top of page
  • Writer's pictureShenead Poroosotum

How Bas Weaves Sonic Threads of Experimentation into Dreamville’s Musical Tapestry

In an era where conformity finds itself at odds with the desire for innovation, Bas emerges as a trailblazer who defies labels and embraces the spirit of experimentation within Hip-Hop. With an aura of humility and a genuine connection to his audience, Bas paves the way for a new generation of musicians who value authenticity and relatability over artifice.

By being the first ever signee to luminary and close friend J. Cole’s label Dreamville, the Hip-Hop virtuoso stands as a beacon of introspection and musical exploration. Fuelled by innovation and authenticity, Bas’s artistic vision has moulded seamlessly with all the other Dreamville members as he routinely navigates through uncharted waters of sound to reinvent himself and challenge his sonics every time. With a masterful command over his craft and a heart as genuine as his melodies, Bas has carved a niche that exists beyond the conventional confines of genres.

Within our interview, we unearthed the inspirations that fuel his creative fire, the stories that have woven the tapestry of his career, and the aspirations that continue to drive him forward. We leaned into the new sonics of his next album and his recent summer-soaked single ‘Passport Bros’. Stepping into his world, we are invited to witness the interplay of vulnerability and strength, of experimentation and mastery, all converging to create a musical legacy that resonates far beyond the bounds of time. We delved into the heart and mind of a musician who has not only mastered his craft but has also become a harbinger of change in the ever-evolving landscape of music.

Producer / Creative Director Derrick Odafi

Photographer Guled Hassan

Visual Director Tim Nathan

Director Of Photography Daniel Kelly

Hi Bas! How has your time in London been so far?

Lovely as always but honestly, it’s been a blur. We did the show with J.I.D on Friday night at the Eventim Apollo. We did Everyday PPL yesterday, shout out dj mOma, my brother. And we haven’t had enough time to sober up and recuperate.

Yeah, I heard that you were getting lit!

Well, yesterday was wooo! That's why I love day parties. You can still have a productive day after. I was in bed by midnight and my head was spinning but I’m good now!

Good to hear! So, I want to connect you to our readers a little more because I feel like we don't know much about you. How about we start off with where you grew up and how you decided to get into music?

I kind of grew up all over. My father is a career diplomat, and my family is Sudanese and from Sudan. My pops ended up going to Paris to work for UNESCO and then when I was eight, he took a post in New York. I spent the first eight years, formative years of my life, split between France and Qatar. Then been in the states since. Growing up in Queens, the borough is a very diverse place which helped with all our international backgrounds. It’s just like a wealth of cultures. They say New York is a melting pot and there’s a lot of musical and cultural influences there.

In 2006 to 2007 is when I met J. Cole. At the time I had just dropped out of school, and I was a bit aimless and started to run into trouble and you know, moving how the city moves… being in New York trying to get a buck. I started writing and doing the music thing and got a call from Cole, I guess my brother Ebe had played him something which if I heard now would be super cringe and amateurish. But I got a call from Cole one day and he was like, ‘This is special, I hear you and it’s uniquely you, and that’s the hardest thing to do. I can’t wait to see where you’re gonna be in like two, three years when you really hone in on your craft’. He was one of the first people to gas me up and he was always acting like a mentor and giving me guidance or feedback on records. This was long before signing me was a thought or anything and he was just being a friend.

Around 2009 or 2010, I had to get out of the city for a little bit because shit was just getting a little too crazy and Cole had just dropped Cole World: The Sideline Story. He hit me up and asked me if I wanted to come on tour with him around Europe, not to perform but just to get out of New York for a bit. And it was eye opening to see the dream that I manifested and to see it come into fruition. New York is a city where I’m sure it’s a lot like London; you can grow up very jaded and you can get kind of one-track-minded. I think for us everything was so financially driven and I didn’t realise it when I was growing up how the city conditions you. Everything was about the next hustle or the next dollar, selling everything and anything we could get our hands on. And I think that resulted in me not really applying myself in life. That was one of the first moments for me coming out from The Sideline Story Tour that changed something inside of me and changed how I started thinking and what I believed could be possible. And the rest is history.

