Fiends in Toronto: Introducing Bas [Interview]
Toronto, ON – What started as a joke after a birthday party 3 years ago actually steered Bas into a full-fledged career. The now New York rapper, Dreamville affiliate and face of The Super Mookin’ Fiends kicked off his journey in music and is just getting started. Since 2010, he has released two projects, Quarter Water Raised Me Vol.I, released in 2011 and Quarter Water Raised Me Vol. II which dropped this past summer. Since then, he has toured and performed across North America and landed a feature on J. Cole’s album, Born Sinner. It is important to note, though Bas is just getting his foot in the door, he is definitely not a topic to be taken lightly.
Whether you got acquainted with him during J. Cole’s Dollar and A Dream Tour, you’re catching up with him now during the What Dreams May Come Tour (WDMC), or you stumbled across a few of his music videos online, you may not know exactly was Bas is all about. With that, HipHopCanada got a chance to sit down with the Fiend last week during his stop in Toronto before his opening act for WDMC to find out what the come up has been like for this new artist. From talks about growing as an artist, Toronto and it’s ever-growing music scene to a handful of audio clips of stories from the man himself, here, HipHopCanada would like to formally introduce you to Bas.
Check out the full interview after the jump.
Written by Tia Gordon for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: Let’s talk about about May 27th, 2010.
Bas: May 27th, 2010. That was a great day.
HipHopCanada: That was your birthday – a great day that also got you into rapping. So, what happened?
Bas: Yeah! I used to DJ a lot of parties in the city. Mostly for these two guys [pointing to his friends]. They went to NYU, so they brought me in on their party scene – DJ’ing, shit like that, hanging out. That same night, I DJ’ed my own birthday party and we got back to the crib in West Village, probably like, 5AM, and we broke out a bottle of Svedka and uh, [laughing] some other…intoxicants and we just made it a night! We just kept going, probably until 7 in the morning, we were just getting fucked up and he was like “Yo man, let’s put on the Macbook and rap!” I was like “Nigga, I ain’t no fucking rapper! I ain’t doing that shit!” But I was bodied – it didn’t take much convincing. I was like, “Alright, cool.” I think the first beat we got on was Kanye [West]’s “Breathe In Breathe Out” on College Dropout, the joint with Luda [Ludacris]. We got on that beat, it was cool.
We didn’t think nothing of it. We played it the next day, just smoking, getting high and we were like “Yo, let’s do another one!” So, we just went on Hipstrumentals [hipstrumentals.com] and pulled up “O Let’s Do It” Waka’s [Waka Flocka Flame] joint and we rapped on that. Then, it just so happened to be that the month of Ramadan was starting next week and I had good intentions that year to really do it right because I had a really crazy summer. So I was like “I’m gonna try to no drugs, no alcohol for a month and do it like how I’m supposed to do it.” I did! That whole month, I had nothing to do so I was just writing. First of all, you’re fasting, so you’re pretty hungry and you’re not doing any drugs. After the first week, you have a crazy mental clarity.
Bas: You know how they say homies go on hunger strikes and shit and they’re all up here? It’s kind of the same thing, I was just so clearheaded. I did a whole project that month that we never released. It was actually the original Quarter Water Raised Me. It had the title track and everything, but I felt like I got so much better in the next year that I just scrapped the whole project.
HipHopCanada: How did you find yourself pursuing music from there? Because now you have a second project, Quarter Water Raised Me Vol. II.
Bas: Yeah! I just kept working then, Ib[Ibrahim] was hearing the shit. He was like “Yo! This is really dope. You should play it for Cole [J.Cole]!” I remember the first time Cole heard the shit and he was like “This shit’s crazy! Man, I don’t even know where you’re gonna be in six months!” I never thought six months ahead, but I was like “Alright, at least I have something to work towards,” you know what I mean? Shit, six months later, I was a lot better. Really, what kicked it off was, I would come out on trips – Cole was working on his first album at the time down in Atlanta. I would come down on those trips and it would be Cole, Omen, Elite, Mez [King Mez], Ron Gilmore – all these dudes who have been doing music for like, 15 years, and me [laughs], who’s been doing music for 8 months, just soaking up all that knowledge. It came time to go to Europe for the Cole World Tour in winter 2011. That was the first tour where they brought me out on the road just to work on music.
HipHopCanada: You didn’t perform?
