BAS with the 6th Letter at Tattoo (567 Queen West), Thursday (July 31), 9 pm. $15. INK, TM.
When it came time for Queens rapper Bas, born Abbas Hamad, to release his latest project, Last Winter (Dreamville/Interscope), the up-and-coming emcee and his close friend, hip-hop star/Dreamville head J. Cole, had some decisions to make.
"We just did an Interscope deal and we wanted to really make a statement," says Bas (pronounced with a long "ah" sound) over the phone from his hotel room in Vancouver - a recent tour stop where the Dreamville crew have spontaneously decided to record.
"Me and Cole would talk.... ‘It's not a mixtape - there's no freestyles, it's all original work, I'm not rapping on other people's beats, so let's just call it what it is.' It's an album even if people aren't necessarily ready for an album from me just yet. But we would have sold ourselves short naming it a mixtape."
The project coasts along on the chillest of summertime beats, matched in serenity by the fluidity of the rapper's flow - indebted a little to his mentor, but individual nonetheless.
The hilarious promo video Dreamville made for the project - a spoof of ESPN's 30 For 30 documentary series with the tagline "An album from a n--ga who ain't got a lot of fans yet" - was characteristic of what separates them from other hip-hop collectives.
"Our main objective is to put classic projects together. It's not about the posturing that's typical in hip-hop," says Bas.
"We just really believe in the road. Cole was signed two years before his first album came out. Those two years he's going city to city - it's like a campaign trail. As far as image, we're not concerned about it, cuz that stuff is not real. Other people do it for perception, for social media, for the internet."
Bas started by tagging along with Cole, making music on the road and observing. Then, over multiple tours, he slowly built his live skills, going from performing one song to 15-, 30- and 45-minutes sets, until now, his headlining tour.
That practice also honed his craft.
"When you watch a live show every night, you take in the moments that the crowd really responds to and anticipates," he says. "That changes how you write songs, because you have to write those moments into the songs."
There won't be any inside jokes to make about album two. Bas - and his fans - have arrived.