I kept working on my craft and I met Sid, who was Cole’s stage manager and one of his childhood friends. At the time he had just gotten out of jail so me and him were kind of in parallel, lost spaces and Cole brought us both out on tour. He was like ‘I kind of produce’ and I was like ‘I kind of rap’. And then I met Ron Gilmore, who was at the time Cole’s musical director, played keys in his band and was transitioning to a producer. So, both of them started producing for me on tour. That was a lot of my first album and last one too. I think that’s something that’s missing nowadays, artist development. I don’t know how intentional it was, but him giving us all that space to come together and develop… Like, I wasn’t even performing on that tour, I would just be on the bus and working with the homies when they didn’t have tour duties. I think after that, Cole got the label situation, offered me a deal and it was a no brainer. We’ve just been rocking since.

How did it feel, knowing that you were the very first person to be signed on the Dreamville label?

It was fire! There’s always an aspect of you know, the bias thing and if the homies are still going to fuck with me because obviously, I’m going to hold different plates now as far as my confidence goes and knowing my capabilities and artistry. At the time none of us were sure what was going on. I vividly remember two moments when Cole was releasing Born Sinner, and he was going to play his album to No I.D in LA. We pulled up on No I.D and played Born Sinner and then he [J. Cole] played him two songs of mine and No I.D was like ‘let’s do a record deal’. That was the first time we looked at each other like this is an objective era. Then the same thing happened with Salaam Remi. Those two guys are legends in the game and have so much history and impact on our culture and made some of our favourite albums. When they took to me, it was validation for us internally. At that time Born Sinner hadn’t dropped and nobody was going to give Cole a whole label off of one album, so we held off and didn’t take any deals. We wanted a situation where we could rock as a unit.

With these two legends co-signing you without even knowing who you are, were you already confident with who you were as artists?

No. I mean, I’ve always had the confidence to express my thoughts and my creativity but it’s kind of a daunting task when you’re getting into the music business because you know, you’re taking people’s money and you’ve got to make a return on it. You can’t just be some creative, there’s a lot that goes into it and people need to see something in you that’s worth investing in.

So, it was high stakes? Especially if you were next to someone like J. Cole.

Yeah, exactly. It wasn’t just the homies who fuck with me type of thing. That was a very big step for my confidence.

As the years have gone on, because you’ve been a part of Dreamville for such a long time, do you help mentor some of the newer artists and help them with their music as well?

I think we’ve all had that, whether I’m in the studio with Earthgang, J.I.D, Ari [Lennox], Lute or Cole, I feel like they probably mentored me just as much as I’ve mentored them. It’s an exchange. Obviously, our chemistry and our trust has grown so much over the years where I can contribute a lot now and vice versa. There are no egos when we’re creating, which allows for a lot of raw, honest feedback. Sometimes I might not want to be so honest with artists and tiptoe around the sensitivity because people are sensitive about their art. But with us, we’ve been able to be brutally honest about it and it makes for the best music and for growth.

You mentioned as well that you've got a Sudanese heritage, does that influence your music in any way?

It influences the stories that I’m trying to tell. I have a very musical background back home and a very musical family and they’re very well renowned back home. It’s definitely a lineage that I carry proudly. I’m doing it on a different level though. In the West, there is more traditional Sudanese music, but I think it’s more about relatability. That’s our biggest task as songwriters and artists. Sudan is one of those places that gives me that perspective of the same emotions and aspirations that the people in Sudan have, or the ones that people in New York have or Tokyo, LA… there might be slight discrepancies in it but essentially, you start to see the threads and what people want in life, what people feel in life and what insecurities they have. They’re not very different from what everyone is going through and there’s only such a wide range of human experiences that encompasses it. So, I think more so than it giving me an identity and to ground myself, it’s given me another lens so I can say things that people are going to feel and what can I say so that people are going to feel like I’m speaking for them.

