Like A 2003 Bonecrushing ATL Anthem...Bilal Is Never Scared
If you were one of us blessed to be among the nearly three thousand zero zero capacity crowd in the Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House nearly seventeen (editor's note: damn, time is truly a thief) years ago on December 14th, 1999 for a Vernon Reid & Questlove dual curated event dubbed "Party At The End Of Time: A Tribute to Prince's 1999' then you knew that Bilal was the kind of performer with just the right combination of both 'talent' and 'crazy' to drive a crowd not expecting to see him (or some not even knowing who he is in the first place) into a frenzy by dropping to his knees and ultimately splaying his writhing frame across the stage like a flopping fish teeming not for a return to water but a return to the womb of the world as a the kind of thought Prince once said you might as well give him the electric chair for all his future internally dirty mind crimes.
I was one of those among those blessed to be at that purple church service and by the time Bilal (armed with a strong band boasting Brother ?uestion leading the band from his drum riser along with Living Colour's/Black Rock Coalition co-founder Vernon Reid on lead guitar) got done with cooing out the final cockpit PA instructions from Our Pilot Prince's classic "International Lover" into it's orgiastic and climactic "Can You Feel That?" crescendo, myself along with most of the standing/applauding/hollering delirious crowd were converted in a way that no Jimmy Iovine-assembled/Dr. Dre-produced lead single to come a year or two later ever truly could have hoped to create.
I say this not just to say I did it but just to give you the idea of how long ago this man who just turned out "The Beautiful Ones" on the anxiously awaited (while now for much of our dearly beloved purple flock, at least somewhat satisfying, country-mile-wide-longer than Madonna's BBMA tone-deaf/me-centric/surprisingly-safe-attempt-snoozer last month) has been committed to honoring and at least attempting to capture some level of the sheer crazily strange relationship the true-purplest fans of Prince fans have to the bizarre brilliance and beauty that flows through his music and our memories while enveloped in it.
To really pull this off on any level (all of which we agree will have to exist several moonbeam levels below actually matching the sheer awe brought about from almost any average performance done by The Artist himself of course) you need three major traits in your DNA:
1) a deep love for Prince's prodigious gifts as a performer/musician/man
2) some considerable level of talent that can at least purport to hang with Prince in the area of expertise your particular chosen song hopes to highlight (on "International Lover" this be some combination of vocal ability, stage presence and sexually ravenous swagger)
3) fully giving into the moment while giving absolutely zero fucks about any cool artifice.
And whether it's been 17 Days since that night or now 17 years, Bilal again showed he could check off all three of those boxes while we're lucky to watch someone help us make that final approach 2 satisfaction.
And for that, as a Prince Fan who will never stop speaking on the brilliance of the man, we here at Something In The Wudder (oh thought that name is just about a Philly area pronunciation? Nah dude, it's much more symbolic in honor of the one and only single-named star with his own color and symbol) do thank Bilal both then and now.
-True Notes given by Matthew "growing up my father used to call me The Prince" Koelling on June 27th, Two-Thousand-Sick-Dream
Bomb's #PrinceTribute Musings