With his proper debut album out in 4 days, there are a few things Joey Bada$$ wants to get off his chest

Joey Bada$$ has pretty much come full circle. When he released his first project, 1999, in 2012, people drew comparisons between Bada$$ and 1994 Nas, and before you jump out of your chair, they made perfect sense. Here was a kid rocking over boom-bap beats that most people thought couldn’t be used effectively in the modern-day soundscape, speaking from the vantage point of a 16-year old kid spending his time in high school, and hanging with his friends on the street doing his best to stay away from the ills and vices that claim the freedom and lives of so many young black Americans. Sound familiar? Joey will tell you, after that day, his life changed. Not only was he well on his way to becoming a full-blown rap star, but Hip-Hop took him from the lunch table at Edward R. Murrow High School and placed him at the forefront of the ‘bring real rap back’ movement. If it sounds like a heavy burden to place on a young teenager still figuring out what he wants to be in this world, it was, but if you ask Joey, it didn’t hurt him in the slightest. Fast-forward to 2015, Joey’s, proper debut album, B4.DA.$$, is about to hit the streets, and the very messages about politics, the media, crooked government agendas and the rap content the mainstream media is so eager to promote that had critics calling Joey headstrong and misguided in Joey’s early years are what publications and late show anchors are begging for more of in 2015. We talked to Joey a couple days ago in detail about some of these topics, and before you drop everything this afternoon and get into whatever you’re getting into this weekend, take a few minutes and peek into the mind of one of Hip-Hop’s most promising visionaries. I started by asking Joey what inspired the 90’s vibe of his early music, and he said growing up, Jay Z, Biggie and Tupac is what he heard being played around the house when he was younger, and he’d felt that in the 2010’s, Hip-Hop’s gold standard had diminished significantly.

So you guys didn’t like what you guys were seeing and you guys basically set out to be the change.
Exactly…

Moving forward to 2015, what would you say that the current state of Hip-Hop? You remember when Nas said Hip-Hop Is Dead in 2006 right? And I think what he was trying to get at was not that it was a dying art form, but the original pillars of Hip-Hop were no longer seen in the current things that were being portrayed in the mainstream. So I guess 9 years later, is that still something that you see dominating, or do you see a shift? Because in my opinion, I sense a shift. I wouldn’t say that we are exactly where we need to be, but I wouldn’t say we are exactly where we were when Nas said that either.
I agree. I agree 100% with you. I think there’s been a shift. I definitely think there was a shift. There’s been a shift especially with new artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole coming in over the last couple of years. With them being able to hit mainstream charts as well, that really shows the shift.

I think Hip-Hop, honestly, needs balance. I don’t think anybody would disagree with that.
Yeah, if anybody disagrees with that then I don’t know…

So for every Joey Badass, in my opinion, it’s okay to have, say, a Tyga. For every Kirk Knight, you’re going to have, say, a Snootie Wild. But what was it about the song “Coco” that caused you to say what you said on Twitter?
I mean, that comes from…like you said, we need a balance. Sh*t like that….okay, there has been a shift, but there is still an imbalance in the game. We need more balance; there’s still an imbalance. And the imbalance comes from the influx of songs like that, of that criteria. To me, what that represents is… you know when you got the trendiest song on the radio, where you can only think about the youth…you can only think about the youth, of the younger generation. You got all of these kids over here singing that shit. And that’s my biggest concern. I feel like artists need to be more mindful especially, like especially with Busta Rhymes support. Busta Rhymes is my big homie, I mean no disrespect when I say this, I’m just speaking my mind, but especially with his support in it, he gives it the path, be gives it the path that it needs to get to wherever it is and wherever it needs to be. My biggest concern is that artists need to be responsible for who’s really listening because when it becomes super mainstream, it’s all of the kids’ heads, all of their mouths. They are going around there singing that sh*t. Is that what we really want to affect their minds with? Do we really want to keep them that low? These are the things that I think about.

