First Born Second

On his debut set, First Born Second, newcomer Bilal—who has already collaborated with the heady likes of Common and Guru—offers what may very well be the year's most adventurous R&B

On his debut set, First Born Second, newcomer Bilal—who has already collaborated with the heady likes of Common and Guru—offers what may very well be the year's most adventurous R&B album. The set's lead single, the Raphael Saadiq-produced "Soul Sista," which originally appeared on the Love & Basketball soundtrack, is steeped in sensual, bass-heavy grooves, upon which Bilal's silky-smooth falsetto glides. The hip-hop-skewed "Reminisce" features Common and Mos Def. Other top-notch supporters, including the Roots and Dr. Dre, are also spotlighted here. Such celebrity contributors may have overshadowed a lesser artist, but Bilal is clearly the captain of this fantastic, nearly flawless voyage.—RH

NEIL DIAMOND