5 Songs for Something Else: Hakeem Bilal

When a musician plays, it can be difficult to discern the artist from the art. And it should. This may be stating the obvious, but (nearly) every stage performer is human. The artistic process behind the performance, however, is so often exotified. It's veiled behind the charisma and talent they put out during a show.  

5 Songs/Albums for Something Else begins to delve into how musicians listen to music and pick up inspiration when they’re doing, well, other stuff. What happens behind the scenes and how does hearing music play a role? What kind of music do these musicians listen to? How are their day-to-day lives impacted by the music of others?

We’re very pumped to have Hakeem Bilal - known around town as a prolific trombone player and emcee for thunder-funkers in Beauty Slap - chat with us about the music that gets him going. Hakeem is a remarkable talent, with a lot to give in so many different areas of music. His taste supplements his playing effortlessly.

“Harlem Nocturne” by Chuck Brown

When I’m feeling for home…

This song is for whenever I wanna get in that funky mood. Sometimes before a Beauty Slap gig, I’ll play this song just to get into the groove. It’s got those fun congos and this heavy dance feel. It’s awesome, dude. You can’t listen to it and not be moving. Like, if you stand still and listen to this tune, you’re doing something wrong.

When I’m feeling nostalgic or I need a pick me up, I listen to this tune. It’s not a new tune; it’s been played a hundred times. But this rendition just gets you going. Really anything by Chuck Brown does that.

“Atchafalaya” by Snarky Puppy

When I’m commuting to and from teaching…

When I’m coming from work, I’m not taking any phone calls or anything. This is when I listen to my jams.

This song is cool because it just really features the low brass in it. It’s a cool little dig, man. It has a nice little trombone solo, too! I love [Snarky Puppy], as many people do now. Anything by them really has the potential to be on the list. I think that the album We Like it Here from them is awesome too.

"Caravan" by Oscar Peterson

When I’m listening to learn...

“Caravan” - the live album at the Westwood Playhouse out in LA. I listen to this every day - that and this Wynton Marsalis album.  “Caravan” is the gateway drug to a lot of jazz I listen to. It begins and sometimes ends my jazz playlist for the day. 

I listen to [Caravan] for education. Every time I listen to the album I’m picking up on something new. Sometimes I’ll check out a quote or something. I’m listening to it as a student of music and I’m enjoying it. I’ve got different ears when I’m listening to jazz, man. Sometimes I listen to it and it’s ambient - but not often. If I’m listening to jazz, I’m keenly listening. 

My listening habits have changed from each city that I’ve lived in. From classical, to symphonic music, to only listening to trombone music, to only listening to rap music, etc. I attribute my success on the trombone to listening to a lot of different types of music.

“1994” by Mr. Carmack

When I’m on the move and don’t wanna stand still

Let’s go down the trap road [haha]. The thing is, when I put this on, within a matter of seconds I just start rapping. It’s an instrumental tune - like a J Dilla track - but it swings hard. Play “1994” and tell me you don’t want to start spitting on that.

Mr. Carmack can just go along as the soundtrack for my day and I don’t have to think about anything. 

“Aqualounge” by Dr. Derg

When I’m in my cleaning...

They call him the king of trap - which is a pretty hefty title. Jake [Bernstein of Beauty Slap] made me hip to him. He is the trappiest of trap.

[Dr. Derg] just died February of this year. It’s sad, man, all of these artists dying. R.L. Grime did a tribute; Mr. Carmack did a tribute. They called him the Kurt Cobain of trap music. There’s a lot of folks who try to mold themselves into what he was trying to do and fill the gap of his work.

Carmack was like the gateway drug [laughs]. Derg is just - dirty. This is just some of the nastiest stuff you can listen to. I can’t put it into words; it’s just some of my favorite stuff to listen to if I’m not practicing my horn or if I’m doing stuff around the house. If I’m moving my body or being physical, Dr. Derg is definitely on because it keeps my heart racing.


To check out more music by Hakeem and Beauty Slap:

Beauty Slap - Website | Youtube | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |

C Street Brass - Website | Facebook |