Basik Lee, a staple of the Savannah hip-hop scene, reveals on his new album, “7,” not only his lyrical and flow prowess, but the fundamental bedrock of solid hip-hip that has built his reputation.
Conceived as his first concept album, Basik Lee (known at birth as Steven Baumgardner), stitches together seven tracks that explore the days of the week. Just beyond that base concept are songs that pulse with the sounds of his own streets, the indelible voices of his comrades in rap, and messages on everything from war and love, all built on a solid back beat of samples.
One of the co-founders of Savannah’s Dope Sandwich conglomerate, Basik Lee has been putting together his latest release for the past three years. An old friend helped spark the album’s idea when he delivered six unused beats. The seventh beat was an old one that had been floating around Dope Sandwich for a while. All seven tracks were produced by Blue Collar and Slim Jim, with mixing by Nick Stein, and will be released on the new Savannah-based label Drop Records.
“I had this beat that has been floating around Dope Sandwich for about five years that they worked on,” Basik Lee said. “That was so dope that we had a concept for, but never did. I was like I am going to keep that concept and put this in there. I was like, OK, I got seven songs, let me make an album called ‘7.’ I started researching the seven days of the week.”
Other than the concept, Basik Lee is approaching the release of the album in a brand new, perhaps revolutionary, manner that was inspired by rapper Tech N9ne. He’ll release the album at his Feb. 1 show, on two formats, vinyl and digital download. For the digital package, an envelope will contain the download card and seven tarot cards, each have incredible art work by Lauren Schwind and liner notes for the track. The vinyl edition will also include the tarot cards and a download card.
The new album will not appear on any streaming platforms. If you want to consume it, you have to pay for it. Just like your lunch.
Flanked by some of the best MC’s from the Savannah scene and beyond, including Dope KNife, Valore, Miggs Son, Seaport Zae, Meehi, Righteous the Poet, Soco Da Kajn, Sage Dubbski, Kymcci, Ondreanu, Sheik Gwallah, One Twenty, Riqo Suave, A’darius, Signature, Scripture, Smash Adams, Yazmin Calderon and Zone D, “7” ebbs and flows between a variety of voices that create a consistent onslaught of killer lyrics underlined by hyped-out beats which draw from a number of hip-hop influences.
In a world of mumble rap garbage, Basik Lee and his badass cohorts prove the true power of good hip-hop lies not in fancy hooks and danceable beats with three incoherent words spouted repeatedly, but in a foundation of solid lyrical content and a freedom of pure artistic expression, with a touch of tongue-in-cheek jabs.
The album is connected by the theme, but also by a narrative element from Shawntel Foster, who through spoken word essays connects themes to lyrics, adding a proverbial musical rest between rap lines forming a layered artistic dynamic that expands wonderfully on the listening experience.
“I looked up the seven days of the week,” Basik Lee said. “Days of the week are based on Roman and Pagan beliefs. I started bugging off that. Sunday is based off the sun, which is stupid and simple. I just went with that. Tuesday is based off the god of war. Moonlight is getting up at night to write.
"Tuesday is war. That is when everybody is in competition. That one features more younger rappers.
"Supreme is the big dogs. The four top dogs. Fifth song, ‘The Storm,’ is a comedy track. The view of people from outside of hip-hop. The concept came up in Dope Sandwich. We had the whole thing, it was going to be me, Knife, Zone D and Righteous the Poetry, treating it if hip-hop was a zombie apocalypse or Godzilla. Being like they’re coming. It’s a joke about hip-hop attacking the city.
"Venus is an apology to the music. All of this sh!t wasn’t needed. I haven’t been treating you right, I’ve been gassed on myself. The last song is really chill. Running back into my friends on the streets. Ends with Shantel saying, we’re back to one.”
Basik Lee has been running hip-hop night at The Jinx, every Tuesday, for 14 years now, making Savannah’s legendary rock ’n’ roll club the perfect spot for his release. He’ll have guest rappers coming through the night. Come through.