Interview with Joey Bada$$

Brooklyn born hip-hop artist Joey Bada$$ took some time out of Phase 3 of his World Domination Tour to visit our Melbourne headquarters. Joined by DJ and record producer Stakik Selektah and Pro Era MC and rapper Nyck Caution, Joey eased in for a chat.

Joey, who at just 20 years old, released his first studio album titled B4.DA.$$ (Before the Money), which has already left a mark on the world’s stage. Straight out of Brooklyn, Joey Bada$$ (real name Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott) was a cool little child. “I came up in Brooklyn New York, you know, my mum and dad raised me and I was a cool little child. I had the Caribbean vibes, Brooklyn kid, nice and cool parents” who as Joey continued, also had a strong appreciation for hip-hop.

From an early age, Joey was exposed to and had an interest in an eclectic range of influences and interests, from dancing, acting and drawing to anything in the arts. This is what lends him his authenticity, originality and artistic integrity. “I used to draw a lot when I was a kid too, you know, anything that’s of the arts, the performing arts, makes me feel free ’cause you know it is a way that I can express myself, even you know acting, theatre arts, and stuff like that… and from as far back as I can remember I‘ve always had a vision of being an independent artist, so yeah, it’s [his authenticity and originality] definitely something that I’ve been manifesting over the years.” Joey is attracted to what lets him express himself, and allows him to develop and test his personal freedom.

“Dance particularly has always been part of my life, it’s another form of expression, just you, expressing yourself. Dance has always made me feel free in that area, just like music.”

Self expression and its importance runs deep through Joey’s veins. His energy and way he expressed himself was paramount upon entering the fluoro space with rhyme and rhythm. Having been brought up in the birthplace of hip-hop, Joey’s views about the future of the art is like him, progressive.

“I feel like the future of hip-hop is going many places. As the years go by I feel like many more sub-genres of the art get created, ’cause you know its evolving so it just gets bigger and bigger,” mused Joey.

“Then there’s like two main sub-genres, and it’s kinda like hip-hop, like what you call true hip-hop and then what you call just rap. Yeah, so I feel like hip-hop is evolving in good and bad ways, just like most things.” The bad ways “are the garbage, the propaganda and the infectious messages,” explained Joey. “But everyone knows what real hip-hop is about. It’s more about the collective consciousness of the world and what we’re all tuning into, opposed to what we individually tuned into, you know what I’m saying.

I remember when I was first coming up, I was strictly like, if it’s not that authentic, golden type of sound I didn’t like it, but you know as the time went on, you know, me being part of the universal collective consciousness of the earth, I started becoming more accepting to the other kind of music that you wouldn’t exactly call authentic, conscious or soulful.

Like the dance stuff, the club stuff and shit like that, but you know I look at it like there’s a time and place for everything. Even when majority of the music or the genre was majority authentic real stuff that was our collective conscious, you know, that was all of us together, making an unspoken agreement like you know we’re leaning more towards this. Right now the world is, like, leaning more towards dumb shit [laughs] you know what I’m saying, so that’s the only worry. It’s the mass, you know, the mass conscious, but as I say there’s two sides to it, ’cause you know there’s a mass conscious that’s good and there’s mass conscious that’s bad. The only problem is that the bad has become, like really big.” Bugeja asked why he thinks this is happening. His response: “Higher powers. Pulling strings. Money.”

Joey addresses these issues with his lyrics, where he talks about the Paper Trail$, Wall Street, government and politics, which all aim to spread essential and true messages.

“I’m definitely about that true message, something that could really be essential to your life, not something that can be cancerous. I’m definitely trying to find a medium because my message is so potent and it’s so much that I kinda have to package it up into this little small box so the masses can get it. That’s currently where I’m kinda at with my music.

I just think it’s something that takes time because you know, I’m still growing, like literally, I came into this a baby, when was 16 years old, I’m now 20. It’s a new lesson learned every day.”

And Joey is learning many new lessons everyday. He has bared the brunt of some hype and controversy in the past, such as the image of Malia Obama’s selfie wearing a Pro Era t-shirt that consequently saw Joey’s phone tapped, to other media outlets de-contextualising his words which led to him being labeled a ‘white-racist’ and ‘Marxist’. He continued to say “controversy sells”, but Joey aims to rise above it. “You just gotta keep pushing for what’s true to you. The other side is against you and they’re always gonna try to do little things to break you down and you just cant let it break you, you know, as simple as that, it’s gonna happen.

Look what happened to Malcolm X, he had such a positive and strong message but every time he went into the media they would twist it, you know they would never say what he was trying to say, but years later you know, people know it’s real.”

With these moments, Joey continues to evolve in the greatest way possible.

