Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and producer Bilal recently released the music video for his newest single, “Satellites,” from the upcoming album, In Another Life. The video reflects issues such as homelessness, poverty, and mental illness, and is a departure from his previous surrealist work. In Another Life will drop on June 30, and features appearance from Big K.R.I.T., Kimbra, and Kendrick Lamar. Bilal also worked extensively with Kendrick on the rapper’s critically-acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly, and the Compton emcee is featured on the single “Money Over Love.” In an exclusive interview with atombash.com, Bilal discussed his latest work and his biggest challenge.
atombash.com: How did your collaboration with Kendrick come about?
BILAL: We knew there was a mutual respect for each other’s work, and we had been in talks to work with each other since his last album. This time around he got [singer, producer, and musician] Thundercat and just a lot of the same characters that I normally work with, like [pianist and producer Robert] Glasper, Thundercat… It just kind of so happened that we knew a lot of the same people and we were in a lot of the same conversations lately, and my name kept coming up.
Had you already wrapped up In Another Life when you were working on To Pimp a Butterfly?
When I went to work with Kendrick I was pretty much at the end of my project. He had came by to hang with Adrian Younge, the producer [of In Another Life], and Adrian Younge played him some of the stuff… that’s how [Kendrick’s] involvement with my project came about.
The music video for Satellites” and the teaser that’s including for “Lunatic” have some pretty heavy themes– current issues and longstanding issues in America. Are those themes prevalent throughout the upcoming album, or are there various types of songs? For the ladies, the thinkers?
I think it’s something for everyone on this album. I would say it’s a thinker’s album. The way I write—especially on this album—I was trying to put myself in a lot of different peoples’ perspectives, and write from that. That’s one of the reasons why I named the album [In Another Life].
Big K.R.I.T. and Kimbra also appear on the project. How did you link with them?
I met K.R.I.T. at Raphael Saadiq’s studio. Me and Adrian went there to just let Raphael listen to some of the music and try and get the perspective from an OG on where we headed, and he was working with K.R.I.T. When we played the stuff for K.R.I.T., he was down. He wanted to be involved on it. So it kind of just flowed that way.
Kimbra— I worked on her last album, [The Golden Echo]. On the song that I was working on on this album that she was a part of, after recording it I was like, ‘Man, it would be really cool if Kimbra would be a part of this song.’ It’s just a little section that really reminded me of her, so I gave her a call.
I’m guessing a “Lunatic” video will be released next because of the teaser. What other visuals or other materials are going to be released to support the album?
I’ll probably do two more videos. I don’t know if I’m going to do a “Lunatic video,” I just wanted to get that in there. I felt like it kind of lended itself to the end section of the [“Satellites”] video, so I was like, ‘This would be a cool time to switch it.’ I think I’ll do a video for the Kendrick one, and a video for the Big K.R.I.T. record, [“Pleasure Toy”].
What’s a Bilal live show like?
It’s boundaryless. My live show is kind of like a jazz musician approach to the recorded music. Every show we do is kind of different. The way I write my music kind of lends itself to a lot of improvising. It’s open-ended. What you might hear on a record is probably not what you’ll hear live. It will probably be that and then some.
You’ve had a long career; what has been your biggest challenge professionally?
My biggest challenge professionally would be to get my music out more to a broader audience without deviating from any of the artistic preferences that I may have. I want the music… if that’s in the stars, God willing… it will be one of those things where people will come to my artistry and what it is that I do. I don’t really see myself doing something that’s kind of outside of the box just for a money thing. That’s been the biggest challenge… just keeping the integrity that I’m looking for and getting that mass success.
In Another Life is available now for pre-order, and will be officially released on June 30. Keep up with Bilal on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.