Kendrick Lamar crafted To Pimp a Butterfly, one of 2015’s finest albums, with the help of a groovy crew of collaborators from Flying Lotus to Thundercat. But he may have found a true soul brother in singer Bilal.
The two artists teamed up on “These Walls” and “Institutionalized” from the aforementioned TPAB before Bilal recruited the Compton lyricist for his own upcoming album, In Another Life (out June 30). K Dot appears on “Money Over Love,” a song about men who prioritize career and finances over finding a mate.
“Everybody has this concept of before I get married, I gotta be successful... because a woman is not gonna feel like a woman with a broke motherf****r,” the 36-year-old singer tells BET with a laugh, of the haunting mid-tempo. “After I recorded [To Pimp a Butterfly], I was like, ‘You're really on a political thing right now.’ If I'm going to have [Kendrick] on anything, that song would be perfect, because it's speaking about something that's prevalent right now. I just could hear him on it.”
Bilal says “Money Over Love,” like their past collaborations, came about seamlessly.
“We're from the same bloodline — we think the same s**t is funky,” the Philly native says. “We want to talk about the same things. [We have] the same waves with where music is right now, where things should be.”
Overall, In Another Life takes a different direction than Bilal’s romantic 2013 LP, A Love Surreal. It’s more socially aware, often taking on different perspectives and holding a mirror to society. The video for lead single, “Spaceships,” references the Black Lives Matter movement. In the clip, which was shot in L.A.’s Skid Row and inspired by the 1984 film Brother From Another Planet, Bilal plays an alien who arrives on Earth to observe American society. By the ending, he’s choked out by a police officer.
“If someone came here with special powers in today’s time, the police would be called — even if he was doing incredible s**t,” Bilal says. “And if the alien looked like me or blacker, he's dead... The alien would be like, ‘I come to save you,’ and they'd be like, ‘Get your a** out of here.’”
He continues: “We are so ignorant to ourselves that anything that goes against the norm is immediately attacked. So I was just trying to show that. Ignorance, the misuse of power, all of that. I thought that was the perfect time to insert that in.”
Adrian Younge provides his vintage dusty soul aesthetic, as he entirely produces the 12-song set, which also features appearances by Big K.R.I.T. and Kimbra.
“I just want to wake people up,” Bilal says. “It's important to make stuff that makes people think, because we're making things that speak to the times that we're in. We have to make something that people of the future can go back to and say, ‘Yo, this is the way it felt back then.’... When my kids put this s**t on for their kids, they'll be like, ‘You want to know why we're all crazy? Listen to this album. This is your crazy-ass grandpops.’” —John Kennedy (@youngJFK)
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(Photos from top: Robb D. Cohen / Retna ltd., Purpose Music Group / LLC & Entertainment One)