Bilal, Pic by Eric Coleman

Back in the pre-millennial days, The Roots & Vernon Reid staged a Y2K concert/Prince tribute jam at BAM, where a bunch of their musician friends from Angelique Kidjo to Joan Osbourne performed all the songs from the Purple One’s “1999” album.

It was also Bilal‘s coming out. Doing a electric take on “International Lover,” Bilal rocked and shocked the crowds with a perfect falsetto and some self-possessed, dry-humping of the stage. In the years since, he’s been regarded as a neo-soul savior (check his promising debut “1st Born Second”), R&B’s most slept-on/unluckiest pure talent (damn, bootleggers of his unreleased CD, “Love For Sale”), an erratic live performer, and respected guest singer (peep his cameo flows on tracks from Talib Kweli, Common, Zap Mama, Robert Glasper, etc.).

As fans probably know, Bilal’s new album, “Airtight’s Revenge,” drops Sept. 14.  Cop it here. Check the label website for song snippets. But his ability to do justice to classic Prince, and even Donny Hathaway as seen in the following clip, should clue you in on his special talents.

Footage is from a July concert where the Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Ensemble (he put in work on that full-orchestra J Dilla tribute, “Suite for Ma Dukes”) and a few select guests like Aloe Blacc, Flying Lotus, et al. injured mikes at a venue in LA.

Very few can sing with Donny’s emotion. Bilal is one of ’em. Dude even seems like he left some in the tank…

Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Ensemble “Someday We’ll All Be Free” feat Bilal from MIguel Atwood-Ferguson on Vimeo.

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