Bilal, DJ Mark Fullaflava | the Shrine | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Bilal, DJ Mark Fullaflava Soundboard

When: Sat., March 5, 9 p.m. 2011

In the late 90s, Philadelphian Bilal Oliver emerged as one of the most mercurial entrants in the neosoul sweepstakes. Neither slavishly old-school nor purely devoted to hip-hop, Bilal stuck out; early on he was drawn to jazz, and right from his 2001 debut, 1st Born Second (Interscope), there was something restless about his singing. Bilal found peers in the Soulquarians crew, a loose collective that included Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, Jay Dilla, Mos Def, and D'Angelo, who as a singer and writer shared his curiosity. But Bilal's career since 1st Born Second has been erratic—despite the backing of MCs and jazz artists (Terence Blanchard and Robert Glasper both featured him on their records), his follow-up for Interscope was shelved, and his second album, Airtight's Revenge (Plug Research), didn't come out till 2010. He fuels his heavy neosoul with off-kilter hip-hop breaks, their grooves consistently and seductively draggy. His singing is ferociously intense, whether soaring into a falsetto or sinking into a raspy growl—and on the album's high point, the storming jam "All Matter," it does both. DJ Mark Fullaflava spins. —Peter Margasak

Price: $25

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