Now that hip-hop has won its place in a world where everyone recognizes its true value, its quality is sometimes haunted by demons of the past. Let’s be honest, its prostitution and its insane alliances with pop did no good for the hip-hop scene. At least it served to increase the number of listeners. It might have allowed for your grand-parents to accidently stumble upon a Jay Z featuring god knows who ; and to find it “not that bad”. Well, we’re far from GrandMa Josette dancing the c-walk on C.R.E.A.M... but that’s still something. Let’s just say, that the border that separates “mainstream rap” from “underground rap” is getting thinner and thinner. We really needed someone to bring the two together. Joey Bada$$ is definitely the man for the job. In a few small years, he became one of the greatest artists of the international hip-hop scene. He is now, touring around the world and already has 4 projects on the go, one just as great as the other ; God bless him, and he never got tempted by Lucifer (which is represented in this article by David Guetta wearing glitter leggings and the tits of Miley Circus). Joey Bada$$ has a strong character; his husky voice, sharp style, very energetic crew, well-thought out texts, excellent instrumentals, and last but not least, his great level of creativity in every clip that he has produced... and all this coming from a 20 year old. When we met him in Nice, he came across as a very funny and humble guy, let’s hope that this is going to last until show business starts to break away at him piece by piece.
Jacker / So it all started with your first Youtube freestyle video when you were 15, am I right ?
Joey / Yeah, well it wasn’t my first video, but it was the video that attracted my manager today, you know. I put that video up and then he reached out to me after watching that video, and the rest is pretty much history.
J / So after that everything exploded ?
JB / Not right away, but things definitely got brighter you know, like all of a sudden I have a window into where I wanna be.
J / So what was your life back then, in high school, because you were in high school when all of this happened. What was it like dealing with it ?
JB / At first it was something that could be balanced, but then as things progressed, it got the point where I had to make a choice, you know, I was like, “OK, so you gonna spend your days here at school, for like the next 8 years ?’ You know cuz of college after. “Or are you gonna chase this dream ?’ And I made the choice to chase my dream. And here I am today, now colleges pay me to come to them!
J / So after that you recorded 1999. Work wise, how did you evolve working with the mixtape ? Did you find it easier ?
JB / Well you know, 1999 was my first project, so realistically it took me 17 years to create 1999. I always hear the great artists say, like Jay Z says this countless times, Reasonable Doubt, it took him his whole life to make it, next album, 18 months, you know what I’m saying ? So once you get into the flow of being an artist, you realize that the time is always ticking and you gotta utilize as much of that as you can as you go on, know what I’m saying ? When you got any free time you gotta lock into making some music, cuz the moment you slow down, somebody else is gonna rush in and take your place.
J / You talked about getting that opportunity and then actually realizing your dream. At what point did you actually realize that you were in the game ? Was there like a specific moment where you went, “shit this is getting certified” ?
JB / Yeah, when I was nominated for the BET Hip Hop Award for the best mixtape of the year, for 1999 back in 2012. Like, when I saw that on TV, I started crying. You know what I’m sayin, it was a real emotional moment... Yeah, that’s when I realized, “yoo, I made it!” It hasn’t been the same since then.
J / They say 9th Wonder heard you and said that you were the new MF Doom. Do you feel comfortable with this comparison ?
JB / I wouldn’t say I’m MF Doom, cuz you know I’m not incognito or as mysterious or mischievous, but I definitely understand the comparison because MF Doom, during his time and his generation he was one of the greats, but he was always left out of the gate. He was always left out of the conversation until very recently, so yeah in a way I do kinda feel like that.
J / Then you made Summer Knights, the album sounds a lot more chilled out, was it intentional ? Was it a different time in your life ? How did you manage that mood change ?
JB / Well, umm, I made Summer Knights in a dark period of my life. I was going through a lot of things, and it’s pretty funny cuz all of the tracks in Summer Knights, I was originally making for B4 da $$, but like a year went by and I realized that people were expecting me to put out an album or something soon. I was like 18 at the time, I was like I still have so much growing to do, I’m not ready to put out an album. So summer Knights is pretty much like, I don’t know what words to use, it was like a drawbridge project, it was the in-between that connected the two... you know what I’m saying ? It was like filling that void, but I love Summer Knights, it was more like a compilation of my music.
