Joey Bada$$ – stormin’ hip-hop

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A 20-year-old MC from Brooklyn, NY is taking hip-hop by storm as an independent artist with a strong DIY aesthetic and a super tight flow. Joey Bada$$ started small, mixing and distributing his own mixed tapes while he was still in high school. This grassroots approach generated a strong underground following, the establishment of the Pro-Era collective and even some love from Hove.

“It started off, and there were four of us. It was myself, Capital STEEZ, my homie CJ Fly, and Pow Pe. We all went to the same school, Edward R. Murrow. We would cut classes and go sneak in the auditorium backstage and just rhyme for periods and periods,” he says. “We started building right away, and homies had homies, and we formed this empire. We’re like 20 deep, with everyone contributing as either rappers, singers, producers or graphic designers.”

Joey Bada$$ is bringing his unique style to Freebird Live Oct 21.His sound is a reflection of where he comes from, a mix of the raw energy of Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood and the authentic island passion of his family’s Caribbean roots. Born Jo-Vaughn Scott, he is the first in his immediate family to be born in the states.

“Coming up in Flatbush, being raised by West Indian parents, you’re the first-hand experience for your family, living here in this new country with them coming from the Caribbean. It’s a different way of living, but we’ve maintained,” he says. “I grew up listening to a lot of hip-hop, R&B and soul [and] a lot of Prince. My mom is a big Prince fan, so I’m a big Prince fan. And reggae music, of course, being from a West Indian background it was reggae music all the time, non-stop.”

Without the support of a major label, Joey Bada$$ sought divine inspiration. He found it in Jesus – and Biggie Smalls.“[The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize”] was what drew my attention to hip-hop. I knew that song word for word when it played on the radio or TV. And I was only like 2,” he says. “I was really into poetry. That’s what got me into the whole rapping thing. I wouldn’t dare freestyle as a kid. I didn’t even know what that was. I would just always write poems. And the poems would turn into raps. And then the raps started turning into something I wanted to record.”’

Billed as one of the most promising hip-hop artists to come out of NYC since Jay-Z or Nas, Joey Bada$$ debuted fifth on the Billboard charts with his first album earlier this year and has sold almost 160,000. He is a self-made man with fans like RZA of Wu-Tang and the First Daughter, Malia Obama and has been featured on media platforms from MTV to Bloomberg Business and Time Magazine.

Performing was always something he wanted to do. When he was in the 9th grade, he changed his focus from acting to music, rapping under the name “JayOhVee” before adopting the moniker Joey Bada$$. At 15, he uploaded a video of himself freestyling and gained momentum in the underground scene.

“The name was something that I admit at the time would draw more attention to the listener as far as social media. But I changed it to Joey Bada$$, not just for more appeal, but there was a point in my life where I was changing the way I viewed the world,” he says. “And I grew up intellectually, so I thought the name change was necessary. That’s what sounded cool at the time, what fit my mood. And now it’s . . . not really about the name. Just listen to the music.”

As the co-founder of the hip-hop collective Pro-Era, he mixed and released his first mixed tape “1999” in June, 2012 followed by “Rejex,” a collection of the material that didn’t make it on “1999” the following September. The double shot caught the attention of rapper Mac Miller, who reached out on social media to collaborate. The pair joined forces on the track “America” and opened for Miller at the Roseland Ballroom when he was just 17. The single “Waves” earned the praise of Jay-Z.

When rumors surfaced that Joey would join the ranks of Jay Z’s Roc Nation label, he deflected the buzz by pressing on without major label representation. He reached a new market with the January, 2013 release of the mixed tape “Summer Knights” and this January, he released his debut studio album “B4.DA.$$” through Pro-Era, selling 56,000 in the first week topping the rap and independent artist charts in its opening week.

Joey Bada$$ has toured the globe, playing international festivals and founding the first annual Steez Day Festival held in July in NYC. His original music was featured on the soundtrack for the film “South Paw” but for a kid from Brooklyn who still can’t legally order a beer in a bar, he stays one foot ahead, writing rhymes, perfecting skateboard tricks and finding his truth in the most unexpected places.

“I’m feeling a lot of underground shit. I literally don’t listen to the radio ever. I might like a song that’s on the radio and I wouldn’t know,” he says. “I don’t only listen to hip-hop. I don’t want people to get that confused. I’m really into electric funk, I kid you not. I love Daft Punk. That’s what I’m into. I don’t want to give away ideas for the future, but basically, I will spit all over shit like that.”

About Liza Mitchell