04: Bars and Beats: Inside the Mind of Basboi

Basboi, a dynamic and multifaceted artist, refuses to be confined to a single label. While widely recognized as a rapper, he emphasizes that his profession encompasses much more. "My profession is being Basboi, not a rapper. I do rap though," he states. Basboi is a creative force, engaging in music production, clothing design, motorbike customization, drawing, creative direction, copywriting, podcast hosting, and radio announcing. He pursues these diverse interests both for fun and as a means of livelihood.

Basboi's initial attraction to rap, rather than hip-hop as a whole, can be traced back to his admiration for Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. "I was always so fascinated by the way Anthony Kiedis sings a lot of words so fast yet so smooth and melodic," he recalls. Growing up in Medan from 1997 to 2013, Basboi was surrounded by a vibrant hip-hop culture, making it almost inevitable to have peers involved in rap, beat-making, and recording. Despite being more active in the Hardcore/Punk scene during high school, his move to Jatinangor for college in 2014 rekindled his interest in hip-hop, influenced by the burgeoning sneaker culture and local acts like Cul De Sac and Onar.

By 2015, Basboi's urge to create music became overwhelming. "I needed to scratch it badly," he says, leading him to consider rapping as a solo endeavor. This decision marked the beginning of his music career, starting with his first song on Soundcloud and frequent trips to Jakarta and Bandung to perform and network. "Shook some hands, recorded songs, performed for free and was underpaid for a couple years. The rest is history," he adds.

Basboi's creative process is rooted in keen observation and a desire to assimilate local values with global influences. He believes inspiration is omnipresent, stating, "I think most Indonesian youth seek inspiration out of a certain form/platform, when in fact inspiration is actually everywhere." His goal is to create art that provokes strong reactions, striving for his work to be "undeniable." For Basboi, being good is merely a standard, not a distinction.

Reflecting on the evolution of hip-hop, Basboi acknowledges its significant growth and adaptability. He notes, "Hip-hop is formatless. Sample based. A recycle of things. It lies not in the sound, visual, or any format. It lies on the context." This adaptability has allowed hip-hop to influence various aspects of pop culture in Indonesia, particularly fashion and visual arts. However, he observes that the music itself remains somewhat constrained within traditional formats. Basboi aspires to break these boundaries and encourage other artists to embrace evolution. "Hip-hop is the new rock and roll. It's the new pop," he asserts, emphasizing the importance of embracing novelty and change.

Collaboration is a cornerstone of Basboi's creative journey. From working with Kamga on the gospel-inspired "Bismillah'' to creating a 2000s bop with Andien, each collaboration is memorable and enriching. "Collaboration is life," he declares, highlighting how different perspectives can complement and complete a project. Basboi's extensive collaborative efforts also extend to various brands, resulting in unique creations like a Vespa, socks, watches, clothes, and loafers.

The COVID-19 pandemic marked a significant turning point in Basboi's career. "2020, I had no money. 2019 had some from gigs, but not so much," he shares. This period of financial hardship and uncertainty prompted him to adopt a more disciplined approach to his career, treating it with the seriousness it deserves. This newfound discipline has been instrumental in his continued success.

Basboi's style and image naturally complement his music. He describes his approach to fashion as instinctive, wearing what he likes without overthinking it. "Both of them are also a manifesto of what I like," he explains, underscoring the authenticity that permeates his artistic expression.

Looking ahead, Basboi's primary goal is to sustain his career while maintaining the freedom to create music purely for the love of it. "I dreamt of making a living out of it. Now I dream to make a living that could make me do music just for the sake of doing it," he reflects.

For those aspiring to break into the music industry, Basboi offers sage advice: "The orientation should not be making 'raps'. But to make music. Rap is just a medium. Just like a canvas. It's what you paint on it that matters." He encourages upcoming artists to focus on the substance and creativity of their work rather than getting caught up in labels and formats.

In summary, Basboi's journey is a testament to the power of versatility, authenticity, and the relentless pursuit of creative expression. His story is an inspiration to artists across genres, demonstrating that true artistry transcends boundaries and thrives on evolution.

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