Joey Bada$$ on the eve of Rolling Loud: rappers these days have no morals

By Michael Hamersly


Joey Bada$$
Joey Bada$$

Now in its third year, the Rolling Loud hip-hop festival has officially graduated from great to elite, upping its game by scoring superstar rappers Kendrick Lamar — who has won seven Grammys and whose fourth studio album, “DAMN.,” has sold almost a million copies since its April 14 release — and Lil Wayne, who has sold more than 100 million records, making him one of the top selling artists of all time, in any genre.

The three-day event — which hits its new, more expansive venue Bayfront Park from Friday through Sunday — also features Atlanta rappers Future and Young Thug, plus Harlem star A$AP Rocky and Houston’s Travis Scott, giving the festival a half-dozen legit headliners.

But make sure not to miss one of Rolling Loud’s up-and-coming acts, Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$, who at the tender age of 22 has taken on social and political issues in his craft, most recently with his second studio album, “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$,” which hit No. 5 on Billboard’s album chart on April 7.

Bada$$, real name Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott, also has released two mixtapes, and will rock the stage Saturday night in the slot before Kendrick Lamar. He talked to about the show, why he feels compelled to speak out against injustice, and how he chose his stage name.

Are you excited about the festival?

Hell, no, I ain’t excited for that s—! No, I’m kidding [laughs]. Yeah, man. It seems like a rap fan’s dream, like an amusement park of rappers. Which ride do you want to get on, or which rapper do you want to see?

Will we hear a lot from “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$,” and what do you want your fans to get from listening to the album?

Oh, yeah, definitely. If anything, not just my fans, because I didn’t make it just for my fans. I made it for the world. So what I want the world to get from it is a call to action, that action being anything that you may want to do or say in life. Let this be a motivation to do it, because at the end of the day, that’s what the project is: A passionate kid from Brooklyn spreading his message out to the world. I want people to know that I made the action of doing what I thought I was supposed to do. Go out there and do it. Go out there and say it. Speak up and be heard.

What specifically were you saying by putting “KKK” in the title?

I’m specifically addressing a side of the country that we all know is still alive and well.

Do you feel a responsibility to speak up about social and political issues?

Yep, I do. Because, who else gonna do it? Rappers these days have no morals — like one and the same. So, I’m in. Shout to the artists who are, though, who do feel the responsibility and are making changes and saying things that need to be said and need to be done.

That’s pretty cool coming from a 22-year-old. Have you always thought that way?

You know, I think that’s what separates me from the competition. These kids – I feel like they’ve never really heard these messages come from someone who understands them, and who is exactly where they are. I’m a millennial. So, the fact that I can share this through my eyes, through my experiences, with fellow millennials and fellow generations to come, is very powerful, very strong.

Did you always know you wanted a career in music?

Oh yeah, definitely. From inception [laughs]. Music was pretty much embedded in me from a very small child. My great-grandmother was a famous musician in Jamaica, and she predicted that one of her great-grandchildren would be a superstar. I still don’t know who the f— she was talking about, but yeah [laughs].

Everybody in hip-hop has a stage name. How did you come up with yours?

I was skating. I was in high school, probably my freshman or sophomore year, and I was just skating. Me and my homie was just making our commute home from school, and we were just cruising, and there was just something about the vibe – it just felt so good. So as we were cruising on our skateboards, he looks at me, and he’s like, “Yo, don’t you just feel so badass right now?” And I was like, “Wow, yeah, actually I do!” This is the way I’d like to feel for the rest of my life. And that’s when the thought first came into my mind.

What’s the difference between mixtapes and a proper album?

I feel like mixtapes are more like a compilation of ideas and sounds that may not be too particular to your character and who you are, and may be just something experimental you’re trying to do. Or, for like a new artist, it’s like your demo. You’re offering a preview to the world. For an established artist like me, it can be this compilation of experimental ideas that I didn’t wanna call my next album. Mixtapes you can almost have more fun with, whereas an album is all seriousness — this is your direct representation of who you are or who you will become.

Name three musicians, live or dead, you’d love to work with.

Daft Punk is one. My brother Capital Steez, rest in peace, is two. And I’d probably say Tupac [Shakur].

You’re a Brooklyn guy. How often do you get to Miami, and what do you think of the city?

I gotta be honest, even when it f—s me over [laughs]. A certain type of New York people have always had a fascination with Miami, so all my life, to me, Miami has been super over-hyped. And when I finally made it over there, I did not see what was so incredible [laughs]. But, I’ll have you know I was only 17 at the time, so I couldn’t really enjoy the things that people talk about. I hope you don’t take that in a bad way.

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