Basik Lee has been a mainstay in the music community for many years as part of Dope Sandwich and Ambrose, and these days he’s making a name for himself in a solo capacity with the release of his album 7 on Feb. 1. The album was a long time coming for the artist, who worked on it over the course of three years with a cast of musicians and collaborators in tow.
Ahead of his release show, we spoke to Basik about how his highly conceptual new project and the unfortunate misconceptions about hip hop in today’s world.
How did this album come together?
This album actually started about three years ago. One of my friends Tanner, who goes by Blue Collar, was in Dope Sandwich with me. He had some beats that he’d made out of pieces that one of our other friends, Slim Jim, had sent to us. He said, “If you’re still doing stuff, I’ve got some beats.” I picked out about six of them and I had one left over from years ago that we never did anything with.
I started coming up with a concept after that about a seven-track album called 7. From there, it was more researching the seven days of the week and finding out the whole history [of it]. And not really basing it off of that, but using it as a platform for each one of the songs.
So loosely, each song is set in a different day of the week?
Using that loose platform, where did you go from there?
Well, each day is kind of representing a hip hop story – different levels of the game, I would say. The first song is called “The Sun.” You’re introduced to a group of people freestyling, and then they talk about a party. And then you get a small piece of narration from a young lady named Shawntel Foster, which leads into the song. It’s pretty much, like, going to a party and talking about the culture [of hip hop].
Day two is Monday, but it’s called “Moonlight.” It’s basically about the start of [feeling] like, “Hey, you can do it yourself.” Day three is called “War,” and it’s when everyone starts competing. It features about nine rappers. Day four is called “Supreme,” and it’s pretty much when it breaks up into the top four [rappers]. Day five is “The Storm,” and it’s kind of a comical look at how people outside of hip hop think of hip hop.
Day six is called “Venus,” and it’s pretty much apologizing to the music for all the other bullshit and realizing that you don’t need anything except the music.
Day seven is called “The Heart” is where it kind of loops back around and there’s an outro by Shawntel Foster talking about getting back to one.
It sounds like a really layered an ambitious project to have worked on!
Yeah, and it’s through a new company called Drop Records. So this will be the project launching this company, and it’s also my first project on vinyl. It’s going to be pretty interesting for me.
You mentioned talking about the perception that outsiders have towards hip hop – what do you think that is? Are you hoping to change that perception in some people’s minds?
I’ve always tried to open people up to the complete picture of hip hop. Over the years, I’ve just dealt with so many people looking at what is the mainstream in hip hop and talking about the violence in it. They’re not seeing the full picture of it. China banned hip hop. Like, a whole country just banned hip hop.
It’s wild shit like that – I can’t even really get mad at it, because the only image of hip hop that they’re getting is a small amount of the rap culture that’s in the mainstream.
It’s mostly what’s perpetuated by the mainstream industry.
Yeah, they’re not really understanding the culture of hip hop. I teach youth breaking. I’ve done it for years, and one of my students was like 17 or 18 when I started working with her. I was getting her to watch movies like The Freshest Kids and breakdancing documentaries and style wars. She didn't even know that it went that deep.
In the 14 years that my hip hop night at The Jinx has been running, I can count the amount of fights that have happened on one hand. There’s not a night in town, in any bar, that can make that statement.