Photography Quentin De Briey
Hailing from Brooklyn in New York City, Joey Bada$$ is a pioneer of positivity. As a founding member of music collective, Pro Era, the hip-hop mogul has become a leading voice in not only his own industry but street subculture. For the artist who boasts nearly two million followers on Instagram, amid the sacrifices and fame, all he really wants is to be “wild and free.” ICON speaks with the self-proclaimed badass on life lessons, inspiration and how success can be dangerous in 2020.
ICON: You have said, “Growing up from where I’m from, you never make plans after 25 because you just don’t know if you’ll even make it that far.” What sacrifices have you made to build the life you have now?
JOEY Bada$$: I’ll say the biggest sacrifice I have made was focusing on what I wanted to do when I was still a kid. I had to miss out on a lot of kid shit to really get where I got to at the age where it happened for me. It sounds funny but I never really had a job. I started early. Not to say I want a job or that I’m regretful, but it’s certain life experiences that I feel like I had to sacrifice to get to where I am.
ICON: What pushed you to enter the music industry?
JOEY Bada$$: I’ve always been in love with music, I’ve always loved the form of art and the way that it allowed me to express myself. I guess it was the feeling of wanting to be heard and feeling like I had something to say.
ICON: Did you find it difficult to adjust to the growing fame?
JOEY Bada$$: Absolutely. I think most people do. I see people sometimes where it seems like they’ve been wanting to be famous their whole lives. You see for me, it wasn’t anything that was particularly new to me because I was always a popular kid in school, so I was used to being known. But once I got famous, like ‘world famous’, it was definitely a bit of a struggle. [For example], going to places and trying to be a regular person and not being able to do that.
ICON: How has the hip-hop world progressed since your music debut?
JOEY Bada$$: It has changed like four times, you know what I mean? When I came into this shit I was selling physical albums. Now physical albums are obsolete. That’s one of the many ways it has changed. Everything comes from streaming, the game is way faster. The pace of it has literally picked up and in two weeks, an album is old. I was born in an era where it wasn’t like that.
ICON: What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt since then?
JOEY Bada$$: To always put yourself first and always focus on the one thing that’s the most important or most beneficial thing to you, or the most lucrative. Focus on what’s best for you. Throughout the course of my career, there were many things that I wanted to do that would distract me from the main thing I should have been doing – which was focusing on Joey Bada$$.
ICON: Where does the stage name, ‘Joey Bada$$’ come from?
JOEY Bada$$: I used to skate. We used to skate and tear shit up and do graffiti art and we were just some badass kids. I just realised I wanted to feel that way forever, just a little bit unstoppable. Wild and free.
ICON: You come from the hip-hop collective, Pro Era. What does this philosophy mean to you?
JOEY Bada$$: It means progressing every day; it means positive energy; it means having a psychic eye. It means all of these things – anything to do with moving forward.
ICON: Where do you look for style inspiration?
JOEY Bada$$: Inside my chest, in my heart. It is whatever I’m feeling at the time or the day.
ICON: Do you believe critics when they say streetwear is dying?
JOEY Bada$$: No. I think that is the dumbest shit ever. Streetwear is more alive than it has ever been. Streetwear is now walking down the runway at fashion shows in Paris, so how could it be dying? It is literally influencing changes in all cultures.
ICON: Your recent collaboration with Paco Rabanne 1 Million Parfum is a natural progression in your career. What drew you to this partnership?
JOEY Bada$$: The almighty bag [laughs]. Just to be completely honest, that’s what it was at first. It was like, ‘Oh this is a great deal, this is a good look’. But once I actually got in, I realised, ‘Oh shit, this brand has really good people behind it’, and more doors started to open up for me. I’m glad I took this opportunity because I was able to learn from it and meet some new people who have afforded me more opportunities.
ICON: The Million Nation from Paco Rabanne invites us to believe in ourselves. How do you do this daily?
JOEY Bada$$: Just waking up, meditating and sometimes I have a list of affirmations written down if I’m really not feeling it. Sometimes I glance at that. You know, staying aware of the reminders that I have in my life to know that we’re moving forwards. Abundance attracts abundance.
ICON: Your music is deeply political. What change do you hope to see in America in the new decade?
JOEY Bada$$: I would say my last album was deeply political. To overly simplify it, I just want everybody to be at peace. For there just to be love, you know what I’m saying? There is just so many different perspectives and sides of stories that just makes that goal hard to accomplish.
ICON: Following the tragic death of Pop Smoke, 2 Chainz said, “Success is dangerous. You sure you want this shit?” Do you agree with this?
JOEY Bada$$: I agree to disagree. Because I feel it’s more about the energy that you put into the universe that is dangerous. I feel like all these entertainers have to be more cautious of what that energy is that they are putting out because the universe returns it. I don’t think success is dangerous, I think it’s hard. I think it is difficult. It can be tumultuous if you open the door for it but if you don’t open the door and you stay on the positive path, you’re good.
ICON: Can you give an example of this?
JOEY Bada$$: I don’t see how success is dangerous for someone like Chance the Rapper. He’s a fully positive person, what could harm him? Once you reach a certain status, period, you have to protect yourself and your possessions. The poor take from the rich and vice versa sometimes. Naturally, you have to protect yourself, but you have to go to a greater length to protect yourself if the energy you’re putting out there is somewhat negative.
ICON: You teased a “new Bada$$” on Twitter. What can you tell us about your next LP?
JOEY Bada$$: That it’s fire, it’s fucked and it’s coming soon.