The last decade has seen a lot of producers, rappers and musicians start their career from the comfort of their own bedrooms – think 2019’s Rocking the Daisies headliner, Russ, ambient soul-hop singer and rapper, Frank Ocean, and of course the funk-flexing multi-instrumentalist, Tom Misch.
There’s a new kid on the block, and he’s the hottest, freshest new name on the UK R&B scene. Meet Cole Basta, known in tasteful musical circles by his stage moniker, Col3trane.
Mid-tour and en route his first visit to Egypt, Col3trane takes some time to talk about his rise from bedroom studio to international stage, thanks to his futuristic take on old-school R&B.
Named after the late and great American jazz saxophonist, John Coltrane, the first thing I point out is that he’s got incredibly large shoes to fill, “Yeah man. Very big shoes,” he humbly agrees.
He talks about some of his favourite musicians, R&B legend Usher and soul singer D’Angelo being two of his greatest obsessions, and suddenly the soulful elements in his music make sense. His musicality makes me wonder whether he can play any instruments, and it turns out that indeed he does dabble, “I play a bit of guitar, bass, keys, and drums… all like pretty average. I hope to fill those shoes in a different way.”
He’d only released three tracks on SoundCloud before he started generating a buzz, a feat in itself, so I wonder how he deals with his sudden sky-rocketing success, “I think my family are a big part of keeping me levelled, you know?”
There’s emotional maturity to his lyrics, but 20-year-old Col3trane sounds like a kid when he adds, “As much as sometimes I don’t want to listen and I think I know what’s best for me, having my family around [to help] me make these crazy decisions from when I was like a teenager really helped keep my feet on the ground.”
Personally it pisses me off when big shot rappers who can afford to tour with live bands perform with backtracks (yes Post Malone, I’m talking to you), something Col3trane completely agrees with, “I always make music and build off melody from the jump, so I think it’s only right to have that in my live show… I want to be supported by [live] music.”
He doesn’t realize how deeply he creeps into my heart as he continues, “Singing on top of a DJ is fun sometimes but there’s no spark in it, ‘cause you know exactly what’s gonna happen. I have my guys that travel with me everywhere, and we’re like a lil’ family. We write on the road, we jam a lot, we do a lot of dumb shit together, and it would be fucking weird to tour without them.”
Clearly Col3trane is big on family.
Col3trane tells me how natural it felt to write his 2017 debut album, Tsarina, “It’s funny, I think Tsarina was something that I had been waiting to make for 17 years. Like I had thought so much about it for my whole life and when I finally got into the studio to make it, it just came out.”
Two-and-a-half years of madness, as he describes his career so far, and his approach to writing is more focused, “I feel like now my approach to creating is a lot more considered. I know what I want to do now. I know what music I want to hear from myself and where I want to push myself, instead of just making shit and seeing what happens, you know?”
We talk collabs, one of his favourites being with Nicole Nodland, who directed his retro art-soaked video for “Penelope”. A legacy in her own right, Nodland is a fashion and celebrity photographer whose career really kicked off as Prince’s personal photographer, so I have to know more about this particular connection.
Excitedly he responds, “That’s my fucking G, you know I love Nicole. Working with her was amazing. I had never really shot a music video before, and we worked together so well. She made me feel real comfortable in expressing my ideas. Also, my mom is the biggest Prince fan in the world, so she kinda bugged out a bit.”
A career-defining moment for him was touring with pop princess, Dua Lipa, on her self-titled 2018 tour, to much bigger audiences than he was used to. He still can’t believe his luck, “Damn it was fucking nuts. I think the most surreal thing was that the crowd of like 15000 sang happy birthday to me in Birmingham… blew my mind. I’ll never forget that tour, man. And I’m forever grateful to Dua and her team for letting me slide.”
Before he goes I ask what he’s got planned for 2020 to which he coolly responds, “More tunes. More features. More videos. More shows. Very soon as well. We’re feeling good, we’re on a roll.”
What he didn’t say but what I’m most excited about it is that he’ll be heading to Cape Town in October to headline Rocking the Daisies.
Rocking the Daisies have also announced that American hip hop and R&B vocalist Ari Lennox, as well as American singer and rapper YBN Cordae will join their fire lineup.
But in celebrating their 15th anniversary, Daisies have taken things up yet another couple of notches, adding to the announcements a two-day event at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, with all of the same international headliners, including Stormzy.
Cape Town and Joburg, you’re in for a treat.
Check out the Cape Town event on Facebook for more info.
Check out the Johannesburg event on Facebook for more info.