And then things like this Bobby Shmurda arrest happen…
I mean, all of that. What music is, what a lot of people don’t understand–and maybe they do understand it–music has a psychological effect. No matter what you listen to, it’s going to, in some way shape or form, affect your life psychologically. It’s very important that there is a balance to it. Because if that’s all that they’re hearing, that’s all that they’re really going to be following. These kids ain’t listening to their teachers , they ain’t listening in school, they are listening to these rappers and sh*t. These are their role models, these are their leaders, these are their teachers if you will. So you got to really be mindful of what we feeding to them. But here’s the thing that the government knows. The government knows that. So ever since shit started happening in this rap game with the whole drill thing, everything. With the whole influx of the whole shoot em up, bang bang in rap, that’s been mirrored in the streets. The streets have been getting hotter because of the music. It’s been flaming the streets over here. It’s been a government plan…they haven’t labeled it, they didn’t know it was happening. Why? Because they connected it with these penitentiaries. They have just been endorsing that shit. I can go on and on about this shit. It is what it is.

I mean, you’re making fair points. That’s why Alicia Keys spoke out about gangster rap a couple of years ago. She basically said that the federal government is funding gangster rap institutions so that black people could keep killing each other off.
And I agree with her 120% because that’s exactly what’s happening. Me as an artist in the music industry, and now I’m experiencing this sh*t firsthand. I understand this sh*t. I understand why NWA won the Grammy that year because that forever changed Hip-Hop. After that, everybody thought that they had to do gangster rap to succeed. And that’s what they are doing. They are giving the gangster rap the best pass. That’s what succeeds, that’s what they want to keep you at.

So what would you say to somebody like YG. He’s on our current cover and he was in the office so we were having a conversation, and I asked him. Every time I’ve talked to him, he always say that he loves to see his homies doing better, or his family doing better, or his friends in the penitentiary come out and get a fair trial. Then I asked him, ‘do you think your music affects their lifestyle?’ Because any time a confrontation comes up or a problem comes up in his life or his family’s life, his automatic response to it, according to his music, is with violence. And that’s a message that pretty much trended throughout the industry. So the same people who were trying to better themselves and better their neighborhoods or better their families, a lot of the times these are the people who have the most violent messages in their music. My question to you is, how do you expect someone like YG, who hasn’t really known anything else, to then make the transition into, say, a “Christ Conscious?”
The thing is that you can’t…at the end of the day, people know where they are from. I’m from the same streets, like Bobby Shmurda, I’m from the same streets as Bobby Shmurda, really the same neighborhood. I remember when my homie S***** L** was killed, like, I was never associated with that, but I was in the hood for that. It was the talk of the hood like S***** L** rest in peace. I’ve seen all of this sh*t firsthand and some people, like some of the youth, they really don’t have a choice. At least that’s how they feel. It’s really like that. They don’t have a posse. What it is, is a psychological system. They lock the pops away, then the mother is trapped, so then now the kids have to be fathered by the streets. It’s all a consecutive cycle, and that’s how it goes, it’s all in a loop. So these kids, they really don’t have a choice. To somebody like that, the only thing I can really say is that once you do make it out, my only words of advice or encouragement is to make sure you make that shift as well, because you are shifting environments so make that environment, with the shift, make it in your music as well. If you are going to make it out–I can’t control anyone, this is just my opinion–I bump with YG’s album, I support that sh*t. There are some times when that’s the only thing I want to listen to, I just wanna be chillin’ and sh*t, partying and just kicking it with the homies, actin’ a fool. Like you said there’s the balance right there, but as far as music goes after a point, you can start shifting your message a little bit like ‘aight now you help these brothers that were like you in these positions and help them get themselves out,’ which I’m not saying that he’s not, because I believe that he is, but I’m talking about when it comes to the music, because that’s the best way you could help somebody, with what you’re telling them.