“I’m still growing and evolving with the years as they come and go. I always say like, if there was something I could say to my younger self I’d say, you never know who’s watching, so just kinda be conscious. I’m probably evolving in the greatest way possible.”

He is also conscious about his social responsibility and the example he sets for the youth across the globe. “You know I have little brother, and I know that he looks up to me. He’s eight and I know he looks up to me, so that alone leaves me conscious of the things that I say, the things that I put out there… when it comes to my music and my message and my overall outlook on the world, you know, I always make sure that I keep that positive, you know, for the kids,” mused Joey.

Positivity is very important to Joey so he surrounds himself with people that also exude it.  “So, we just got Statik Selektah he’s my DJ but he’s also you know a hip-hop legend, that’s Dee Knows he’s my photographer, he’s a… visual legend [laughs], and that guy over there that’s Nyck Caution, the one who just smiled, you know, that’s my pal, he’s also a great fucking MC, rapper, artist… yeah, and then that’s Carl, tour manager and that’s my security guard.”

“I hate these guys!”

“Nah I’m kidding,” he said laughing, “I’m totally kidding.”

“What’s up! You know, we’re just chilling here,” shouted Nyck Caution. “I love your space,” he said slumping deeper into the armchair he’d claimed. “You can see my relaxation right now,” he joked.

His positivity is also what helped drive Pro Era, the collective he co-founded in Brooklyn in 2009, he explained that they were all really optimistic and did believe that that Pro Era would continue to grow and reach the high heights. “Yeah we did. We knew it! Weren’t you just saying that Dee? That we were like really optimistic all the time! It’s crazy!”

“We said you are, but yeah we are,” laughed Dee Knows.

The bond is strong between them, joking and laughing, a down-to-earth collective, who share a strong passion.

This passion and important on relationships is also evident through the many collaborations Joey has worked on including with artists Chronixx, CJ Fly and Norwegian multi-instrumentalist from Calgary Kiesza, the pairings of which are mostly built organically.

“Most of the time, it’s organic. The only time it doesn’t happen organically is if I’m approached through a mutual friend and they’re like, ‘Yo! You should work with this cat, this is my guy.’ I’m like you know, all right, and I might entertain it, depending on who it’s coming from. If it’s someone credible and someone who I trust in the music industry, you know, then it might happen.”

Joey is open to work with artists from a wide variety of genres, “the thing with me is like I’m open to work with people who have something similar to offer. I obviously don’t want to work with people who can’t really do anything from me. It has to be some type of mutual thing.”

Progression is inevitable for Joey. He released his first mixtape, 1999 to critical acclaim in 2012, while he was still in his teens. He then released Summer Knights and appeared on a series of tracks including A$AP Rocky’s 1 Train and a remix of Madgibbs’ Knicks. Now in 2015, the hip-hop world has embraced B4.DA.$$, again to critical acclaim.

His album B4.DA.$$ took, essentially 20 years to make, “I mean shit, I had to learn how to walk and eat and shit,” he said laughing.

“I made the album as a sound track to anybody who’s leading a life of following your inner most gut feeling. Who’s following their passion, their dream – that’s what I made it for. It’s the soundtrack to that, simply the motivation to getting to your dreams. To money just symbolises the success, or the next stage, you know what I’m saying. It’s all but a metaphor,” proclaimed Joey.

Before releasing B4.DA.$$, Joey mentioned that he was set on this being his only album. But that could be a lie. “Before B4.DA.$$ came out I always said that would be my last album, [laughs] but that’s bullshit,” he said, looking at Statik Selektah, wanting to see his reaction.

“He told me that before and I was like, yeah alright. [Rolling eyes] Jay Z said that, he said that on Reasonable Doubt, he said that would be his last album,” said Statik.

“Yeah that wasn’t true,” added Nyck.

“I had the same reaction when I heard myself say it, I knew it would be bullshit,” said Joey. “I’m working on a new album at the moment,” he confessed.

If B4.DA.$$, his current World Domination Tour or the positive and powerful mind that is Joey Bada$$ is anything to go by, the future of hip-hop looks like it’s in good hands. Joey and his crew will finish their Australian leg in the coming days before heading back to the US and then across to Europe.

“This a motherfuckin’ nuke that I’m droppin’
The world in my pocket, kick you out your continent
Always drop hot shit, Toroidal Flow keep constant
And I won’t stop ’til I reach Christ Conscious, nigga”

– Lyrics from Christ Conscious, a track on Joey Bada$$’ new album B4.DA.$$.

Joey and his crew will finish their Australian leg in the coming days before heading back to the US and then across to Europe.

Interview: Audrey Bugeja, Associate Editor, fluoro.

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