Ahead of one of the most anticipated debut releases in recent memory, we spoke to the cult Pro Era emcee to talk hype, Twitter and cyphers...

Words By Chantelle Symester

(This article originally appeared in Topman Generation magazine)

Any hip-hop fan worth their salt will be familiar with the name Joey Bada$$ by now.

Over the last few years the 19 year-old rapper has established himself as one of hip-hop’s most interesting rising stars. The New York native first launched into the mainstream musical consciousness way back in 2012 when his debut mixtape 1999 became an unqualified success - critics and fans’ ears perked up to hear little JayOhVee spit melodic flows over boom-bap production reminiscent of the early 90s sounds.

After a stellar 2013 it seems the sky is the limit for Mr. Bada$$ and there’s no doubt all eyes will be on the teen rapper when his highly anticipated debut, B4.Da.$$, drops this year.

We caught up with him to grill his heroes, his career and the perils of Twitter...

TG: Have you met many of your musical heroes? Have they passed on any advice?

JB: I’ve pretty much met all of my musical heroes. The fact that I got to meet them so early in my career means now there’s no stopping me from surpassing them. That’s probably just the best advice I have ever given myself.

TG: Did you always think you would become a rapper?

JB: I’ve always been into rap and everything. When I was first introduced to poetry in second grade was when it really instilled in my brain that: ‘oh snap, this is what rap is’.

TG: Tell me a little bit about the Pro Era collective. What made you gravitate towards each other?

JB: We are all the same – our ideologies and the way we think about things. We always met up and did things differently to everyone else, but we were the same amongst each other so that brought us together.

TG: If you had to pick any rapper to battle against who would it be?

JB: I don’t think anybody wants to rap battle me right now! I would definitely love to cypher with a few people but I’m not really a battler, that’s not really my thing. I like to just add to the pie!

TG: Connecting with fans is a big thing for you. Do you think it’s important for young artists to be switched on when it comes to social media?

JB: Yeah, I think it’s really important. I’m the type of artist that needs full creative control. I can’t have anybody dictate what I want to do. I have my own ideas when it comes to marketing strategies and things like that so I’m just like all independent.

TG: You’re pretty active on Twitter - that must be cool to have direct access to fans from all over the world?

JB: Yeah it’s a good thing for music artists but not a great thing for overall society...

TG: How so?

JB: It’s really cool because I can talk to my fans way easier, but some people take it way to seriously. For some people Twitter is life.

TG: Yeah, there’s always going to be a downside to Twitter.

JB: But that’s with everything in life - the ying and the yang.

TG: There’s such a buzz around you and your music - that’s a lot for any 19 year-old to handle. How do you stay grounded and focused?

JB: Well, I just keep good people around me. I can tell right from wrong, and I can tell what’s hype and not hype [laughs]. Other people get jerked up in the hype but I’m not even like that.

TG: What can we expect from your debut album?

JB: Definitely a few surprises, but you can just expect pure greatness, you know, I’m really putting my all into this.

TG: Do you feel like the pressure and expectation around the album is motivation for you to push yourself harder?

JB: It definitely is. Generally I don’t think I get the respect that I deserve, but I’m not one to complain. I’m just gonna show and prove, so that’s what I’m gonna do with this album. 

Joey Bada$$'s debut LP B4.Da.$$ will be released in 2014

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