Dreamville Records is done watching the throne. With an undeniable momentum, J. Cole's clan is staking its claim as hip-hop's No. 1 collective. Sleep at your own peril.

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of XXL magazine, on stands now.

Bas
Age: 31
Reppin’: Queens
Signed to Dreamville: 2014

XXL: What feedback did J. Cole give you after you first started rapping back in 2010?

Bas: He was like, “The crazy thing is you got your own style. You don’t sound like nobody. That’s the hardest thing to develop. The rest is just developing as a songwriter, a vocal performer, all of those things.” I didn’t even know what chords were. Now, I can go in a session and be like, “This just needs a bass line, a bridge and some highs here,” or whatever the case would be. I got a speed course from just being around.

How has your sound evolved since those early days of rapping?

My sound is a true representation of all of the places that have shaped me. I have an international upbringing and I grew up in Queens, which is the most diverse county in the world. So I experiment a lot. I try to bring a lot of worldly sounds [but] I’ll still get on a trap record. I’ll still get on some boom-bap and try to bar you up. What’s fun to me about making music is trying to continuously reinvent myself. [Take] something that inspired me and make it my own.

It seems like sonics were a focus on Milky Way. How did you know when you got them right?

We changed the drums on at least eight [songs] after we finished the records. I remember going to Raleigh to work with Cole and having this talk with him about how I was thinking of going to Atlanta, taking some of the songs I had and just trapping out the drums, making them hard and incorporating the musicality of [producer] Ron Gilmore or somebody in our camp. At the time, Cole was working on KOD. He was like, “It’s funny you say that. I actually caught that wave.” You hear on KOD where the drums were. We knocked out eight records, “Tribe” being one of them. He wasn’t even going to get on it. The plan was for him to get on “Front Desk” because that was his favorite. But once we redid the drums to “Tribe,” the energy in that basement was crazy. It felt like kids; it was that level of excitement. That was the last ingredient.

How are you planning to follow that up?

I’m working on a project with The Hics. They were heavily featured on Too High to Riot. It’s real cool, chill, soulful, nighttime vibe. We did songs that initially I had pegged for [Milky Way] and [are] honestly some of my favorites. I’m working on my next [solo] joint, but it’s too early to get into anything about that. It’s really about Dreamers right now. Everybody in that studio is inspired. There’s no better way to start a year than the way we did.

XXL

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