Embarking upon a creative path might be the loneliest road of them all. The future depends on your ability to imagine and create the future. No one can see the goal clearer than you. As Bas embarks on the road to his debut as Dreamville's first official artist, he has thankfully found a few people who share a similar worldview and understand exactly what he is going through.
While it may be a lonely road, Bas is lucky to have a few strong fellow travellers. With New York nightlife staple DJ Moma and Dreamville president Ibrahim Hamad as biological brothers, Bas was raised to believe in dreams. The Sudanese Parisian by way of Queens says "Music has been in my family for generations, we're just the first to do it in a Western sense." Music certainly runs deep in his bloodline; his grandfather was the first to bring Louis Armstrong to Sudan and musical virtuoso Bashir Abbas is his uncle.
While he's just beginning to appear on most folks's radar, J. Cole fans should remember Bas from cuts like the 50 Cent-assisted "New York Times" or DJ Khaled's "Hell' Kitchen." Having also toured with the Roc Nation star, one might imagine that he has fans coming in flocks and droves, but Bas takes nothing granted and is prepared for a long road up. The 90's may have saw cameo verses turn into careers, but these days a hot 16 may not break a hundred views on YouTube.
The days spent on the road with Cole (and nights on the tour bus recording) have given Bas an invaluable education. He took his time before jumping into the mix, spending a year and a half taking notes on showmanship and songwriting before ever touching the stage. "When you see songs being performed live every night you understand the give and take between the artist and the crowd. You know how to set up the moments better."
Bas is ramping up for the release of his debut, Last Winter, on April 29th. He had planned to release the album as a free mixtape but that all changed when Dreamville/Interscope caught wind of the project and swooped into action.
With the bulk of production being handled by Dreamville's Ced Brown and Ron Gilmore, Bas utilized the label's in-house talent as opposed to chasing down half-hearted collaborations. "We just have the greatest chemistry. Magic happens when you have that, as opposed to somebody just e-mailing a beat or using whatever the 'it' producer is." He says he'd rather mind his legacy than hop on the trend-of-the-moment.
"People aren't gonna remember that, they remember you for the new sound you bring, so that's given me the luxury of painting my own sonic landscape."
Say what you will about the music industry today but a debut album is still a very special thing. While releases have moved from store shelves to server space, a mixtape is still code word for "unofficial" (and, most often, unpaid.) The title of Bas' record was inspired by several winter recording sessions with Ced, where the team dreamed of the future. "We'd be working in my basement and it would be cold in there. We were both broke and we had a rallying cry in a sense that every time we'd do something dope or cut a new record we'd look at each other and be like 'Last winter, this is our last winter.' If we wanna go to LA and record, if we wanna pull a Kanye and go to Hawaii, God willing [we will.] Whatever the case may be we're gonna get out of this particular situation that we're in now."
The entire Dreamville crew uses "last winter" as a mantra. Optimistic about his label's path, Bas says "We're kinda hoping that its the last winter for all of us. Dreamville is known for J. Cole and even he has heights that he wants to ascend to. He's nowhere near done with where he wants to go so we all run with that mantra of 'Last Winter'. Where ever we are now we're gonna get out of this and its just gonna continuously be brighter days."
With winter officially behind us in the literal sense, here's to hoping that the figurative one Bas speaks of ends also. Rumble, young man rumble.
DonWill is a writer and one half of rap group Tanya Morgan. Follow him on Twitter (he's hilarious!): @donwill