Cheers To The Dreamers
J.I.D, Ari Lennox, and Bas Do It Up In Dublin For The Holidays
Words by Shenequa Golding
On a mild winter day in Dublin, Ireland, Dreamville’s J.I.D, Bas, and Ari Lennox are seated on bar stools in the heart of the city. After getting a quick lesson from a local mixologist on the fine art of making the perfect whiskey sour, they raise their glasses and clink them together in celebration. “To our future children,” Ari jokes before each artist takes a sip of their custom Jameson Black Barrel concoctions. A moment later, foam mustaches garnish the trio’s upper lips, which sparks another round of genuine laughter.
Despite being labelmates who actually enjoy each other’s company, the Dreamville collective don’t often get a chance to be in the same place at the same time. This intimate moment was actually made possible by Jameson Black Barrel, who brought J.I.D, Bas, and Ari to the brand’s Dublin-based distillery for a mix of business (and by “business” we mean whiskey tasting and cocktail making) and pleasure. Getting the schedules of three extremely busy entertainers to align is typically impossible, but Black Barrel is a product that tends to bring people together and this Dreamville holiday reunion is just another prime example.
The impromptu trip also literally set the stage for a once-in-a-lifetime performance the night prior. Already in Europe for his “Catch Me If You Can” tour, J.I.D was able to surprise fans during his show at Dublin’s Olympia Theater by bringing out Bas and Ari as special guests. The already hyped crowd not only got to see an amazing show, but also were the first to experience J.I.D and Ari perform “Broke” live. This musical moment was all made possible by Black Barrel.
“It’s great when you get to perform outside of your backyard, outside of the States,” says J.I.D. “It felt like we were home. It was a warm crowd and a full circle moment.”
The camaraderie shared wasn’t artificial showmanship for fans, or a manufactured moment to elicit more applause from ticket holders. What was demonstrated on stage was just as authentic as the laughs exchanged between the trio throughout their day off in Dublin.
While it was Black Barrel’s idea to bring the group together for the holidays, it was J.I.D who suggested the reunion take place in Ireland to tour Jameson’s 13,000-square-foot grounds and learn the history of the thrice distilled Irish whiskey. “I’ve been drinking Jameson for a while and I’ve been to the distillery [in Dublin] before,” J.I.D explains. “I’m glad we got to do it out here because it just makes sense. Black folks in Dublin? You can’t beat it.”
Drink of Choice: Jameson Black Barrel with ginger beer and two limes
As the self-proclaimed “uncle” of the group, Abbas “Bas” Hammad demonstrates a bit more concentration than Ari and J.I.D. With his lush prophet’s beard and black sunglasses, the Parisian-born, Jamaica, Queens-raised rapper impressed Jameson bartenders with his uncanny ability to recount the steps of making a whiskey sour moments after just learning the intricate recipe. Afterwards, J.I.D jokingly dubbed him “Black Barrel Bas.”
Bas remained even-keeled throughout the busy day, despite having traveled all the way from L.A. to Dublin—plus performing last night—less than 24 hours ago. Complex chatted with the 32-year-old about reconnecting with Ari and J.I.D across the globe, holidays in Sudan, and how Black Barrel came to be an integral part of his signature drink.
Your family is from the Sudan. How do you guys celebrate the holiday back home?
Bas: I have a large extended family all over the world. I have cousins that are based in the Emirates and scattered all throughout Europe. The holidays are when everyone goes back home and we all get to link. It's really crucial to tap into our history, our traditions, what makes us us, regardless of the places we all immigrated to. It's very grounding to come back for the holidays. It's just a special time of year for the whole family.
In terms of your Dreamville family, how often are you guys actually together in the same place?
Bas: It's a blessing that everyone's garnered their own success, but most times we're in completely different corners of the earth. [Black Barrel] bringing us to Dublin is so cool. I don't think me, J.I.D, and Ari have ever shared a stage the way we did last night.
What do you appreciate most about having that moment because of Black Barrel?
Bas: It's when business and pleasure really match. It's a perfect linkup. I literally got off tour the day before I flew here. It's always dope to see Ari's tour, and to see what J.I.D’s doing on tour. When we all came up together from very humble beginnings and to see their star just burning brighter and seeing the crowd’s reception... You feel pride. You feel happy for them. They're such deserving people.
How does it feel knowing you guys made a special moment even more special for the audience?
Bas: Oh, yeah. They were losing their minds, man. You might expect to see [surprise guests] in New York or L.A. or London or any other major market where an artist tries to pull out the favors. Black Barrel made it happen for Dublin.
Your drink of choice is Jameson with ginger beer and two limes. How did that become your go-to cocktail?
Bas: Man, that's one of the OGs. It used to be Jameson and ginger ale and then I got a little more refined and it became ginger beer. It's got a little more kick to it.
Drink of Choice: Whiskey Sour
There’s an undeniable duality to Ari Lennox. On one hand, the 28-year-old Washington, D.C. native birthed the soulful Shea Butter; an album which speaks directly to women who can celebrate the pride of a new apartment and bemoan the ups and downs of dating in the digital age. Yet, Ari, born Courtney Salter, can also walk into a room and evoke a regality befitting of the musical legends she admires.