One thing that’s interesting in your music is that you can take any sound or instrumental and make it your own. Because of your background and because of how much you’ve moved around, how has that influenced your ear in terms of being able to switch from Afrobeats to Rap for example?

I gotta tip my hat to my brother dj mOma. He’s my eldest brother, an incredible DJ and started his own party called Everyday PPL that’s a global, travelling movement. But ever since I was a kid, when he would go and buy a new record, he’d come into my room and be like ‘yo, check out this record!’ And so, he was putting me on Jamiroquai, Daft Punk, Digital Underground and Nas. Just a very wide range of music, even UK Garage like Artful Dodger and shit. I was probably the only kid in high school listening to that in New York and that’s largely due to him. In retrospect, that’s what has given me such range in my sound and now it’s a natural thing. I’m always conscious of it not being forced and it’s not because I live with the music. I spent the past five years going to South Africa twice a year so, naturally I’m going to make a song that’s got some log drum in it. All those things happen naturally because you go to these places to get inspired. You work with the local musicians and local producers, study the sound, and grow an affinity and love for it. And you’re doing it naturally as opposed to ‘oh this is popping, let me do what’s popping’. You can always hear when some shit is forced, you know what I mean?

I think growing up with a very diverse, international background and being the youngest of five, my siblings and my parents is what introduced me to music. My pops is a Motown guy, my sisters are into traditional West African music and my older brother who runs Dreamville and manages Cole put me onto Nas and 50 Cent. So, every level of input I get from these sources is what makes me sound what it is.

What would you say have been tough challenges throughout your career?

I’ve always found it hard to tell the entirety of my story, because you want to be relatable. But in the same way, don't know how relatable a Sudanese American New Yorker is. I found the answer to that is telling my story more in Sonics than necessarily, having to spell it out for you. By giving you the sonics of these places that I come from and where I’m influenced by, it gives you a sense of my artistry and that global upbringing I’ve had. I can get on a song and tell you that I’m a Sudanese, American, Muslim, global citizen and people would be like what is he talking about? Or they just won’t relate. I don’t want to alienate people.

That’s something I admire about Cole; he’s always been incredible with his storytelling. In Sideline Story or Friday Night Lights and being a guy waiting for his shine. We’re so engrossed by his story and it created a special bond with the fan base. And that’s a great trait. I don’t think I’ve ever really accomplished that in my writing, but it doesn’t bother me as much because I do it sonically. But maybe that’s another frontier or level that I need to get to creatively. That’s a good challenge to have because you always want to keep growing and keep evolving.

For sure. So, as you were speaking earlier about how you’re taking influences from places you've been and where you come from, alongside the vibe and feel of the area. Your most recent single ‘Passport Bros’ with J. Cole is now out, was the idea behind creating that beat?

I’ll tell you why I love that record so much. We did that song about a month ago and I’d never done a song, shot a video and released it so quickly. Mind you my last solo album was in 2018 and now my new album is done and I’m ready to go. Me and Cole were here in May for the Ari Lennox show and Cole came back with some outside energy that I hadn’t really seen since the early years of touring. We hit up Tape in Mayfair and Cole hadn’t been out drinking with us for years. Me and my brother were sitting there having shots of Clase Azul and we offered a shot to him, and he said, “pour me up!” and then that just set off a wave! We went to Barcelona for T-Minus’s bachelor party, shout out T-Minus, he’s a producer we work with closely, and it was just a bender. Then we went to Miami for the NBA finals and that time I couldn’t get Cole out of the club! We’re like ‘it’s 4:30’ and he’s like ‘just get one more bottle’ so we’re like ‘fuck it!’.

