A buddy of mine put me on to Joey Bada$$, and boy, am I glad he did. Joey’s boom-bap sound and lyrical dexterity are refreshing in today’s hip-hop. Recently, we caught up with the 17-year old and asked him about his style, his debut mixtape and his plans for the future.
Coming up in the 2000s, how did you adapt such a throwback style?
I wouldn’t consider my style throwback. It’s not really throwback when it’s coming out in 2012. As far as the boom-bap sh*t, it’s just what I grew up on. My parents played it a lot. My parents were in love with it, so I just fell into that.
Speaking of your style, do you feel pressure to please hardcore hip-hop fans with your ’90s sound?
When I first started to grow a buzz, I felt pressured at first. But now it’s just like, ‘Yo, I just gotta be me.” So that’s what it is.
In today’s ringtone era, are you worried about facing a roadblock sales-wise or popularity-wise because of your sound?
I don’t know. I feel like I’m gonna be successful as far as sales. I’m not worried about that at all. If anything, a lot of people my age (hear it as) it’s something new because they never heard it before. A lot of the times people tell me I listen to your shit with my kids. So if I got the kids and the parents I can’t go wrong.
I want to ask a little about your mixtape. Was it named 1999 because it has a ’90s sound and feel, or was there another meaning behind it?
People refer to the ’90s as the golden era of hip-hop. 1999 being the last year of that era, it’s just like a last hope type of thing. It also coincides with the Y2K thing, with the world ending in the year 2000. So I dropped 1999 in 2012.
This was your debut mixtape. How were you able to secure contributions from the likes of MF Doom, Statik Selektah, and the late J Dilla?
From YouTube. It was like unused beats and sh*t like that. MF Doom (knows about it). I’m sure Dilla knows from the clouds. Lord Finesse, he knows as well. (Joking) So I don’t know, he might sue me.
How much of 1999 is autobiographical, and how much of it is more of a narrative of what you grew up around?
Probably about like 50 percent. Well nah, I’m fronting. Don’t think it’s autobiographical. The songs are all inspired by everyday life and what’s really real.
At 17, do your parents have any reservations about you entering the industry and what some would call “the fast lane?”
I’m sure the atmosphere, they’d be worried about their child of going into a whole new way of living. But for the most part, they support me one hundred percent.
Have you thought at all how to avoid the pitfalls that many rappers/celebrities face?
First of all, it’s so weird being called a celebrity. Nah, I stay pretty level-headed. I think the best thing is not having a crew of yes-men. That’s pretty vital and important. You can’t surround yourself with yes-men.
What is the plan for your future and for Pro Era’s future?
Last question. I always ask this one. Who is among your top five dead-or-alive emcees?
Joey Bada$$, Capital Steez, CJ Fly, Kirk Knight, Dyemond Lewis.
Listen or download the breakthrough mixtape 1999 by Joey Bada$$ below.