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My blog is my space to highlight academic work outside of my formal publications. Posts vary from short essays to album reviews to exemplary student work to small sample-digs that I use as warm-ups for my courses. This blog also contains the burgeoning archive of artist interviews that I am collecting for my dissertation, "Writing in the Break."

  • Tyler Bunzey

New Music Friday: Bas "Tribe" ft. J. Cole

On Fridays my classes look at new music, and we talk about our opinion of it and why we think we like or dislike it. 

The artists:

Bas is a French American rapper born in Paris to Sudanese parents. Bas has three full studio albums and a mix tape and has been collaborating with J. Cole since 2013. His newest studio album Milky Way was released today, August 24th.

J. Cole is a North Carolina rapper from Fayetteville who has released one mixtape and four studio albums. J. Cole's later work, particularly 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014) and K.O.D. (2018) has received significant critical attention for its poignant commentary on the hip-hop industry, mental health in black communities, and drug use. J. Cole also hosts a music festival in NC and has produced multiple films to accompany his music.

My students overwhelmingly liked the track. They found it to have a good vibe, to be quite mellow, and to be sonically versatile--it fits in a variety of contexts (doing homework, driving, in a bar, etc.). They noticed that it was quite poppy, especially the hook, and felt that the brightness of the track put them in a good mood. One student found the track a bit monotonous because of degree of lyrical and rhythmic repetition, and another critiqued J Cole for reusing some lyrics from his other work. Otherwise, students really vibed with Bas and Cole.

I agree with my students. The poppy hook, the repetition, and the sonic brightness of the track makes it a compelling summer jam. I particularly like the layering of rhythms--the Afro-Carribean drum patterns with one pattern in the beginning, the trap drums that come in the verses and chorus with another, and the lyrical dexterity of Bas and J. Cole adding another rhythm on top of the other sequences. The two instrumental rhythmic sequences--the drums in the beginning and the trap drums in the middle--play in tension with one another and create a slight rhythmic slippage that play above and beyond one another. Bas and Cole's rhymes play with each of the other rhythms and come in and out of the different patterns, layering on top of the sonic tension already present. The result is a track that is mellow, funky, and absolutely charming.

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