Bas And J. Cole’s Dreamville Records Have Big Plans For 2015
Bas had one of most surprising projects to come out of 2014. With no pressure on him, the rising MC delivered Last Winter, which was mostly an in-house project from J. Cole's Dreamville Records. Even though the New York native was the first signee of J.Cole's new Interscope imprint, no one knew what to expect. With no lofty expectations, Bas' agenda was to make sure he put out a record that he felt was truly great to himself.
Making music for personal enjoyment rather than public consumption seems to be a theme for Dreamville artists. Each artist—J. Cole, Bas, South Central spitter Cozz and Chicago MC Omen—maintain a basement studio mentally. Projects, tours and merchandise are all run self-sufficiently. While Bas was in NYC, he stopped by the XXL offices to discuss where he would rank Last Winter, his Sudanese background and what makes Dreamville so unique. —Emmanuel C.M.
XXL: What was the plan for your album Last Winter?
Bas: Our whole plan for it was drop it and work it. It’s dope how it happened. It was initially our plan to just put it out and kind of catch people off guard and make sure more and more people heard it. Which is exactly what we did on the road.
Apart from just listening to music my whole life and subconsciously picking things up from my favorite artists, just me being on the road. I was out with Cole for like a year before I even touched the stage. It was going out every night and seeing the melodies that the crowd responds to, those call to action moments that you can pull the crowd into, all that affects your songwriting. The road played a large factor.
You were the first signing for Dreamville. Did you feel pressure to succeed or prove you’re different than J. Cole? Did you fear people may not care about you?
No, because it’s a natural thing. People, when they don’t know you, they’re going to try and classify you or make you something that they can put their hands around. For me, I wasn’t always this good. I think everything happened at the perfect timing. My evolution as an artist and Cole’s evolution as a businessman, it kind of happened and hit the perfect stride. Boom, I’m launching my label. I seen you grow from here to there, we can take you from here to where you need to be.
That’s Dreamville as a whole. [From] the producers to our executives, everyone grew into their roles at the same pace. That’s how a family works. It’s really all home cooking. I’m not mad at people because they don’t have our perspective. They weren’t with us. They don’t have the information and I understand that. Coming in as any rapper—I remember when I was a fan—your initial reaction is, "You got to prove it." You got to show ’em something. That’s hip-hop. It’s a very ‘show me’ culture. So I had no problem with going out there and proving myself.
Where do you see Last Winter ranking in 2014?
Not to sound arrogant—I think it’s the best project of the year, only because it’s new. I think everything about it is new and different but it still retains those things people need. For instance, formality. But obviously it’s paying dues. This is my second project but to me it feels like my first with the amount of knowledge I have now and my evolution as an artist. This really feels like my first project where I really knew what I was doing. It happens to everybody apart from the select few who blow over night. It’s slept on, that’s definitely a fact. But then again it’s also the biggest promotional tool. You got to go through that period where people sleeping on you and you have to wake them up. We’re going to wake them up next year.
How does your Sudanese background play into your music?
It’s huge because its kind of nature/nurture thing. My parents didn’t come here until their 50s; they were living in Europe for a while. We were born in Paris, me and a couple of my siblings. I didn’t come here until I was eight. A lot of things about the city we learned on our own. That was kind of the nurturing aspect—we just got out there. It wasn’t much they can tell us because it was new to them, too. There were a lot of mistakes made; a lot of pitfalls you can fall into in NYC. But you always have that perspective, that foundation that grounds you. We went to Sudan all the time when were kids. I’m Muslim, I come from a Muslim family. It’s a lot of things from where we come from [and] where we were raised that contradicted each other. It’s a constant battle in that regard, but it’s also the one thing that gives me perspective. That definitely plays a huge part into my perspective, even from a writing standpoint. Just seeing things that are wrong in our culture or our society that you want to speak about because you just have the perception and information that you’re not ignorant.
Dreamville seems to have this homegrown, basement feeling, even though you are all from different parts of the country.
It’s a level of trust we all reached with each other. It probably came first from Cole getting to a point where he’s empowering our executives and everyone. I think that’s something we all do well. We empower each other. That builds a great amount of trust. Plus, it’s easy. The vibes, it’s so naturally inclined. Cole and I, we go out and party on the road all the time, so to do a song like “Lit” we can go to the studio and just have fun with it because it’s a vibe that comes natural. Plus, we all believe in each other and all we want to see everyone succeed. Even down to the production [being] in-house. Ced, who produced “Lit,” produced like four joints on Last Winter, he’s Cole's stage manager on the road. Ron Gilmore, whose pretty much produced on every song—he has an executive producer credit—he plays keys for Cole on the road. These are all people that come up together. It’s a natural thing.
So what’s next for Bas?
I’m really excited. It's an evolution content-wise for me. I found myself being able to tell different stories and different layers of myself as a person. But I’m in a very good place just creatively where I feel like people are going to get a lot of new information on me as a person that they didn’t get on Last Winter. Last Winter is a period piece. It’s about where we were as a team and where I was in my career. This next one is more in-depth about myself and growing up in New York City as the son of two Sudanese immigrants. Just the perspective that that provided. And I delved into that much more.
When does the next project come out?
Definitely next year. We got some plans, Dreamville as a collective. Omen coming out with Elephant Eyez, Cozz just dropped Cozz & Effect, Cole’s album dropped. We definitely want to do another Revenge Of The Dreamers. I’m not in a rush—Last Winter keeps growing legs and we still have a couple videos that we want to shoot for that. I also have a couple of great bodies of work that I’m excited for the world to hear. A lot of music is close to where I want it to be. It’s just going to take a month or two to get into album mode. With Last Winter there was no expectations. It was no need to build that moment, it was just, let’s go, and we’re going to show people that we put out an amazing project. Now we have a lot more ears and a lot more attention so you want to use that to maximize your potential. I’m not in no rush this time around.