Passport Bros: From Johannesburg To Tokyo With Bas

Let the Dreamville artist be your tour guide…

When Bas saunters into the Universal Music headquarters in King’s Cross, he is definitely not lacking in levity. “This is what you guys call summer?” he fires back when I ask him how he’s enjoying summer in London. “Imma call it July.”

We love a summer anthem, and this year Dreamville’s, Bas, has blessed us with ‘Passport Bros’, a collaboration with label founder, J. Cole. A high-tempo, afro-beats-infused playground that comes complete with a video to match, the track takes us on a global journey, exchanging scenes from Johannesburg to Tokyo. If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll notice a connection to a hilarious tweet Bas posted about the Clase Azul-led bar tabs Cole had been building up in London, Barcelona, and Miami earlier this year: “For the love of God, someone wrangle his a__ back inside,” adding, “by the dreads if you must.”

The single stands amidst anticipation for Bas’ fourth studio album, ‘We Only Talk About Real Shit When We’re Fucked Up,’ set to release later this year. His confidence is unwavering as he discusses the forthcoming album. “It’s largely inspired by my group of friends and those conversations, you know, 5am, after the club, when everyone’s back at the crib, getting all the stress off their minds. We could vocalise those things on a normal basis but for better and worse, probably worse, we’re just not very good at it.”

As we gear up for his album release this fall and soak in the summer vibes of ‘Passport Bros’, we asked Bas to be our travel guide and recommend us some of  the places that have captured his heart around the globe…

Best Travel Albums: When he’s travelling, Bas opts for tunes that evoke the emotional equilibrium and wide-eyed energy of finding new places. His top picks include FKJ’s 2019 EP ‘Ylang Ylang,’ which sees Bas himself featured on the second track ‘Risk,’ and Daft Punk’s 2001 album ‘Discovery.’

For Unforgettable Performances and Vibrant Music Inspiration: Johannesburg, South Africa

“Anytime we get to perform on the African continent it’s a special feeling, being of the diaspora and coming back to the homeland, being able to give our time and effort. It’s humbling.” 

Bas holds South Africa’s biggest city in high regard. “It’s a city that has an incredible appreciation for music. A very vast musical history. From the clubs to just everywhere you can tell they really live music out there.” The Afrobeats and Amapiano scenes have undeniably entranced Bas’ ear, as evidenced by ‘Passport Bros’. “Whenever I hear something refreshing or innovative, which I found on all the trips I’ve taken to South Africa, it’s naturally going to inspire me to create something.”

His favourite thing about Johannesburg? “Everybody in Joburg is like a choreographer-level dancer. I like to just watch them have a good time. The music scene reminds me a lot of the dancehall scene in NY, just in the way you see it come alive in the club.”

Bas’ Best Clubs In Johannesburg: Sumo, Booth, Montana 

Best Hidden Gem: Anguilla

Anguilla’s tranquil beauty and serene landscapes are the first thought that comes to Bas’ mind when the phrase hidden gem is uttered. “Just beautiful beaches. Very quiet, very serene. Nice waters. I can’t wait to go back.” With an album release planned for the fall and lining up another world tour for the next year, he might have to wait a bit. “Maybe I’ll treat myself after my next tour.”

For Community and Melting Pot Vibes: New York, USA 

“I’m lucky enough to grow up in New York. Queens specifically, which has a lot of international background, it’s the world’s borough.” It’s no surprise that Bas would include his home turf on this list. “It’s probably one of my biggest advantages in life. When it comes to making music, it’s all about being relatable, telling stories and conveying emotions that are relatable. I think the more people you have from different walks of life the more you see that common thread.”

“I’d go to the corner store, and it’s the Yemeni guys who run the corner store,” he says fondly. “Then you go to the bodega and there’s the Puerto Rican guys, and you go to the Jamaican shop, get a patty or something. So you’re constantly bombarded with all these cultures. But that’s very unique to New York.”

Bas’ New York motto: “Stack all winter and shine all summer”

Best Place To Make Music: London, UK

“What I like about London is definitely the musical culture. A lot of my collaborators, especially on the production side, are London based.” For recent single ‘Diamonds’ he reunited with former collaborator, North London producer Linden Jay. “There are incredible producers in the States too but I think a lot of it is more just beat-making whereas here people just tend to play more. There’s a lot more acoustic elements.”

The UK music scene’s profound connection with live instruments is a massive plus in Bas’ books, and he’s equipped with an arsenal of UK musicians he enjoys listening to. “I love Sault, they’re fire. Cleo Sol she’s amazing and Inflo who produces their stuff, there are just so many cool musicians here that are both modern and in a way kind of classic. I think there’s a lot of opportunity here to make timeless music. That’s why I’ve always gravitated to a lot of producers and musicians out here.”

For Amazing Food and Fashion:  Tokyo, Japan

“Some of the friendliest people in the world. Very hospitable people. Incredible fashion.” Bas’ time in Tokyo ignited an awe-inspiring admiration for their unmatched fashion sense. “I’d be on a train out there or I’ll be walking around the street and I’ll get upset because everyone is on point. You can’t step out not at your best because everyone is very casually at their best.” 

Tokyo’s unique blend of tradition and modernity is a big part of what draws him to the city. “Historically it’s very insular, you know, so they don’t have as much outside influence. It’s just cool to see another society that operates so differently from the ones we’re used to in America and Europe. You won’t even see litter. You’ll get on a train and it’s clean as a whistle, and nobody’s yelling, nobody’s spitting everywhere. Like I’m a New Yorker. I’m used to our trains being downright disgusting.”

Tokyo also stands as one of his top picks for food, “It’s the one city in the world where I never look up anything. It’s not like ‘Yo, what’s the go-to restaurant?’ You just walk and choose what looks good. I know I’m not gonna be disappointed.”

Bas’ Tokyo Street Food Recommendations: Kobe Beef Kushiyaki and Takoyaki

Best Festival: Montreal, Canada

“Osheaga [Festival Musique Et Arts] in Montreal, I played out there a couple of times,” he says of the musically diverse Canadian festival which put him on a bill alongside The Chemical Brothers, Janelle Monae and Young Thug in 2019.” I love the grounds. It’s on this little island, right off the river. Montreal is just a dope city, always great energy out there.”

For Reconnection and Replenishment: Sudan

Bas is deeply connected to his Sudanese heritage. “I’m grateful that my parents, from a young age, made it a point to take us back every other summer. I remember being 10 and 11, and all my homies are going to basketball camp for the summer, and I’m like, damn, I gotta go to Sudan. But in retrospect, I’m very grateful that my parents had that foresight.”

His relationship with his roots deepened in his young adulthood. “I had gotten into some trouble in New York around 2009. I kind of had to get out of town for a bit, and I spent three months in Sudan. That whole phase of my life set me on a trajectory. I came back from that and started doing music, started really applying myself. A couple of years after that, I landed my record deal. It’s grounding to get to connect with your roots. There’s a cemetery by my mom’s crib where there are generations of my family buried there. Little things like that are why we need to know home.”

The conflict in Sudan that heightened earlier this year has taken countless tolls on his community, and among them lies displacement. However, Bas remains steadfast in his hopes of safety returning to his home country. “It’s tough to have that space taken from us. We try to do what we can and help how we can, but you can only do so much.”

Bas will release his fourth studio album ‘We Only Talk About Real Shit When We’re Fucked Up’ later this year.

Words: Naima Sutton

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