J / You talk a lot about the musical influences you had from your mom, listening to Biggie among others. Is there a particular tune that really marked your life ?
JB / I was hypnotized by Hypnotize ! (laughs) My mom told that when I was a child and that song came on, I just didn’t know what to do with myself !
J / You mentioned in an interview that when you watch a movie as a kid, and then watch it as an adult you get a completely different meaning to it. Did you find that with Hypnotize ?
JB / I find that with rap, period! All rap. Like as a kid, the only thing you get really is the chorus, cuz that’s the part that’s repeated, and even the hook you probably don’t even understand, you just singing it cuz its catchy. When you grow up and you hear the whole rhyme scheme, “escargot, my car go”... By the way I just had escargot for the first time yesterday ! It was really disgusting looking, but it didn’t taste so bad... (laughs)
J / Also, Obama’s daughter took a photo of herself in a ProEra T shirt, What did people around you say about that ?
JB / It actually made people look at me in a new light. They was like “Wow, Obama’s daughter’s wearing these dudes’ shirt... It’s crazy”. It’s like in the back of their head everytime they see me, I tend to forget that. But like yeah, it definitely gave me a boost, and it was just in time for the album, you know what I’m saying ? I always say that was a blessing from above, cuz I didn’t really had a marketing plan for the album, and that just happened !
J / So, the next question is about Europeans, are the Europeans more receptive than the Americans as an audience ?
JB / I think they’re more receptive in Europe, even despite the language barrier. They’re way more engaged, you know what I’m sayin ? They feel the music. It’s like nobody’s trying to put up a front, or act like they’re someone, or anything you know ? And it’s not like they stand there (he imitates a statue), you know ? (laughs) They’re into it, genuinely, I appreciate that so much everytime I come over here. Because I play a lot of shows in the States, and I tell you, you see people sometimes all tensed up, you know, I mean that’s cool that’s chill, everybody has their own different character, but I see people in Europe just way more simple.
J / What’s been your best gig in Europe so far ?
JB / London. O2 Academy. There were like 2000 people, that night was golden, I can’t even explain it... It was a beautiful night.
J / You’ve had the opportunity to work with J Dilla, Statik Selekta, among many others. What other producers would you like to work with ?
JB / I’d like to work with all of the producers, like any producer that makes good beats that can resonate with me. You know like anybody in the industry, anybody up and coming, like I don’t discriminate it’s not about the name to me it’s the actual music.
J / So you don’t care about the name, as long as you feel the beat.
JB / You know the name is cool, it’s gonna add some value, but the music’s gotta be right first. You know cuz you could get a big name and he sends you wack beats (laughs) know what I’m saying ?
J / You talked about people having expectations of you, like when you put out an album. So you take these into consideration when you’re working on an album ? I mean, do you feel that pressure when you’re working on a project, is it even a pressure ?
JB / Um... I mean yeah I guess it is some type of pressure you know because it is something that weighs on my mind when I’m doing music, but I can tell you I will never not experience that from this point on. You know once you make your step in the game you know, that’s it. People are always gonna hold you to that. And that’s just how it is. To this day people still hold Jay Z to Reasonable Doubt standards, you know what I’m saying ? So forever people will be like 1999, but it’s all good, I don’t mind. Like each project that I put out is better than my last anyway, you know what I’m saying ? I ain’t gonna put out a project that ain’t better than my previous works. People could disagree but I know what I did different, I know what I put into this, you know, so...
J / OK, so last question : Three albums that you’re digging now.
JB / Oh, the recents ? I’m still listening to that kid Joey Badass’ album... still listening to that, his album is really dope (laughs) you know what I’m saying ? I like Kendrick Lamar’s album a lot, and I’m currently listening to A.S.A.P Rocky’s new album too.