Interscope – 2001 - 76 minutes

Bilal is bursting out of the blocks. At a callow age of twenty-one, he is the latest crooner to be tagged as the new Marvin Gaye. The world and its ladyeez are at his feet. As the newest of the nu-soul sensations Bilal has some heavyweight predecessors. D'Angelo and Maxwell have mapped these waters before him, each of them releasing sublimely soulful debuts that walked the line between passion and sleaze, modernity and retro, with ease.

Sadly, both those artists disappointed with their follow-ups, but a man with Bilal's connections could be around for the long haul. High-profile cameos on 'Mama's Gun' by Erykah Badu and Common's 'Like Water For Chocolate' showcased the man's silky falsetto to good effect. (Yes, Bilal is yet another girly-sounding soul singer!)

The hip-hop connection continues on the album with ?uestlove of the Roots, Jay Dee of Slum Village and the ever awesome Dr Dre guesting on production duties, and Common & Mos Def trading rhymes on the excellent 'Reminisce'. 'Sometimes' takes a more old-school route, whipping up a tornado of classic instrumentation with Hammond squeals and wah-wah licks taking you right back to the seventies.

'1st Born Second' is at its very best when it visits the space between soul and hip-hop – that temple where Lauryn Hill is the high priestess, D'Angelo her consort and the Wu-Tang Clan her bodyguards.

The main problem with the rich soul food on '1st Born Second' however is its excessive quantity; the album sprawls over an indigestible 76 minutes. I would recommend skipping dessert; a good quarter of these tracks should never have made it out of the kitchen.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Intro - For You - Fast Lane - Reminisce (feat Mos Def & Common) - All That I am (Somethin For The People) – Sally – Sometimes - Love It - C'Mere - Soul Sista - When Will You Call - Queen Of Sanity - Love Poems - You Are – Home – Slyde - Second Child