In 2010, then 15 year-old rapper Joey Bada$$ became one of hip hop’s first artists to blow up as an “internet rapper”.
It started with a video he posted on YouTube of himself freestyling. That video was reposted by the hugely popular American hip hop site Worldstar Hip Hop.
This video caught the attention of hip hop fans across his hometown of Brooklyn, New York and beyond, leading to Cinematic Music Group boss Jonny Shipes approaching Joey and soon becoming his manager.
It all happened in the blink of an eye and today, at 22, Joey is one of hip hop’s trailblazing young artists.
Over the last seven years he has released two albums, three mix tapes and collaborated with the likes of Mac Miller, ASAP Rocky, J Cole and Ab-Soul. Oh, and he’s a recurring actor in the series, Mr Robot.
Joey, who has a strong support base in South Africa, will be one of the headline performers at Rocking The Daisies, performing his set on the main stage on tomorrow evening.
I spent a few weeks chasing a telephonic interview with Joey, only to be met by a scratchy and jumbled line when I finally got him. We weren’t able to speak for long as I’d have liked, but from the few words we exchanged, he sounded chuffed about coming to South Africa.
“I’m so excited and I honestly wish it was a whole African tour,” he said. “You know,I’ve been wanting to come to Africa for years. And I wish I could do it properly because I’ve been getting so much feedback from people in Africa talking about how I got to go to Cape Town, and other places. I’m just happy for the trip and I want to make the most of it.”
Despite releasing his latest album, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, in April, he said fans can expect more new music soon. “I’m always making new music and I’m definitely gonna be dropping new music before the end of the year. That’s for sure.”
On All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, Joey is conscious and self-aware as he speaks on a range of American socio-political issues. For the most part, he isn’t just sharing his own personal journey, but is giving a snapshot of life as a young African American and all that it comes with in Trump’s America.
In an interview with GQ Magazine after the album was released, Joey shared some interesting thoughts when asked what song he was most proud of from the album.
“I feel proud of All of them,” he said. “My albums are like my children, and then the tracks are everything that I love about them. It’s hard to pick one, but Temptation resonates with me in a different type of way. When I made that song, instantly it was my favourite song ever. Not just out of songs that I have made, literally my favorite song ever.I’m so proud of myself for capturing a vibe that is genre-bending.
"It’s not just one style, it’s elements of hip hop, pop, folk. When that song comes on it just gives me this feeling. When I refer to this time, this song will be the one that stands out. With the message, the emotion, the little girl on the outro, I just feel like it’s the perfect representation of this moment, of where we are.”
The girl he’s referring to is Zianna Oliphant, whose voice he mashed up from a video that caught his eye on Instagram of her addressing a group of people. It's a powerful clip.
Joey also features his Pro Era label mates Kirk Knight and Nyck Caution, with whom he started working with early in his career. “We love working together," he said when I asked about his relationship with them.
"When we started we were just kids with like-minded ideas and dreams. Then we realised we’d be stronger together. The rest is pretty much history.”