Bas: No, I didn’t perform on that tour. I didn’t perform until the Dollar and A Dream Tour, but I’ve pretty much been on the road since 2011. Honestly, it was a great thing that I didn’t because now I know fully who I am as an artist. A lot of that time, I was figuring shit out – what sounds I like, what sonic landscape I want people to know me for, things of that nature that I didn’t even know when I was doing the first one [QWRM Vol. I]. I was just putting shit together like “Yeah, I like this let’s do it!” The second one [QWRM Vol. II] was more about really making a project something defining. It started a lot on the road, because on the road I started developing a lot of chemistry with Ron [Gilmore] and Ced [Cedric Brown] especially – they handle my production. That really happened on some “Yo, I’m on the tour.” “I’m on the tour!” “Yo, I kind of make beats.” “Yo, I kind of rap!” [Laughs]. We were all at the same level. Ced wasn’t doing music for a long time, but he made a beat while we were on the road. He played it for me and I was like “That shit’s dope!” It was the first record we cut!
HipHopCanada: That’s dope! What would you be doing now if you weren’t rapping?
Bas: Sheesh [laughing]! That’s a good question! Uhm, probably nothing legal to be honest with you! My legal skill-set isn’t the best.
HipHopCanada: Well then, I’m thankful that you’re rapping.
Bas: [Laughing] Yeah!
HipHopCanada: What was it like to tell your family and your friends that you were going to start rapping?
Bas: My friends were all about it! My friends were hearing everything and they were the first battery in my back – because at that stage, you don’t have that much confidence, if any. You’re just like “I’m doing this!” I’m a fairly confident person, but I wasn’t doing it like “Yo, I just made the hottest shit ever, you gotta hear this!” I was like “I just laid these joints down. Listen to them, let me know what you think.” It was genuine! You could read people’s reactions. My family was interesting. I was lucky because my parents went through it with Ib [Ibrahim] in the sense that, when he dropped out [of school] to be Cole’s manager, they were like “What the fuck is this kid doing?” Then Cole made it and Ib made a career out of it. So, when it was my go-around, they knew I was in good hands. They’ll ask everyone [about the music] on the low when I’m not around and everyone tells them good things, so they’re at ease. Of course, they’d rather I be a college graduate or some shit.
HipHopCanada: Did the area you were from influence you – because you grew up in New York, right?
Bas: Well, I was born in Paris. I spent the first 8 years of my life between Paris and Qatar. I came to Queens [New York] when I was 8.
HipHopCanada: Do you think being in New York influenced the sound you have now?
Bas: One-hundred percent! Honestly, my older brother, DJ mOma, was in Paris until he was 18. He didn’t come to the States until it was time for college. He’s always been my number one source of music since I was a kid, his taste is crazy – mad Eurocentric, obviously. He was always bumping a lot of shit that was hot in the UK and in the European scene. Before I was even listening to rap, I was listening to Jamiroquai, Daft Punk [and] Artful Dodger. I think that’s the biggest thing that gives me an edge, sonically. I was listening to a lot of weird music growing up.
HipHopCanada: It’s not weird! Good is subjective, right?
Bas: Yeah! That’s true, but it was weird to everyone around me! All the kids I went to school with were like “What the fuck are you listening to? What is this shit?” Now, I’ve rapped on a handful of beats from over a decade ago that I’ve always liked that I went back to sample.
HipHopCanada: In terms of what you do have released, you have Quarter Water Raised Me Vol. I and Quarter Water Raised Me Vol. II – what inspired that title?
Bas: It’s actually funny! When I was in high school – this was before the blogs and easy access to everything, we used to make mixtapes, named them Quarter Water Raised me and sold them for $5.00 a pop in the hallways. The concept – it was a joke me and my boy, Pounds, had. I don’t know if you have quarter waters up here…
HipHopCanada: I don’t think we do.
Bas: It’s like 25-cent sugar waters! Pretty much the worst thing you can ingest, but in New York City, it was like everyone’s start, you know? It was like your first foray into going out and exploring on your own. The first thing you can tell your mom like “Oh, I’m just going to the corner store with the homies!” Hop on your bike and just take off like “Yeah, we’re just going to get some quarter waters.” Four years later, you’ve got 40s in front of the corner store, copping dutches – kind of like a nature verses nurture, original sin kind of thing. Basically like – we’re raised better, but there’s so many ways to get lost in the city and start doing all types of shit you never think you would do. The quarter waters just kind of embodied that for me because it was like the first thing in my life that really got me into some shit.
HipHopCanada: Did you go through a growing process between QWRM Vol. I and QWRM Vol. II or did you go in with the same mentality?
Bas: Nah! Completely different. Volume I, we did it the year after I started rapping. Volume II, we skipped a year then came back. The whole time I was on the road with Cole, then I went out with them on the Club Paradise run with Drake and I was on the studio bus working. It’s different, once you start going to live shows, you start writing music differently also. You start to be like “Oh, shit, this is like a give and take between you and the crowd.” You don’t know that when you’re in the studio or just in the crib writing and you’ve never performed or studied the live show. That was definitely an impact on the second one.
HipHopCanada: On your blog, it said that you wrote over 60 tracks for Vol. II. What was the hardest part about pinpointing exactly what you wanted on the project?