“Ari's the queen,” Bas says, flatly. “She's the soul-stress.”
After a full day of whiskey tasting, photo taking, and literal laughing out loud with her Dreamville fam, the chanteuse was just as bright eyed at the start of the day as she was at the end. Here, Ari opens up about her band of brothers and how Black Barrel made the tight-knit group even closer.
As the only woman on Dreamville how does it feel to have so many brothers?
Ari: Oh, my God, it feels so cool. They give me advice, they protect me, they love me, they understand me… It’s a beautiful, great family. I love it. I always felt like maybe I would be too much for any other label or situation, but they just embraced me easily.
You've collaborated, obviously, with your Dreamville family. How does collaboration inspire you as a musician?
Ari: To see how J.I.D can create so fast that definitely encourages me to want to create just as fast or at least be half as productive as him because he’s always in the studio. J.I.D has always been goals on the stage, off the stage, and in the studio. The work that everyone puts into their harmonies, their lyrics, just the quality, everything informs me as an artist.
You flew into Dublin after your Switzerland show for this Black Barrel experience, but as an added bonus you and J.I.D got to perform your record “Broke” for the first time. How does it feel that your music is known globally?
Ari: It makes me feel good because honestly I was scared that J.I.D's fans wouldn't understand, like, "Who is this chocolate [girl] on stage singing?" Because “Broke” is more of an R&B vibe, but it’s still hip-hop. Dublin is not on my tour, so this was a blessing that Black Barrel made this happen, and I got to sing at J.I.D’s show.
What’s the most difficult part about being away from loved ones during the holiday?
Ari: I think of my nephew a lot and I pray that he doesn't think I intentionally want to be away. I would love to be around him, but I'm still in grind mode and I want to get my career, studio, tour and all that together. I want to be an involved aunt. I really love him, so we'll see what happens, but for Christmas I want to fly [my family] out to L.A. I know that's maybe wack to somebody, but I want to take them to Universal Studios.
What do you enjoy most about the holiday season?
Ari: Family and snow. I prefer to be in a snowy environment. Winter wonderland all the way. I love the cold because I feel like it's so easy to have sun, so there's something about the snow that's really beautiful.
Drink of Choice: Jameson Neat
As the self-proclaimed firestarter within the Dreamville family, Destin “J.I.D” Route can also be blamed for all the LOLs shared during the Black Barrel experience. Whether it be a playful rise of an eyebrow or a mischievous smile, J.I.D intentionally adds levity at every turn. He also credits himself with bringing what was originally a stateside shoot overseas.
“It was literally my idea,” he says. “I was like, ‘Let's do it in Dublin. This will make sense for the world.’”
Underneath J.I.D’s vitality, and humor, however, is a man who says silent prayers before every meal and is also wickedly observant. The East Atlanta native admits he learned valuable life lessons watching his seven older siblings make mistakes. Enjoying some fruit before the start of the day, J.I.D spoke in length about his family—both biological and musical—and what the holidays mean to him.
What do you look forward to most during the holidays?
J.I.D: Just fellowship with my family because I've been on the road for the last four years, so seeing my family is the No. 1 highlight. Then, just being able to eat good food because home cooked meals are like a rare thing these days. I enjoy that 1,000%. Then being around my stomping ground. I like being in my house. I like creating in my crib. I want to do my next album at my house so I can have those feels. Being there just inspires me because I'm in my backyard and I can just... not relax but I can just dial it back a little bit.
What’s your favorite holiday memory?
J.I.D: I'm a holiday baby. My mama's birthday is on Christmas, my birthday is on Halloween, so around the holidays, it’s all about her. We just really make sure we're taking care of my mom. My granny passed this year and she used to be the matriarch for the family. She would drive down, bring the food, and coordinate everything, so it's going to be a little different this year. It's going to be bittersweet, but at the same time, it's always good being with family.
What have you learned from extended family members like Ari and Bas?
J.I.D: Even when I first met them and seen their talents, their work ethic, made me feel like I can go harder. It showed me I can go harder. When Bas was signed before me I was like, “I see you killer.” He been there you know what I'm saying? Been doing these songs. Super-inspiring and it wasn't even because it was a dream. It was like, “These are genuine artists.”
What was it like for you sharing the stage with Ari and performing “Broke” together for the first time ever because of this Black Barrel experience?
J.I.D: I was so excited I messed up some of the words, but everybody was just enjoying the moment and didn't seem to notice. It was just like, “This is a moment right here. I don't care what happens as long as we get through this moment.”
Overall, what were your thoughts on this whole Dublin experience and getting to make your own Black Barrel cocktails?
J.I.D: I already drink Jameson, but I like it more now because now I get why certain things are being done. This is the first time I got to see the process of some of these spirits being created and I got to make my own. I thought it was cool and I'll be able to tell people about it and give them other facts about it.
What did you enjoy most?
J.I.D: It was just tight being able to do this with my Dreamville family and going through the whole process. It's around holiday time so this was a family feel. It was just a bit of [the vibes] I'm going to get when I go back to the crib for Christmas. And then [Jameson] being something that we support and indulge in, it just felt good.