(AllHipHop Features) “The real pleasure of having a label is watching somebody start from ground zero and get to level one, two, and three,” expressed J. Cole in a 2014 interview.
Earlier that same year, the native North Carolinian announced a partnership with Interscope to distribute his newfound label’s projects. Dreamville Records would go on to release bodies of work by a talented roster of acts that represent areas from across the map.
New York’s Bas dropped Last Winter and Too High to Riot. California’s Cozz let loose Cozz & Effect and Nothin’ Personal. Chicago’s Omen delivered Elephant Eyes. DC’s Ari Lennox saw the arrival of Pho. In addition, in-house producer Ron Gilmore of Tennessee introduced himself with his self-released The Maturation of Little Ron.
Bas, Cozz, and Gilmore headed out together for the “Too High To Riot Tour” in 2016. Behind-the-scenes experiences from the trek were captured by director Scott Lazer for a Tidal-premiered tour documentary.
The 34-minute doc features those three audio craftsmen offering insight into life on the road and the creation of their music. Atlanta Hip Hop duo EarthGang and English Electronic band The Hics went along for the ride and took part in the film as well.
I spoke to Bas, Cozz, and Ron Gilmore separately, and I asked each artist to respond to the same four Dreamville-related questions. The members of the Cole-led imprint discussed those topics as they continue to strive to elevate to level one, two, three, and beyond.
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What’s Your Most Memorable Moment From The “Too High To Riot Tour”?
Bas: New York was pretty memorable, being that it’s a home game. I had my mom in the balcony. She was wildin’ the whole time. It was kind of cool to see. Cole came out that show, and it was a mega-surprise for the fans. Seeing their reaction was kind of priceless in that moment. I think New York just had a lot of moments that piled on top of each other.
Cozz: It was probably the show in Santa Ana. L.A. is my hometown, so it’s always exciting to do a show where I’m from. The Observatory holds like a thousand people, and that sh-t was packed out. I remember at that show my voice was super-super hoarse. But the whole crowd was singing my sh-t word-for-word. It was just dope to see that many people were rocking with me from the city. I think I’ll remember that more than anything.
Gilmore: The most memorable moment is when I think we were in Birmingham over in the U.K. I put out an album, but I didn’t really expect anyone to know anything about it, especially overseas. All these kids know that sh-t. After the show, I was just packing up my sh-t, they came up to me, and we started talking. Then they busted out this “Ron” chant. It was so memorable, not because they were chanting my name, but because it clicked for me: Oh, sh-t. These kids actually know your sh-t. They know who you are. It became a very real thing for me.
What’s One Thing You’ve Learned From Working With J. Cole?
Bas: There are no real formulas to this thing. You can be a little fearless with how creative you want to be, not necessarily worry about making a radio single, and just playing the game your own way. I definitely saw him and all the homies do that. We’re continuing in that.
Cozz: One thing for sure is that he still works like he’s not J. Cole. I learned don’t get comfortable. I just came back from working with him. Or like just going to Carolina, playing him music and going over sh-t. He always reminds me, “Don’t get comfortable. Work like you ain’t got nothing because there’s somebody out there trying to take your spot.” So for me, it’s about keeping that work ethic strong, no matter what place you’re at.
Gilmore: How to make good beats. How to be upstanding, honest, and honorable. And how to be patient. I’ve never met anyone as patient as him. It’s so much, but I think it’s more so on the personal side. Musically, you know, I’m the musician, but I didn’t know how to make beats as well as I do now. That comes from watching Cole.
Honestly, we’ve all gotten to see Cole make a transformation as a man, and we’re all learning from that sh-t. That’s what makes our group so tight. We’re really connected energetically and spiritually. Regardless if it’s Cozz, who’s 23, or me who’s 32, we are all on the same wave, the same energetic connection. It’s really strong between us.
So I learn from Cole how to deal with fans, record labels, and how to deal with people saying your music is boring. We get to see his sh-t like a fishbowl. We all learn everything from Cole, and he learns from us too.
How Does Having A Roster Of Artists From Different Regions Impact Dreamville?
Bas: Musically, it’s dope because everyone has their own lane. We share a lot of inspirations and influences. But then everyone, due to where they’re from and their own upbringing, has their own things that they’re inspired by. That comes out when everyone is creating. So I think that panned out well.
You hear the West Coast in Cozz. You hear the Carolina guy that went to school in New York in Cole. You really see these experiences play out. You hear Chicago in Omen, in the stories he tells. For me, growing up in New York and with an international background, it’s a lot of diversity that I get to source information from.
At the end of the day, one thing we all share is trying to tell relatable, real-life stories. In order to do that effectively, you have to go through them, you have to know people that are going through them, and you have to be able to tell those stories.
Cozz: I feel like it expands your horizons. We’re all from different places, so you learn stuff that they learned from where they’re from and how people rock over there. It’s several different stories that you can get from people close to us. We’re always learning new stuff from each other.
I never left L.A. before I got signed. I never traveled. So for me, that’s a big deal. I have friends now from different parts of the state and the country. It’s dope. You learn a lot. It keeps you working.
Gilmore: The good thing about it is that we can learn from different things. Groups that come along – they’ll all be from the same place. They’ll all have the same attitudes about life. In my opinion, these things are shaped by where you live and how you come up.
The thing about Dreamville is it makes us more relatable and universal as we keep going. The fact that we are so diverse and from different walks of life, we can all come together and share in those experiences. It’s really like the idea of America. A culture that’s made of several different cultures coming together.
Do You Have Any New Projects In The Works?
Bas: I’m working on a few projects. I don’t know how much I can divulge, but I’m for sure back to work. I think, this year, you’re going to get a lot of material from Dreamville as a camp. We’re all busy working on our own stuff and working on music together. We just try to keep progressing and take the Dreamville brand to another level. To do that, you have to put that music out.
Cozz: I’m dropping an album, hopefully by the springtime. I don’t have a date, but I’m working on my album and it’s almost done. That’s like my first official album. I know I dropped Cozz and Effect a couple of years ago, but I didn’t really consider it “the album.” I didn’t go into it thinking I was making an album. I was just making music at that time. So this is like my first official album. I have a title, but I’m not trying to put it out right now.
Gilmore: I actually have two projects. I have one project coming out that I’m singing on. There’s another project that I’m working on. I’m writing that album right now. But my sophomore album is already done. I’m just waiting for the right time to put that out. The next project I’m coming with is real soulful. It’s real reminiscent of D’Angelo. But the new sh-t that I’m working on now is 80’s Pop, but it’s not just “electronic-dance 80’s.” It’s more so the R&B and Funk music of the 80’s era.
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Stream Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers and Revenge of the Dreamers II below.