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 last week 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. You can read Part 1 of our chat here, and enjoy the second and final installment below.
Shifting back to the music a little bit, I’ll never forget, I was in Brooklyn when you first came out. I live in Brooklyn, but I was hanging out downtown and I remember I used to follow the 2Dopeboyz feed on my phone so bad. They had written this profile on you right around the time 1999 came out and they had highlighted the song “Suspects,” the last song on the joint where all of y’all rap, and they were basically just talking about how much Hip-Hop needs you. It wasn’t solely you, but the essence you were bringing and the elements you were highlighting. They were basically saying that it is the most imperative thing that Hip-Hop needs to do right now, it needs to help bring that to the forefront. I remember from that day it seemed like everything was just snowballing for you. Obviously everything was jumping off at Cinematic Kirk was getting shine, Chuck, CJ, they were all getting shine and then there were rumors about the Jay-Z deal that obviously you didn’t take. It was super quick, like all of a sudden you were on this pedestal and everybody was kind of looking to you or guys like you, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, to kind of bring that feeling back. Now, do you think that might have hurt you a little bit? Like the fact that you were put at the forefront of this movement so quickly before you really got the time to get your artistic feet under you?
Not at all, I think it really strengthened me if anything. The only thing that hurt me–I wouldn’t even say it hurt me really–is me being so young. Like me being so young when all of this happened. You’re talking about a kid who never experienced life outside of school or sh*t. Right out of the gate before my senior year, I was already traveling over the country. Right after that sh*t started moving so fast to the point where I couldn’t keep up, I couldn’t keep track of certain sh*t anymore, so that’s probably the only thing that really affected me, was how fast life started moving. It was recently, probably 8 months ago when I really caught myself of this path like ‘yo I got myself now, I’ve collected myself.’ After all of this sh*t that’s been happening, with everything moving so fast, I got myself again, I’m no longer ahead of myself. I’m perfectly in the middle. It was really recently that I finally did that.
Do you feel like you have a responsibility to bring these experiences back to your neighborhood and also transplant the kids in your neighborhood–like get them out and off the block in Brooklyn?
Yea, but I embrace these things. I embraced it and it’s my work , this is my great work that I was put on this planet for you know, and I go full force to get these things accomplished. I feel solely responsible for my generation, for my youth and not that I have any sort of voice in everything; I want to shed light on them. It’s my job and that’s what my soul is telling me.
A lot of people won’t admit to that. There are a lot of people that have that same burden who should take on that responsibility but they’d rather get in where they fit in and make their money.
Well you see from the beginning, luckily for us it wasn’t about the money, it was about the brotherhood, the relationships, the message and the love, and we found a way to make money with that. We’re doing exactly what we want and succeeding in life
How did you guys get your hands on that picture, you know the White House is investigating that.
I don’t really think that I can talk about it. And its not really sketchy, its not my fault but it was a mutual friend, that’s all it was.
The irony was crazy because when I saw it I was talking to my boy and I was like ‘how is it that a rap group that’s infamous for not only rapping about the ills of the government, but also conspiracy theories, is found on the President’s daughter’s t-shirt. It’s kind of crazy, and it also speaks about where we’re at now with the internet.
Yeah, all I know is that my whole phone is tapped my whole crib is being watched [laughs]. I’m taking it easy right now.
With this album that’s coming out next week, everything that I’ve heard on it so far is good, honestly, really good. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Summer Knights. I thought 1999 was a great first step but with Summer Knights, I felt like you wanted to take it to that next level but you were kind of playing a tug of war with what you knew you could do and what you already did, and the Era compilation tape is good stuff and now this album. I feel like things are looking up for you musically with this LP.
Summer Knights for me was a weird time in my life because I lost my best friend during that time and a lot of the music reflected my emotions and I admit that I was going through dark shades and that’s what I can say. I love Summer Knights when I listen and I loved what I did with that project.
Steez has been covered by everybody high and low whether there’s a 100% truth to it, I want to hear from you on the eve of your album if there was one thing you think Steez would want people to keep in their heads, like a daily thought . What was the one thing that Steez lived by and what he would want all his people to know?
The one thing he wanted was for America as a whole to open up their minds. Stop shooting down what you don’t know, learn about sh*t, research, keep your third-eye open and that was the main thing he lived for. He was the most open-minded person that I knew, and that’s what he wanted to reflect on everybody–to see beyond the bigger picture.