Bas: I had to cut a lot of songs that I really liked! I had this crazy track that Cole produced – it was one of my favourite songs that I’ve ever done that I had to cut just because I wanted a sound, that when you popped it in, the sequence would take you through the tape. There were a lot of more hype, club records that I had to cut out. Some of the more soulful beats that I had on – I had this kind of cool, vibe-y sound that I was trying to flesh out. That’s the hardest part; sacrificing the songs you love for a project you love.
HipHopCanada: You definitely popped off during the Dollar and A Dream tour with J. Cole. What was it like to step on a stage for the first time and perform?
Bas: It was Miami! It was dope because I was kind of waiting for the butterflies, but they never really came. I think it’s because I had been on the road for two years and now it was stepping on a stage with Cole. We already party every night and rap records to each other on a nightly basis, so it wasn’t that much different! The whole band – I had been on the road with them for two years, so it was an ideal situation. I was about as confident as you can be going into your first show. I knew everybody on the stage with me and the crowd was dope. It was cool! I’ve come a long way since then. Good thing is, we’re recording everything, so you get to watch yourself. When you’re on stage, naturally, you’re giving everything [while] rapping, but body movements don’t translate unless you really exaggerate them. That’s one thing I really learned between the Dollar and A Dream tour and this tour [What Dreams May Come]. In your head, you can think you’re on one hundred and feel on one hundred, but unless you show them you’re on one hundred, they’re not going to know.
HipHopCanada: What’s your favourite part about performing now that you know all of that?
Bas: Winning people over every night is a dope feeling! Making eye contact with people in the crowd, [and] seeing them engaged. I’m not at the stage where they’re supposed to know my shit. The whole point of me being out here is for promotion. Every city is really impressive in terms of how many fans you have. You never know! We were in Pittsburgh and there were mad Fiends there! I didn’t know I had a fan-base there! Even the small markets – the crowds are super receptive to some new shit.
HipHopCanada: Now you’ve been in Toronto a couple of times now…
Bas: I’ve got cousins from Toronto! I’ve been coming to Toronto since I was 10. We used to road trip every summer and come through here!
HipHopCanada: So, what are you going to give Toronto tonight and tomorrow when you perform?
Bas: I have yet to perform “Dying Fast” – a track from my tape that I really like. I haven’t performed it because it’s a slower track, but it’s definitely a fan favourite, I think I’m going to perform it for the first time.
HipHopCanada: I have to ask – we obviously know that Drake is from Toronto, but are you familiar with the rap scene here? What do you think of Toronto’s rap culture?
Bas: Just from riding around, listening to radio, it’s dope. I feel like a lot of local artists get radio play. I think the city is very supportive of its artists. We don’t have that in New York, it’s the Hater Capital of the world.
HipHopCanada: Well, they call Toronto the Screwface Capital.
Bas: Really? Well it doesn’t seem like it. You know this dude, Rich Kidd? I linked up with him over OVO Fest, I met his manager back stage and he took me to The Remix Project. He gave me the history on it – it’s amazing! What a program. We don’t have anything like that [in New York]. As far as I can see, Toronto’s an ideal place to cultivate your shit and it’s only growing! Shit, Drake’s running the game right now and bringing a lot of attention to Toronto. I only see it getting bigger because of that.
HipHopCanada: If we jump to Born Sinner, obviously you’re on a track with Cole, but how does it feel to be on a track with 50 Cent?
HipHopCanada: How do you feel knowing that your name is on an album that went gold in its first month?
Bas: That’s pretty awesome too! Things have been happening pretty quick, so I try to keep perspective of everything, but you’re so busy trying to get to the next level that a lot of things like that can get past you. I think I do a good job of sitting back, reflecting on it and getting a good laugh out of it then being like “Let’s keep it moving.”
HipHopCanada: This is the part where I’m going to embarrass myself, but I want to rap some of your lyrics to you and I’m going to play on those for questions. Kind of like a game! This one though, it isn’t a line, it’s something you say all the time though! “Mooked?”
Bas: It’s ‘mook’ like ‘look’!
HipHopCanada: So what is that? Urbandictionary.com wasn’t helping me at all.
Bas: [Laughs] I gotta throw the assist to this guy [points to friend] and the good people of Montclair, New Jersey. It’s basically a term kind of born out of that summer 2010 thing, at least for us – it was probably going on forever in his neighbourhood. It’s so hard to explain! I want to say it’s just weed, but it’s really not just weed. There’s so much to it. You can get ‘mooked’ off of anything.
HipHopCanada: Basically just getting fucked up?
Bas: Yeah, but it’s weird because it’s like a verb, a noun, an adjective, you know what I mean? You could be like “Did you mook all the mook?” “How mooked are y’all?” It always went hand-in-hand with that summer where we were just being Fiends to the upmost of our potential. Luckily, everything since then is a different level of fiending. We’re more mature, I think – more responsible with our fiend levels. All that shit, it wasn’t born out of music. It was really how we we referred to each other. When we started rapping, it was the natural thing to yell it on a record! Fiends! Mooked! I’m so mooked!
