The East Coast. The West Coast. The Midwest. The South. Three rappers from different parts of the country come together as part of J. Cole’s Dreamville Records. But what is it about Bas, Cozz, and Omen that make them so uniquely authentic? From Bas’ Queens origins by way of his Sudanese roots, to Cozz’s lyrical versatility and relatability, and Omen’s artistic expression and perspective; they each bring something different to the table. Although they have quite the respective musical backgrounds, it wasn’t always in the cards for a future in music.
Bas, born Abbas Hamad in Paris, France had a very unique upbringing. He lived in France until he was eight years old, when his family moved to the states and settled in Jamaica, Queens. Taking inspiration from growing up in a Sudanese family, Bas’ upbringing is reflected in the diversity of his music. At first, rapping wasn’t a serious thing to the Queens-based rapper. At least not until after a friend encouraged him to do it back in 2010. Two mixtapes later, Bas ends up playing Quarter Water Raised Me Vol. 2 for legendary producer No I.D., who then in turn played it for J. Cole. By 2014, he was signed to Dreamville and dropped his first album, Last Winter. Almost two years later, Bas released his sophomore project, Too High To Riot complete with a documentary that took you behind the scenes on the making of the album.
Of course, what’s the east coast without a west coast counterpart? Meet Cody “Cozz” Osagie, the 24 year-old South Central L.A. native whose lyricism scored him a shout-out on Issa Rae’s hit HBO series, Insecure. Despite being one of the youngest signed to Dreamville, there’s more to him than what meets the eye. Born to a Nigerian father and an African-American mother, it’s safe to say that Cozz’s musical influences were very widespread. He first started taking music seriously by the end of 2013, recording a demo and bringing it to a connect at Interscope. The connect brought it to an A&R rep, which then helped begin the process of meeting with several labels with different artists. But not before Cozz dropped the music video for the song “Dreams,” which later became a song off of his debut album, Cozz & Effect in 2014. During the meetings with labels, he ended up meeting his manager who in turn had a close relationship with Dreamville Records. In 2016, Cozz released his second project and first mixtape, Nothin’ Personal, which was made available for free. As of right now, Cozz is working on a new album, and just might have a future in acting.
Last, but definitely not least, we have Chi-town’s own, Omen. Unlike his fellow labelmates, the way he met J. Cole was on a more personal level. The two first met as teenagers on battle rap site, Canibus Central, and grew to have a mutual respect for each other’s work. They finally met in person one summer in New York, and the rest is history. One thing’s for sure about Omen, born Damon Coleman, is that music was all around him growing up. His father was signed to legendary record label Motown, but never blew up due to shaky management for his group, 21st Century. Music still ran in his family of course, as both his mother and grandfather sang, plus a step-father who’s both a bassist and a pianist. Even with all of this around him, Omen originally had dreams of making it in the NBA, but the dream soon faded. While working on producing and rapping, he would send beats over to J. Cole and vice versa, critiquing them, as well as work on songs together. Cole would help Omen whenever he could, even after being signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation. Once Omen dropped his studio album debut Elephant Eyes, his relationship with J. Cole took a more professional turn. Though he already made quite a buzz with mixtapes Delayed (2010) and Afraid of Heights (2011), Omen still maintained his authenticity. Even while spitting over classic beats by the one and only J. Dilla, his growth is only at the beginning.
For a chance to see these talented three, be sure not to miss their performances at the 13th Annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival’s JUICE Hip-Hop Exhibition, held on July 14th at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Tickets can be purchased here.