Bas on ‘Milky Way’ and the Importance of Crafting an Album in the Streaming Age

Dreamville's own Bas is back with his third studio album, 'Milky Way.' Complex sat down with the rapper to talk about the new project, what it was like working with World Series champion Jose Altuve, and plans to release more music with his labelmates.

Complex Original

Image via Complex Original/David Cabrera


Bas is all about delivering an experience for his fans—or fiends, as he calls them—come album time. On his debut, Last Winter, he offered up a go-for-broke mentality, while its follow-up, Too High to Riot, focused on the more sobering moments that come when success and real life collide. His latest, Milky Way, finds Bas expanding his sound while still serving up the "milk" listeners have come to expect from the Dreamville act. 

"This album is about finding ground," he wrote on the eve of its release. "About not poisoning your own well. About finding and tethering yourself to the love that truly fulfills you."

Complex sat down with the rapper to talk about his new project, what it was like working with World Series champion Jose Altuve, and plans to release more music with his labelmates.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

With the title Milky Way, what did you want to get across?
It was twofold. Sonically, I went into it really wanting to name the sound more than anything. It still has a concept, thematically. The sound is bright, it’s bouncy, it’s fun.

Milk originated in Queens. Shoutout KO, shoutout my dog Trap, shoutout TY—it’s a bunch of Queens homies that really originated the term. It’s just like “sauce”; it’s your aura. It’s a lot like how people use “drip.” 

The album is about me completely stepping into my own lane. It’s my way of doing things, and that’s what Milky Way means. It encompasses all sides of me more than any previous work of mine. It’s got some New York-inspired lyricism, then it has some Afrobeats, Afro-Caribbean vibes, like “Boca Raton.” Even “Tribe” is a Brazilian sample. 

I was so free creating it. I never had those thoughts of, what if this segment of my fan base doesn’t understand this South African house record that’s on my album? What if the homies in Queens don't understand this or that? I let all those thoughts go. 

Were there any moments or situations in your life in between Too High to Riot and the new album that you wanted to address? It seems like travel is a big theme.
Travel is always a huge part of my music, and it’s always been a huge part of my life. I have been traveling my whole entire life, since I was a kid. My father was a diplomat, [and] he had us moving around. [That would affect] some of the things that I was into when I was younger, whether it was a Daft Punk or Artful Dodger or things on the U.K. garage scene. My sister would play West African music, like Keziah Jones. None of the kids I was growing up with in Queens were into that. It was my guilty pleasures—I wouldn't let anyone know I was playing that stuff. But now that I’m creating, it’s all coming back out of me. 

View this video on YouTube

You dropped the music video for “Tribe” with J. Cole. What was it like going to Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood to film it?
It was dope. Shoutout to Andrew Nisinson. That was his idea. Cole was getting ready to start the [KOD Tour], and we wanted to get it done before he went on tour. But, also, a lot of this album—and when you see the artwork, you'll kind of get it—there's a lot of African inspiration. I just went home to Sudan for the first time in, like, nine years in December, first time as an artist, and it was eye-opening. I felt like a national treasure out there. It blew me away.

There was a lot of me getting back in touch with that. We also went to Lagos. There is definitely an effort to put out more African and Afro-Caribbean imagery with what we we’re doing, and that song just felt perfect for it. We wanted to find the diaspora in Miami, so what better place than Little Haiti?

Stepping away from the new album for a second: You starred in those New Balance commercials with Jose Altuve.
He is so cool. I'm a big Yankee fan, so the first thing I said to him was, “You really broke my heart in the ALCS,” because the dude single-handedly beat us every game. He was the difference—a stolen base here, a home run here. He was just unstoppable. But he was so cool. We were just chopping it up; [he was] very down-to-earth. And it was my first time reading lines, so it was fun getting my acting chops up.

Is that something you could see yourself getting into more?
After that, yeah. The guys that brought me in to do it convinced me to try it out, and I liked it. They were like, “We usually have to change the script after a few times, but you are just nailing every line.” I was like, “Bro, I got to remember lines for a living. I got to rap for an hour and change. I can remember these lines for sure.” 

Obviously music is my main thing, but even if I was not in front of the camera, I would love to write a movie. I have all of these funny stories that I put in my notes, whether it’s tour life or just random crazy things that happen. I'm sure I can write a Superbad-type movie with a bunch of outrageous scenes. People would be like, “How did you think of that?” I’d be like, “Nah, that shit is real life. It really happened.”

You’ve got Dreamville Fest coming. This feels like another big moment for Dreamville.
It's such a cool thing to be a part of. I have been here from the genesis, and [have seen it] grow to where it’s at now. It definitely wasn’t overnight. It’s something that has happened over time, and every addition to the family has brought on something fresh and new and unique. 


You tweeted that you had to cut some songs from this album. Are those tracks going to make it onto a different project?
Yeah, for sure. I cut “Pinball II” off the album. I know we are in the streaming age where everyone just clicks around, but I can't get over trying to sequence an album to make it as seamless as possible. I feel like my first two albums did that, and it’s something I really pride myself in. A lot of the time, that's addition by subtraction; a song could be great and you could love it and your fans could love it, but in the midst of a certain world or vibe you're building, they just completely yank you out.

There are a few songs in the line of “Pinball II.” There's one I did with J.I.D. There's one I did with Cozz. I'm finishing one up with EarthGang where it’s just us barring up. I would like to put all of those together, maybe get them together before tour so I could have something to bring the homies out on and rock out. Me and the Hics, which is this band in London I’ve worked with for a while—they're on Too High to Riot—made a few records. But that’s such a whole other wave and vibe that I'm like, let’s just do a collab album.

I want to put out more music, but I would like each effort to still build a new world. I don't want to saturate people with mad records if they not doing anything new. So I definitely have plans to not be gone for two years again, but it’s centered around presenting different parts of my sound as one body. One of the songs that I took off the album that me and the Hics did was one of my favorite songs. But I’m like, if we save this caliber of music for what we are trying to do with the collab tape, it will find its own home. It will be a whole new world we can build over there. It’s tough, but if you have direction and commit and are concise with it, then it comes across and it cuts through so much better than trying to be all over the place. You can have a lot of great songs, but if you don't put them together right, then it doesn't work. I would like to keep building my projects that way. 

You’re being very honest about what music you’re putting out and why. 
Right. When I tweeted that “Pinball II” wasn’t on the album, they hit back, “You’re stupid, you're an idiot, you're bugging.” All right, thanks. But you know, it is what it is. You gotta have direction.


Latest in Music