So, we’re in the studio before game three of the finals and the homie Deezle was like ‘I gotta play you this beat’. With that Azul influence and the six shots before that as well, we just made the whole song come together. I love Cole’s verse because he’s telling you that story of the past month in Shôko in Barcelona, Tape in Mayfair, the little room you can’t get in. All of that was very indicative and in the moment. It was very much about just having a good ass time and it was really authentic. So, we did the record in Miami and just put it out so quick. We usually sit with shit for years and come back to it and redo the drums or rewrite parts and I think it’s very taxing to work that way. I think when you just do a song in the moment you feel it a lot more. If I held onto this song for two years, you probably wouldn’t have heard it and it would have sounded dated.

We’ve been listening to you for a minute since Last Winter and Too High To Riot which must have been a big album for you because of where it took you. So, what are some of your favourite tracks off that album?

I actually did a lot of that album here in London. We worked in the studio Metropolis, and I worked with The Hics a lot as they’re London based. They’re on ‘Ricochet’ and ‘Matches’ which are two of my favourites. ‘Penthouse’ and ‘Dopamine’ too… It’s interesting because ‘Clase Azul’… [laughs] I keep calling that, it’s called ‘Passport Bros’! I would have called it ‘Clase Azul’ if they cut me a check! But anyway, ‘Passport Bros’ isn’t indicative of the album even though it fits the scope of the album. The album is called We Only Talk About Real Shit When We’re Fucked Up, and to me, it’s almost like a spiritual successor of how to write and it’s mixed in with a lot of the ways I’ve grown sonically. It’s a slow burn for sure and has a lot of vulnerable moments. There’s a lot of introspective parts and it’s a lot more aligned and was more in line with how to write at the very core of my sound. But yeah, I love ‘Dopamine’ I love the sample of the strings and like I said ‘Penthouse’, ‘Ricochet’, ‘Housewives’, ‘Night Job’

It's a key one in the catalogue for sure. With your artistry as well, you’ve been able to balance between having fun alongside real topics and real conversations in your music. So, how important is it to be taken seriously but not too seriously?

You can’t take yourself too seriously. I think when you’re making music and you’re creating, you try to give all sides of yourself. I’d like to think that I’m an intellectual and have these deep ass conversations. I like to think about life, myself, others and loved ones. I like to think about the things that keep us up at night. But you know, me and my n****’s like to go and drop 10 bands in the club and go crazy and that’s still a part of who I am. I think that duality is so important for me to give all sides of myself to the listener and give them growth, maturation, and something new. I think working with guys like FKJ and Jungle is at the crux of my new sound. I think for me personally, things are growing a bit stale in Hip-Hop and that’s why I’ll do an Amapiano-inspired record or Afrobeats because that’s just way more inspiring to me than the shit that’s going on musically in Hip-Hop. That’s when I’ll go search out FKJ or Jungle or these bands that aren’t even in the space of black music necessarily even though they’re soulful as hell, but they just operate in their own ecosystem. I know they can push my sound forward and challenge me or make me rise to the occasion and make me write something that’s worthy of musical output. And I think that’s going to be pretty clear to the listener.

With the collective The Fiends, that’s something you’ve been doing for a minute. What does it mean to be a ‘fiend’?

So, our thing is that everybody fiends for something. For me, it was my initial crew who was still with me in New York. It’s a creative collective and a lot of them went to NYU [New York University]. My manager Derek went to NYU, and I used to DJ at their parties so he’s an OG fiend. There's my boy Doobie who is my creative director and was doing film in NYU. My boy Clay who helps with my management and now runs Dreamer the apparel for Cole. Milhouse here he’s a DJ… we’re just a creative collective because we’re all pursuing our passions that are parallel. When it came to selling the merch, I’m not really the type to be having dudes names on me unless you’re like, Bob Marley or Muhammad Ali so we just made it more about the collective and it’s been cool since. The fan base has really bought into that, and I get funny stories too. My homegirl was in South Korea and was waiting in line at the club and someone saw her with a Fiends shirt on and pulled her into the club with him! So, it’s just stories like that of when people run into each other or show an extra level of care or love for somebody just based off of feeling some kind of unity. So, you know that’s the kind of message we’re pushing.

Thank you so much for sharing, Bas! We can’t wait for the new album.

Thank you, I appreciate y’all.



bottom of page