Bas and the internationalization of hip-hop

Bas, a New York City-based rapper with French roots and Sudanese parents, is a prominent member of the American hip-hop scene. He has contributed to numerous incredibly popular projects, including “Boca Raton” along with A$AP Ferg, the J-Cole headliner “Tribe,” and “Costa Rica” with the rest of J-Cole’s Dreamville label. These songs are quintessential American hip-hop, music which is on the radio in most of the continental United States.

Hip-hop, however, is not a solely American music genre, and with its emphasis on collaboration is more international than any other. While Bas collaborates with US-based rappers, he also has put together popular projects with French and British artists, across the Atlantic where Bas was born. “Risk,” an introspective track developed by Bas and French House musician French Kiwi Juice (FKJ) is a prime example of one of these transnational tracks. The story of this single, essentially, was born out of their brief friendship and connection through having gone through the same sorts of things: FKJ said in an Instagram post that “somehow it felt to me we had known each other for a long time … when he sent back what he recorded on it [Risk], I got goosebumps feeling like I’m experiencing the same situation in life.” As communication has become easier, faster, and cheaper since the ’90s through the internet, these sorts of international collaborations have become possible and successful.

This is a pattern which has continued with Bas, as he has also collaborated with British neo-soul group The Hics on his 2016 album Too High to Riot and the recent 2021 single “Smoke from Fire.” These tracks combine Bas’ signature style with The Hics’ electronic soul sound, a recipe which has earned that track over a million plays on Spotify alone. Bas is only one of a whole universe of hip-hop artists whose collaborations with other artists internationally make up significant parts of their discography — I personally can only hope that as the African hip-hop scenes in Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and other countries expand, more collaborations between American and African artists emerge through these same sorts of channels.

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