The public response to the song was swift and unpleasant for Bassett.
"I would see TikToks with like 50 million views and 10 million likes saying, 'If I ever see that kid on the street, I'm going to f**king kill him.' It's hard to see that and then be living in New York and walking down the street," he says, before revealing the changes he's made in his life amid the scrutiny.
"I got a protector screen on my phone so people can't look at it when I'm at a coffee shop. There are certain people who I can't hang out with in public because they're too loud," he says. "... I feel like a lot of this last year people haven't seen me as a human being."
Bassett tells the magazine that he's tried to talk to Rodrigo in the aftermath, but she "hasn't spoken to me since 'Drivers License' came out."
Bassett's latest quotes about Rodrigo contradict what he told ET in March, as he said that he and his co-star laughed off the drama surrounding the song. "Olivia's amazing," he said at the time. "We were filming the season throughout everything going on, and all is well. And we finished strong, and it was really great."
Now, though, Bassett tells GQ that he has "a right to stand up for myself." The way he's doing that is with three new songs -- "Crisis," "Secret," and "Set Me Free" -- all of which seem to give his take on his and Rodrigo's reported split.
"I'm glad that it's taken this long [to release the songs]," he says of the tracks, which were written six months ago. "I finally found the courage to speak up for myself."
In "Crisis," Bassett sings, "Half the s**t you're sayin' is only half true / You're messin' with my life as a career move / I can't help but wonder why you won't make it end / Guess you would never dare / You would never dare to wastе a crisis."
Bassett says the track is about "all the crazy PR over the year," noting that in the wake of the "Drivers License" "media storm" his record label wanted to take advantage of the moment.
"It sort of felt like a losing battle," he says. "… If I try and defend myself in any way, it just felt impossible."
"People don't realize how long ago that was," Bassett adds, seemingly referencing his and Rodrigo's rumored split. "It's not as recent as it seems. I'm a completely different person now... I’m not here to expose people. It was eating me alive, and I couldn’t keep it in anymore."
Now, Bassett says, love is the last thing on his mind.
"I’m not [ready to fall in love] at the moment. Ultimately, being in a relationship is a responsibility. I don't know if I'm ready for that," he says. "I've only had three [relationships], despite what it seems. [My dating life is] non-existent... I think that's something that's been good about this last little bit: I’m good on my own. I don’t need somebody else."