Now I guess the other side of this is the media now, there are different publications, whether it’s a website or a magazine, and the common criticism of some of these outlets is that they’re appropriating Hip-Hop to help further their agenda, whatever their agenda is. So for example–not saying this is bad or good, just an example. Noisey has this new “Atlanta” series that they’re doing, very similar to the “Chi-raq” series that they did, and they’re pretty much showcasing the super gritty, trap-house element of Atlanta Hip-Hop. They put out the first episode today, and it’s going to feature everyone from Metro Boomin to Migos to 2chainz to OG Maco, whatever the case might be. With “Chi-raq” they did the same thing, I’m sure you’ve heard of it.. They went to Lamron with Lil Dirk and Keef and all of those guys. In my opinion, they’re focusing their efforts too heavily on the most violent and vile sections of Hip-Hop.
I’ll tell you why. Everything in the media is ratings, they know that’s the most invigorating and captivating sh*t that people want to see, especially in this Worldstar Hip-Hop era. Whenever you go on you just see the biggest f**kery you’ve ever seen in your life and they understand that so now they’re trying to capitalize off of this effect. They don’t ever come to me and be like ‘yo Joey take us around your hood and show us the way you got out of here and how you made it out here positively.’ They’ll never do that sh*t because it won’t give them the best ratings. What people wanna see is the same sh*t that they’re psychologically affected by, the same sh*t that they listen to from guys in their positions. They’e just the media so they’re just going to capitalize off that sh*t. They just want the ratings, they’re going to go where the views is gonna be at. They know everybody wanna see how the Chiraq n***** is living and now with this new Atlanta thing, they know everybody wanna see that trap house sh*t. They know what they’re doing, them n***** is smart. there’s still a good side to it because you still got these people in these really bad places that now get to tell their story, get to explain, which is really good.

At the same time there are tons of inner city kids doing tons of positive things that don’t get to tell their story.
That’s what I’m saying, they’re in Atlanta why don’t they interview Raury? Why don’t they tell Raury’s story? I think that would be really interesting. Why don’t they tell his? He’s one of music’s rising stars right now, one of the best in my opinion, why don’t they tell his?

Why were you so taken aback by Fader‘s coverage of Capital Steez?
Because it was half-truth, half-lies, also the way that they did it. They hired a freelancer and basically what this freelancer did, when he came and interviewed the whole family, when he came to interview all of the “Pros,” he lied. He said he was doing a story on Pro Era, not Capital Steez so basically he got everybody comfortable, talking about themselves and how Pro Era started and then started sneaking in the Steez sh*t and when he was interviewing me in particular, I peeped that sh*t. I peeped what he was trying to do, he was trying to infiltrate my mind and get basically the whole story and I caught him in his tracks and said ‘hold up yo, this is not anything I’m comfortable sharing with anyone on the exterior, like this is something that’s really close to my heart.’ The way you’re just trying to come in here and finagle this sh*t, I don’t respect that. First of all homie, you’re this interviewer who’s trying to be nice to my face, but homie you represent the media. You’re not my friend at all. So I caught him right in his tracks right there, he didn’t get nothing from my story, that’s why they’re half-truths, he didn’t get my side of the sh*t at all because I wasn’t f****** with him. I peeped what he was trying to do, but at that time he already went to everybody else. That’s why I don’t f*** with Fader because I went up to Fader and I was like ‘why would you get some freelancer who don’t even work for y’all to get this bogus ass story?’ Look there it goes again the ratings, ratings ratings. Everybody wants to know about this sh*t, ratings. Oh they’re gonna be first with this story, that’s all they give a f*** about and I don’t respect them. Anytime they post my sh*t, I don’t respect it. I don’t see this genuine love, I don’t. F*ck Fader I don’t ever read them n*****, ever.

Is that the same publication that used the picture of Vince Staples instead of you?
No, that was Spin magazine.

That was hilarious.
I don’t got beef with Spin. They just got to fire whoever did that sh*t [laughs]. Yo, at this other show I did. This was the all-time funniest. For my picture where it said ‘Joey Badass’ they put a picture of Buckshot Shorty, that was the all-time funniest sh*t.

Be sure to check for Part 2 of our interview with Joey Bada$$ on Monday, January 19.