When Sudanese- American rapper Abbas Hamad, who goes by the performing name Bas, took the stage at the Jameson Connect concert last Saturday in Nairobi, the atmosphere sizzled with anticipation. Choosing rap as his medium of expression, he began chanting rhymes.
Rap is a relatively niche genre as are most music categories, having a mass appeal to a specific subclass. As such, you will be hard pressed to find his music on every street corner as is the case with pop music. Surprisingly enough, the audience seemed well abreast with his works, not skipping a beat to sing along with him.
Doreen Wainainah caught up with the Hip Hop artiste before his maiden African performance.
Do you find your African roots playing a role in the type of music you perform?
Yeah absolutely. I think more so now that I am always keeping my ears on the music that is coming out of the continent and just being a fan. You know anything you are a fan of and that inspires you will make its way into your music.
You said that your brother is a DJ and you started off deejaying, how did your parents take it?
They were not so thrilled. They were both born and raised in Sudan so you know, they were there for the revolution. For them it was go to school, become an engineer or lawyer or something along those lines. It was not until we started finding success they became comfortable. Because like any parents they wanted stability. They want to know you are going to be alright. They do not want you chasing something that is going to lead nowhere.
Growing up, you said your brother was your main music influence. Apart from him, who are your biggest music influences?
Jay Z, Daft Punk, Nas, a little bit of a mix of everything
What are you listening to now that is not your work?
Wiz Kid, Burna Boy, I have been getting into the sounds out here. I am digging the afro beats. A lot of African artist
What is your perception of the music and the rap coming out of Africa and how can it be boosted?
There are a lot of music labels moving here. I don't know if you have noticed. Over the past few years, there are a lot of labels opening offices in Lagos and Joburg. The music world is coming here more than you can realise. People are creative and creating music and dance in the continent that half the world is imitating . keep pushing the envelope because the world is listening
How do you pick the artistes that you collaborate with in your music?
A lot of it is just catching the vibe. Getting to know somebody whether it is ten minutes or you might meet at a festival or backstage somewhere and you just rock with their vibe. That is how it has always been for me. There is nowhere where I am emailing someone's manager. It is about me meeting someone, creating a rapport and the music just comes naturally
How has your music evolved over the years since you started?
Continuously gotten more global and honest in the stories i am telling. More me. Every time I make music I am trying to get more of myself into it and peeling back another layer.
What are your plans for South Africa and Sudan after your performance in Nairobi?
I am doing shows in Cape Town and Sudan. I have ten days off so I will just get a studio in SA and make some music. Get inspired. Try to reach out to local artistes and producers.
What is your dream stage to perform on?
I would love to headline Madison Square Garden. I played there. Opened for J-Cole (American rapper and producer) but it's different to headline at this iconic arena. It’s a town I grew up in, I drove by a million times, I watched the Knicks (NBA’s New York Knicks) play there... It would just mean a lot.
How did you meet J-Cole? How did that partnership happen?
He moved up to Queens to go to school, which is where I am from in New York. He moved there from Carolina to go to college and you know, I was one of the guys in the town, you just link up. My brother went to school with him at St John’s so we had mutual friends.
First impressions of Nairobi?
It is beautiful. It's incredible. I have been to Sudan like 10 times in my life, but it was the only place (in Africa) we would go because family was there. It wasn't until I went to Lagos in April that I went to another African city. Kenya is my third country to visit. I did not expect it to be this … You know when you have only been to Sudan you do not know what to expect… This is great. It is much more developed and progressive.
We went to the club last night till 7am. It just felt like i was anywhere else. It felt like a fun city, good vibe, fun people.