From J. Cole To Bas: Your Guide to Dreamville
This here rap game is like the wild wild west. There are no set rules, laws, or regulations in place to make information both accessible and official; shit is like a jumbled mess of fine lines, sort ofs, and maybe’\s. For us hip-hop heads it can get confusing since nobody has an official go to source for all the information. It happens with stuff like DJ features or samples, but personally, I find the "who is on what label" discussion more frustrating than those; Often people are kind of in a label but aren't technically (but totally are).
Because of this, we here at Refinedhype decided to roll out a “Your Guide” series where we take a person, group, idea, trend (or anything else rappity rap related) and give you the need to know facts. So, like we did the Savemoney edition, its time to go over J. Cole’s Dreamville label; inspired by Elite’s new mixtape, Level Up. Heard it, was impressed, was even more impressed to see he was on Dreamville, had no idea, and now I want y'all to know the deal. Let’s get to Dreaming!
Do I even need to say anything here? I’m going to go ahead and assume you know who he is. Obviously the engine of Dreamville, appropriate because it is his label. More of a leader and poster child than Chance is to Savemoney and with his success it's not a surprise why. You probably have "Born Sinner", but be sure to check out his old mixtape The Warm Up if you don’t have it already. In my opinion it is better than "Born Sinner "and doesn’t get nearly enough attention.
For a dude who has shared tracks with the likes of Cole and Kendrick, I am surprised we don’t hear his name more often. I’m sure it wont be long until he is a household name though; when someone is this good at both producing and rapping they don’t stay unnoticed for long. He has a tape in the works (it’s where the song above comes from) but while you wait why not check out his Glorious Cool EP where he spits over some classic Dilla beats; a good litmus test for any emcee. He has shown steady improvement in his short career and I look forward to seeing him blossom with the support of Dreamville.
What I’m about to say might shock you but Voli might just have a stronger flow than Cole. Not saying he is necessarily better—Cole might be sharper and more surgical—but something about Voli’s raspy, passionate flow really grabs me (on occasion it reminds me of B.o.B). The next thing I will say wont shock you at all, he too is a producer (notice a trend here?) and he even directs and edits his own visuals. Not sure if an album or tape is in the works, but Sound of Love, a J.Cole assisted single, is hitting iTunes in December, so something is cooking. Until then I HIGHLY recommend his In the Meanwhile (The Showcase) tape. It might be from 2011, but it is a phenomenal tape.
The man who inspired this article. His Level Up tape is really my first time meeting him, so I am still learning, but so far he has impressed. He has a little bit of a poppy vibe but not in a bad way at all. His flow is catchy and a little bit more on the fun side but it is not bubblegummy or soft, just really refreshing. Oh shocker, he produces too. In fact, most of Level Up is his production (and he co-produced Cole's “Crooked Smile”). Of course the ones that aren’t his are courtesy of Omen and Voli, because why go outside of Dreamville when you have some dope producers in house? He has shown tremendous growth since his 2011 tape, Awaken, which a good sign as progression is the key for any up-and-coming artist. I look forward to seeing what 2014 brings.
Last (of the emcees) but certainly not least, we have Bas. You might recognize the name as he killed it on "Cousins", from Cole's Truly Yours 2 EP, but how much of his stuff do you actually know? With a commanding flow ready for botht he radio and the ears of hip-hop heads, my gut tells me he is next to blow. Bas’ style is as diverse as his upbringing—he was born in Paris to Sudanese parents and has lived in France, Qatar, and Queens—and his Quarter Water Raised Me Vol. II project, released over the summer, reflects it; lots of different styles and vibes which serve for a diverse listen. Not sure of his plans for any more projects but he is currently on tour with Cole, so perhaps you can ask him in person if you are lucky enough to catch him in your town.
To my knowledge Cedrick “Ced” Brown is the only dude on Dreamville who is strictly a producer. He did a lot of work on Bas’ aforementioned Quarter Water Raised Me Vol. II but other than that I don’t really know too much about him and couldn’t find a whole lot; such is life for a producer. I will definitely look for his name more now that I know. For those who are curious, you can get to know him with a little storytime.
What really impresses me about the Dreamville team, aside from their diversity and dual threat emcees, is that they all seem to really enjoy working together. You would be hard pressed to find them going outside of their own label, which makes me think they are a really strong, close family. For how talented each Dreamvillian is, and adding in the backing of Cole, I am amazed these guys are not as big. They might not have the name but the have the talent to go toe-to-toe with an major out there and I look forward to seeing how they progress both as a unit and individually.
This article originally appeared on RefinedHype.com, which has now merged with The DJBooth. For more info, click here.
Written by Lucas G. on 11/21/13
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