It’s hard to describe Steven Baumgardner, aka Basik Lee, as an artist. He’s an emcee, DJ, poet and singer/songwriter that raps, plays classical guitar, beatboxes and dances. If you had to check a box that described his music and abilities, the most accurate course of action would be to check “other” and write in “renaissance man,” because he can essentially do it all.
Baumgardner came to Savannah from New Jersey two decades ago to study computer art at the Savannah College of Art and Design, but that’s another story. For the last 17 years, he’s been dominating the city’s hip-hop and general music scene. For a large part of those years, he was a core member of the Savannah hip-hop group and record label Dope Sandwich Productions, along with Kedrick Mack — Dope KNife, Max Lipson — Miggs Son Daddy, and others. They opened for big, national acts and really put Savannah on the map in terms of the hip-hop scene.
Today, Baumgardner still represents Dope Sandwich and remains tight with the crew, but his focus is more on Drop Records, another label he started with some friends a little over two years ago.
“My first project I released at the beginning of 2020 was called ‘7,’” Baumgardner said. “It was a seven-song concept album on vinyl and digital with over 20 features.”
The album was so heavily collaborated, it was like an ode to Savannah’s hip-hop and art scene. The physical album even came with seven Tarot cards designed by local artist Lauren Schwind, who also designed the cover art.
“It was a very ambitious project to say the least, but I’m very happy with how it came out,” Baumgardner said.
More recently, Baumgardner has kept himself busy through the pandemic.
“The funny thing is this pandemic has given me the time to actually sit down and get my thoughts out in music,” he said. “The break from constantly gigging has opened up time to rebuild and restart some of the projects that I never had time to sit with before and time to come up with new ideas.”
Some of those recent projects include a song written mid-pandemic called “Broken Paradise,” and a 4/20 release of the five-song EP entitled “Yup . . . weed,” that features local rappers Signature, Scripcha, and Meehi the Beast, along with local production from Halftyme Humble, Timothy Nasir, Tough Junkie out of Jacksonville, Florida, and Nick Stein from Atlanta.
“I’m sure by the name you can guess what it’s about,” Baumgardner jested.
Like a true renaissance man, Baumgardner continues to diversify his audiences with ongoing projects and his dynamic abilities. Future releases in the works include a solo hip-hop album with production by Tough Junkie, an album with his band Ambrose — oh yeah, he’s in a band, too — and a few other projects that he’s keeping under wraps
Until then, you can listen to new and old releases on his Bandcamp page at basiklee.bandcamp.com and keep up with his plethora of live performances on his Facebook page at facebook.com/Mr.basiklee.