September 23, 2014 is when one of the fall semester’s most anticipated events, “Attack of the Backpack,” arrived at UMD for a night of head nodding, crowd surfing and good vibes being spread.
Three acts performed, starting with TWRK, a trap-electronic group, disbursing jolts of adrenaline throughout the audience, to keep them hyped for the other acts. Then came Henry Fong, an EDM spectacle. However, during Fong’s set, me and my fellow Pulsefeedz colleague, Naomi Harris, had the opportunity to interview the headlining act of the night, Joey Bada$$.
As we entered the room that Joey was in, we could not help but feel our nerves starting to get to us. Naomi and I are big fans of him and I hold him in high respects because of his lyrical abilities. But as Joey greets us and tells us to sit, I could feel my nerves die down, and my fascination arise.
Joey Bada$$, the 19-year-old hip-hop artist from Brooklyn, New York City, is a polite and delightful individual. Sitting down with him, one can immediately realize that he does not hold himself above anyone. He is a rapidly rising young artist, full of talent, many fans consider him to be one of the best in Hip-Hop at the moment, but he does not proclaim to be the greatest.
Me: When people ask “who is Joey Bada$$?” what would you want them to say about you? How would you like to be known and remembered?
Joey Bada$$: These are questions I never asked myself. I’m just like, on a constant path upward, rarely ever looking back, rarely ever looking down, you know. So, I guess they just got to capture the kid, it’s like, you know, how he is and you know, just tell it how it is.
Naomi: I listened to Summer Knights all this week, it’s a really dope album. What’s your favorite song to perform off of it?
Joey: “Sweet Dreams” and “95 Til Infinity,” but “Sweet Dreams” number one though. Yea, I just remembered making that song, you know, like just the vibe that it gives me, the vibe that I bring to it. I love it. Just connecting to the crowd’s vibe (Laughing). Super tight, super tight.
Me: What is Hip-Hop to you? What’s your definition of it?
Joey: Hip-Hop to me is a lifestyle that you live, not only does it include the whole demeanor of it, but it also includes the whole knowledge and wisdom that you get from it.
Naomi: Just out of curiosity, on Summer Knights you have two songs called “My Yout.” I noticed that you have a lot of really cool Caribbean style in it, so I was just wondering how much of an influence the Caribbean is for you? Because I know your parents are from St. Lucia.
Joey: Exactly, just growing up in that household, it’s just all around me, cause what I live is embedded inside of me. I just, you know, sort of show it (Laughs).
Me: You’re 19 and many of your fans can relate to you because of your age. Do you think your giving the Hip-Hop youth a new voice? Do you ever consider that?
Joey: Oh yeah. Now that’s the question I know for a fact. I try my best to keep the content on point, for like anybody’s kids or like any kids who might be looking up to me. I’m very conscious of that, you know, I don’t want to promote any thing that could make them go totally negative or just look at life a different way. If anything, if they look at it a different way, I want it to be the lighter way.
Me: That’s a very different approach from a lot of other artists.
Joey: Yeah, there’s a lot of artists that I can’t really f*** with just because they have such a large following and they don’t consider the children that they are performing for sometimes, you know.
Naomi: I really respect that, cause I feel that our generation is kind of lost simply because we look up to people who kind of just don’t really care about us personally.
Joey: I mean with me, I put a lot of time into my music, into my craft. So like, you know, I could make the dirtiest song and not say one dirty word, and you could still play it for your kids and it won’t be absurd.
Me: That’s challenging nowadays.
Joey: Yeah, some other people are just like “NA, SHOOT N*****, KILL S***.” (Laughs). You feel me?
Naomi: So this past summer you were with Wiz Khalifa and A$AP Rocky. I was wondering if you learned anything from them? Did they teach you anything about “the game”?
Joey: Yeah they definitely did. Just from watching their sets, the whole crowd control, transitions into different songs. You know Wiz, he’s like a step higher than Rocky, so then his s*** is another level too, it’s like, changing in between sets. You know, the whole presentation. Everybody that I’ve toured with taught me a lesson, you know. I done a show with Kendrick, he taught me something.
Naomi: That’s so cool!
Joey: Yeah, we did a show together in Seattle. That s*** was great! It was great. It’s crazy because the crowd, it was like a stadium, and they showed me a lot of love. It was really great, it was one of my favorite shows definitely. Yeah. Disclosure, they taught me some lessons as well, you know, just being a part of that whole House scene for like a couple of days. They taught me how to move people in a whole different way.
Me: Are there any traditions or rituals that you do before your performance?
Joey: Why do people always use that word “rituals”? It’s just so weird to me (Laughs). Alright, we always say a prayer before we go on. But don’t call that a ritual, you feel me? (Laughs).
Me: (Laughing) No of course not!
Naomi: I was looking at a lot of Pro Era stuff, which I really dig. I was just wondering do you guys have any potential projects we can look forward to this year?
Joey: Yes. This year is closing out with my album B4DA$$. But, for 2015 is going to be a lot of new excitement on the Pro Era frontier, we got Kirk Knight and Nyck Caution emerging.
Naomi: I noticed that there were a lot of artistic aspects that are a part of it too. I was wondering if you were considering branching out of just rapping, and doing directing or photography or anything?
Joey: Yeah! I’m a creative you know, I’ve never just classified myself as one thing. I’m a person of hardly any limits, I don’t like to limit myself. So, I’m a creative, I’m not a rapper, I’m a creative. I’m an artist and that means a whole bunch of different things: I direct, I paint, I draw, I write.
Me: My last question, and I’ve always really wanted to ask this cause it’s such a popular question: is Hip-Hop dead?
Joey: No. Am I dead?
Me: (Laughs) Somehow I figured you were going to say that.
Naomi: I saw you tweeted about us for a little bit, but what are you expecting from UMD, and have you heard anything about the Terps?
Joey: From who?
Naomi: The Terps.
Joey: From UMD? Uhh, the terps…
Naomi: We’re called Terrapins, that’s our Mascot.
Naomi: Terrapins, yeah.
Joey: What is that?
Naomi: It’s like a type of turtle, it’s like really huge.
Naomi: Yeah, you know, we’re not like the most viscous. But, we’re definitely confident.
Joey: So you’re saying the school is slow?
Naomi: Nooo, no, no, no. We’re pretty live, as you probably will tell when you go out there.
Joey: Word. Well I’m just excited, you know? The same way I don’t really like for anyone to really have expectations of me, I don’t have expectations for anyone else. I go and I accept.
Joey is effortless when describing his feelings about performing and what it means to be an artist. He does not wish to be labeled simply as a “rapper.” He considers himself “a creative,” an artist who can and wants to branch out by pursuing other outlets of art and creativity. Nor does he think about what others think of him.
Nevertheless, he is not thoughtless and creates his music according to the fan base he has, a largely young audience. He does not wish to be a bad influence. Thus, he chooses his words wisely, exemplifying how he can “make the dirtiest song and not say one dirty word.”
Joey also does his art for himself, continuously working on his “craft,” but he remembers to learn from other experienced artists he performs with. As we closed the interview with him, he left us with a powerful message when we asked him what he was expecting from UMD.
“The same way I don’t really like for anyone to really have expectations of me, I don’t have expectations for anyone else. I go and I accept.”
Joey holds no judgments and shows that artists should not be confined to the interests of the people. Joey is proof that one must love him or herself in order to be loved by others, as goes for the artists and their artwork.