GOOD

GOODFest: Bilal Unplugs to Find His Love

“When you strip away the outside clutter, you can see all the inside clutter that you still need to get rid of”

Editor’s note: As part of our ongoing editorial coverage of GOODFest, we’ll be chatting with an artist from each of our five shows about the intersections of music and activism as it pertains to them. Check out our complete GOODFest coverage here.

With a career spanning genres and decades and collaborations with luminaries Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, and Erykah Badu, you might expect singer Bilal Sayeed Oliver, best known as Bilal, to have more of an assured swagger to him. Instead, the humble musician focuses inward in his search for further inspiration and leaves the distractions for the rest of us.


Bilal chatted with GOOD as he rested before his performance in the final GOODFest show, being held at the Ace Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.

To see Bilal’s performance tonight, tune in to goodfest.live for the livestream and follow us on Facebook.

GOODFest: A lot of your work seems to find inspiration from unlikely or underappreciated sources. How or where have you been drawing inspiration lately?

Bilal: Right now I’m trying to let the natural Earth speak to me. What I’ve been doing is turning off the TV, turning off the radio, and just listening to my own thoughts for a change. I find myself doing that a lot. Just unplugging. With so much stuff going on in the media and in the world, refocusing my mind and spirit is so helpful.

I guess you could call it meditative. I’m getting into the silence.

I used to have this problem where I’d need the TV on just to rest. I would notice that I had all this shit on as I drifted off to sleep. So I made the conscious decision to turn shit off before I go to bed and learn to appreciate the quiet.

Is it ever alarming or scary when you’re in those contemplative moments alone with nothing but your thoughts?

You know what’s scary? You notice just how much worthless bullshit is in your head from the media. You start thinking about all the things that you put a lot of energy into that you don’t even need.

When you strip away the outside clutter, you can see all the inside clutter that you still need to get rid of.

I can only go by my experience as an American, but we’re bombarded by so much outside influence. There’s always something trying to get to you.

And if you actually lose your phone? You feel like your life is over. How many people these days choose to turn their phone off rather than it simply dying? For a certain amount of time each day my phone is just not on.

I was just in Canada and I didn’t have my phone and I was so reluctant to switch on my Wi-Fi because I was enjoying the clarity of mind I was having in that moment out in the mountains.

Do you feel artists have any sort of social responsibility, given the platform they have and the general public’s regard for them as truth-tellers?

I do. Do others? Maybe not. It’s up to the person.

When you have a lot of people coming to check up on what you’re up to, that automatically puts you on some sort of elevated platform. What you do there really shows who you are.

I’ve always been into consciousness, so that what my platform is gonna be. But at the same time, I’m not going out and saying “I’m a leader.” I just want to put out positivity in my music. But it’s not because I have an obligation to.

It’s like with an athlete. They can play the game, but because of the volume of people coming to that game each week, you already have an enormous platform. And when you add in corporate influences and they become a spokesperson for that company’s product, the athlete is suddenly endorsing all that corporation’s values to a degree. So you have to be careful about the statements you make.



As an artist whose career has taken a lot of twists and turns, what advice do you have for someone who may be hitting their first or hundredth major roadblock on their own creative journey?

Just stay true to yourself. As long as you can keep a personal barometer and be honest with yourself and not try to follow others. You can’t hold yourself up against the success of others or look for the same results.

It’s your path, nobody else’s is going to take the same route. So just recognize you’re unique and that everyone has their specific thing to be done.

Be patient and try to catch yourself in those moments when you begin to covet what others have.

It’s really about the trip. So make sure you’re doing what you need to be doing to stay on that path. But if you can’t enjoy the journey that you’re on ... At the end of the day, that’s all you get. It’s your life.

And turn off your phone.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Articles
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health