from daft punk to mf doom... the records that changed joey bada$$'s life
From the blocks of Bed-Stuy, Joey Bada$$ is clearing the shelf for his revitalized heartfelt 90s style hip hop. His local neighborhood is soaked in a rich heritage, birthing NYC’s finest elite of rhymers, so it’s no surprise that he’s regularly...
Alongside his Pro Era era crew, the New York bandit has matured from a baby faced teen dropping lyrics off the dome in the corner of his stairwell to conquering World Domination tours and releasing his debut album, B4.DA.$$. Joey mixes the vintage with the new within a spiral of smooth tones and youthful enthusiasm while targeting hard-hitting issues that most rappers would avoid. So when we heard President Obama's daughter, Malia, was down for the movement, we thought it was about time we sat down with the Bada$$ to sift through the records that helped shape his world….
What's your favorite verse on B4.DA.$$?
It gotta' be off of Like Me. It starts; 'Cause every time I make a move they be sweatin' me/ They want another black man in penitentiary/ It's even hard for that man standing next to me/ Cause he could catch a bullet that was really meant for me.' The music is always the message. I'm conscious of what I put out there in the universe. I was always that kid who had a lot of kids looking up to 'em. It's important to me that I remember my responsibilities and remember younger ones will be hearing my music, too. My goal is to get people up, start making changes, living life and following their dreams. It's that 'Before the money mind set', that initial drive you get when you're like 'Yo I wanna' do this!'
That track is over the unheard J Dilla beat, right?
Yeah, I got an opportunity to work with the J Dilla Foundation through a collaboration with Akomplice. When I got to the studio, they gave me a folder of 30 unreleased J Dilla beats. I got to pick two of my favorite beats. We released one with the project called Two Lips. All of the proceeds from the sales went to my local school and to J Dilla's school in Detroit. I was lucky enough to also get a beat for my album - Like Me.
What record takes you back to your early high school years?
It's gotta be a MF Doom track like Jasmine Blossoms aka Hoe Cakes. When I got to high school, I started to get into underground rap, my homie Capital put me on to him. [His music] is relevant to who knows about it. I met all my crew [Pro Era] in high school: Dyemond Lewis, Capital Steez, Powers P [Pleasant], CJ Fly etc. For me, high school was the turning point with my relationship with music.
Is there any music you listen to that would surprise people?
I'm a big fan of Daft Punk. I'd play Something About Us a lot.
What one song made you fall in love with hip-hop?
It's gotta be Juicy by Notorious B.I.G. I heard it first back when I was two-years-old. I remember hearing it that far back. Biggie, in my head, was a different artist from the rest. Like when I seen him come on TV I was drawn to him as a child for some reason.
Two years-old? That's young. You must have been crawling in nappies?
Nappers, what is that? Oh Pampers? You call it Nappies here? [laughs].
Take us back to growing up on the block with your friends. What kind of music would you be listening to in the hot New York summer?
It's definitely some Reggae. My mom was young when she had me, so she was into the sounds of her generation, and she's pretty much responsible for the music that I got into -- from 90s Reggae like Beenie Man to Biggie and Prince. Just looking back now I'm gonna say Merital Family's Love Dancing because when I was a youth, we used to love dancing. You know what I'm saying. We used to love that record. There was this party that we would always go to in Brooklyn called Day Rave - that shit was tight. Lots of girls.
What record inspired you to start making music?
Lil Wayne was definitely one of the artists that made me want to make music. Believe it or not, Lil Bow Wow, too. Because I was a kid when I started and to see another kid on TV, rapping, that shit really motivated me. [Starts singing] "Bow Wow Wow, Yippee Yo, Yippee Yay!" Hell Yeah! That was my shit, I don't care what nobody say.
What one track have you most enjoyed creating in the studio?
The last song on my debut mixtape 1999 called Suspect. That was a prominent record right there. We [Pro-Era] were all in the studio one night and we was just running back and forth until we had the hook. Then everybody was writing their verses and it was a dope moment. One by one we knocked it out, which was tight. We haven't performed it yet because the track's 11 minutes long. How could we try and do that? It's a journey for the listener, for the fans, you know?
Finally, what was the last song you had sex to?
Probably like, Biggie and Kim's Crush On You (Remix). That song right there is mad dirty. [Starts rapping] "I had to let you know that I got a crush on you… I know you seen me on the video, true, I know you heard me on the radio, true." You know what I'm saying? It's like the perfect vibe.
Text and photography Laura Brosnan