HipHopCanada: Okay, so I’ll rap now.
Bas: Let’s do it!
HipHopCanada: “So what do you do, your job, nah, I mean, your passion if you have one. It could pass you you better grab one” (Lyrics from “Love Souvenir”)
HipHopCanada: What would you say to someone who wants to embrace their passion, but doesn’t know where to start?
Bas: Go! Just start, you know? Just start. I think of all the times I could’ve completely missed this rap wave of my life if it wasn’t for that random night where me and DJ just started rapping. That’s where a lot of that was born out of – especially that line, it’s directly inspired by that. Like I said, it could pass you, you better grab one. The best thing we did was not second guess any of it. Even when we should’ve had no type of confidence, we were like “Fuck it, we’re going to get into the studio and make this project!” You always have to take the first step. I run into people all the time where they’re like “Yo, I wanna do this…” People wanna get everything right, they wanna get the ideal situation, but it doesn’t exist. You’ve gotta go out and create it. So, just go balls out. Balls to the wall.
HipHopCanada: “Ironic, I was just lookin’ for a lighter, but I found you. Now, let’s go and fuck the night up.” (Lyrcis from “Highs/Illegal In America”) What can one expect from partying with a Fiend – Bas in particular?
HipHopCanada: “I’m lookin’ at my receipt like “Goddamnit, that’s my receipt?” (Lyrics from “Pinball”) What was the last big purchase you made and why did you make that purchase?
Bas: Last big purchase I made? Merch! [Laughs] I just spent $1500 on t-shirts and hats so that I could sell them and promote my brand. For myself? That’s a good question…that’s a really good question. I’m about to buy a Mac-book finally!
HipHopCanada: “Girl, it’s been a while since I hit a white out. I’m with it though – she a centerfold…” (Lyrics from “Lit”) Feel free to continue…
Bas: Big ol’ blunt look like tentacles!
HipHopCanada: So now girls are going to be throwing themselves at you…
Bas: Is that so?
HipHopCanada: It’s probably going to happen! What kind of girl are you looking for?
Bas: Someone that doesn’t take themselves too seriously. That’s probably the most important thing. I’m gonna say a lot of fucked shit and if you take yourself too seriously, you’re going to take me too seriously. That’s no fun, you know? I’m gonna feel like I have to curtail how much of a Fiend I really am, when the ideal situation is to be at your absolute worst level and be accepted. Then you know, I can rock with her- she’s not gonna judge with me.
HipHopCanada: “How I go from selling reefa and plates to eating steaks with Cole and playing FIFA with Drake…” (Lyrics from “New York Times”) You’ve met plenty of celebrities at this point, I’m sure.
Bas: Woop! Right.
HipHopCanada: What was your most surreal celebrity encounter?
HipHopCanada: And speaking of celebrities, who do you want to work with?
Bas: Who do I want to work with? Kanye, Drake, Hov. Me and Cole are always gonna be working, so I’m not going to count him. Those are the 4 guys that I actually really listen to.
HipHopCanada: Okay! Last one! “I had a five year plan, but in 24 months, bitch, I got it all done.” (Lyrics from “This Is My Story”)
HipHopCanada: From everything you’ve done and everything you’ve learned, do you have any plans or goals going forward? What can your fans expect from you?
Bas: Consistency. I think going forward, the main thing I want to do now is take our brands, Dreamville and the Fiends to new heights. I feel like a lot of that is on me and I like that. I like being the first nigga on our set. Obviously Cole has other obligations even though he is Dreamville. Contractually, he’s Roc Nation and Columbia. All the sacrifices he had to make to give us this platform – now it’s on us to take that platform and bring it to new heights. I’m really excited about that.
I’m working on some new music – I want to put out another project early 2014. I’m just going to use this time on the road to really work this one [QWRM Vol. II], get people more familiar and we’ll be right back with some new shit!
HipHopCanada: Sounds perfect! Thank you!
Bas: No problem.
You can catch Bas on the What Dream May Come tour – Buy Tickets Here.
For more about The Super Mookin Fiends, check out supermookinfiends.com.
Written by Tia Gordon for HipHopCanada
Photography by Natasha Paolini for HipHopCanada
Tags: 50 Cent, Artful Dodger, Bas, Cedric Brown, Columbia Records, Daft Punk, DJ m0ma, Drake, Dreamville, Elite, Ibrahim, J. Cole, Jamiroquai, Jay Z, Kanye West, King Mez, Omen, Rich Kidd, Roc Nation, Ron Gilmore, Super Mookin Fiends, The Remix Project