Bilal, "1st Born Second" (2001) [Nostalgic.Nightfalls]
1st Born Second was to Bilal like Brown Sugar was to D'angelo, in more than a sense that they're both simply debut albums for young, promising musicians with uncontainable talent. Actually, in retrospect, the 2 artists did show lots of similarity during their times of emergence: D'angelo was 21 years old, while Bilal was 22; both artists had an in with essentially the same group of neo-soul artists; both are eccentric and aloof east-coast R&B musicians whose vocal forte was the falsetto; after the release of their debut albums, both artists went into a prolonged period of obscurity while working on their follow-up. Differences? Coming from a jazz-vocalist education background, Bilal was and has been more of a singer than anything else while D'angelo has come to be known as versatile machine by ways of Stevie Wonder and Prince. Bilal never quite again matched the success he had with 1st Born Second in his career, while D'angelo, granted, a notorious procrastinator, achieved tremendous success and respect from the few albums he did manage to release. Nevertheless, 1st Born Second was the proof for Bilal's unique artistic vision, from his poetic, free-flowing Dilla-produced tribute to could-have-been past relationships "Reminisce", to the existential, contemplative diary-entry "Sometimes", which struck a chord to Mos Def's "Umi Says", to his sleep-deprived, desperately paranoid plead to an M.I.A. lady friend "When Will You Call", to the reggae vocal showcase "Home", to the beautifully bizarre, gleefully uncertain memento of an instant of emotional conflict "Love Poems", oh and "Soul Sista". 1st Born Second isn't necessarily a cohesive album, but it doesn't lack focus, either. Instead, it is appropriately multi-personality and richly self-exploratory. It isn't easy to display almost all dimensions of your talent on one single record, but Bilal did it as well as anybody else could have possibly done. The result? No follow-up album from Mr. Oliver has been able to top it or even match it.
🔑 Tracks: "Soul Sista"; "Sometimes"; "Love Poems"