Listen: Soul Crooner Bilal Drops "Free" MP3
On "Free," Bilal borrows a record from the roller rink jukebox and delves into that classic sound and swagger of '70s disco-soul. It feels like an imaginary soundtrack to a gritty cop drama: Rick James would play bass, Curtis Mayfield on the guitar and Richard Roundtree would talk tough in the Gordon Parks-directed joint.
Now we've been to the rink before, in visionary producer Shafiq Husayn's video for "Cheeba" featuring Bilal, but it's great to be back.
Like Husayn, Bilal doesn't just look backward when crafting his sound. He's new school too. Bilal's voice soars and syncopates with the vinyl-scratching, stomping beat. Near the end, the beat drops out for a minute, leaving just Bilal's vocal layers intermingling, creating a choir of one.
Sit in with Bilal's choir: