challenge himself and his audience. “Its important for me to challenge myself because this is something that I’ve been doing my whole life and I aim to do it my whole life,” he explains. “Music is therapy for me. Even if this wasn’t my career, this is something I would do. I’ve been doing since I was 4 years old. If I challenge myself, I think the listener will identify with that and apply it to their own life.”
He isn’t interested in defining himself or his art on anyone’s terms, and he’s not concerned with playing into cliches associated with “neosoul” stereotypes.
“I’ve never considered myself a part of ‘neosoul,’ anyway,” he says. “Those are all my friends and everything, but I never considered what they were doing ‘neosoul,’ even. It’s a shame what we do to ourselves with naming our stuff. I’ve never been in a box. If I would say anything, I would say I’m a jazz musician. Jazz had so many different levels in itself. I just make music. I don’t like being in a box because I’m always growing. You won’t be able to say what my style is until I die. I’m not sitting around trying to define myself all the time, I’m just trying to be. And I don’t pay attention to how other people try to define me — I have a deeper purpose in mind.”