Dreamville Records signee and J. Cole protégé Bas delivers his third studio album, continuing in his lane of making semi-melodic, laid back rap tracks. Bas is far from the most charismatic or original rapper in the world and it does seem like he takes a lot of inspiration from J. Cole at times, making Milky Way an inconsistent project with a few fun moments sprinkled in. The most engaging parts of the project come from Bas showcasing his unique vocals, his deep and raspy voice containing a built-in soulfulness. He doesn’t go for anything that really pushes the envelope here, definitely succeeding at the creation of some catchy, feel-good tracks but failing to deliver anything truly exciting.
The opening track “Icarus” sees Bas and Dreamville singer Ari Lennox exchanging some soulful vocal moments over a watery piano hip-hop beat before the trap percussion drops and Bas steps out of the shadows with an aggressive and prominent flow. He might sound more like Cole on this track than any other, his singing sounding like his detached and somber style while his rap delivery is somehow simultaneously very present and laidback at the same time, demonstrating a speedier technical flow but trailing his voice off at the end of sentences. Cole himself appears on the track “Tribe”, the first of two big-name features at the start of the tracklisting. The chill, summery vibe of the album continues with some lazy strummed acoustic guitars on the beat, and we really start to see some of Bas’ greatest strengths on the track. The beat produced by Childish Major and Cole is one of the greatest here as the hi-hats come in and knock harder than the rest – Bas delivers one of his fastest flows here and he actually sounds like he’s trying his hardest to impress. He plays off of Cole well, who might have mastered jumping into that beat drop with his best bars a little bit better than Bas does, but only a little.
The track “Boca Raton” with A$AP Ferg is what you might expect, a goofy, quotable hit song in the making. A lot of tracks here do stand out due to having a kind of worldly influence, instruments and percussion that we don’t often hear, and this track is no exception, with some shakers and clicks that tie into the Hispanic title. It’s one of the most unique tracks on the project, and Bas sells the track as soon as he immediately rhymes “Boca Raton” with “Roca Patron”. The track “Purge”, as well, has a great soulful vocal sample that really enhances Bas’ flow – it’s hard to listen to the track without a smile on your face, and I think that’s probably what Bas was going for most across this whole project. He really does have a great ear for both melodies and rhythm, and he knows where to shine with his fast-paced flow and where to let the sample take over here, endearingly singing along with it.
When so much of the tracklisting is still based on trap production, it’s starting to get harder to remain engaging for the duration of a full album without a degree of originality, when they sound disinterested on the track, or when it’s an artist who isn’t as naturally built for the style as a group like Migos. All of these things collide painfully on a track like “Front Desk”, where Bas spends the whole track singing over a pretty standard trap instrumental – it almost sounds like he hopped on the wrong trend here, his vocals seeming more like he was aiming for the popular tropical feel. At the end of the day there isn’t a lot about Bas’ style that is his own, sounding like he’s emulating the hit songs of the day or playing into the monolithic Dreamville sound that was started by Cole, and even when he comes hard on most of these tracks here it doesn’t make me want to pay attention to him as there are others I could turn to who deliver the same thing with more personality or charisma. I remembered almost nothing from the project when I went to review it on my second listen only a few days later.
The second half of the album features a lot of shorter tracks and an apparent lack of focus. Correy C delivers an out-of-key hook on not one but two tracks on “Fragrance” and “Infinity+2”, and I’m not sure why Bas didn’t just sing the hooks himself. “Sanufa” drops fully into the dancehall trend that just refuses to die, Bas putting less effort into his bars and opting for a repetitive hook that fails to catch my interest as the whole track is dumbed down by the same beat I’ve been hearing for the last 3 years.
Bas essentially meets expectations without exceeding them on Milky Way – I would have liked to see more of a degree of originality as he gets farther along in his career, an attempt to distinguish himself from the rest of the Dreamville pack as their second most popular member. There are definitely some highlights here, but it’s mostly inconsistent.
Favourite Tracks: Purge, Tribe, Boca Raton, Spaceships + Rockets
Least Favourite Track: Sanufa