Meet the rapper empowering America and dressing with authority
Words by Hollie Moat
Photography by Robbie Fimmano
Styling by Tony Cook
‘Be excited about everything. Be excited about yourself.’ A welcome piece of life advice from Joey Bada$$. And certainly it’s an exciting time to be the rapper, actor and all-round Renaissance man, born Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott. A hero on the hip-hop scene since his 2015 debut B4.DA.$$, in the last two years the Brooklyn native has racked up over a million Instagram followers, a Calvin Klein campaign and a starring role in (Emmy-winning series) Mr. Robot – written especially for him by the show’s creator. More importantly, his sophomore album looks increasingly set to be a game-changer.
Wistful and confrontational in equal parts, ALL-AMERIKKKAN-BADA$$ (released earlier this year) explores the politics and issues of modern America in genre-bending fashion. And from powerful words to powerful pieces – when we sat down with Joey to get the inside take on the record, he also showed us how to wear the hell out of this season’s most formidable sartorial selection…
ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ really feels like an album definitive of its time…
‘It’s timely, and timeless. I think it was Nina Simone who said: The beauty of an artist is to capture the times, through the music. And I definitely think that 20 years from now, this music will still be played and it will be a reflection of the current climate. And I think [the album] will still be teaching lessons in the future.’
Was that something you intended when putting it together?
‘For sure, and when I made the song Temptation, I knew that I had something special. It was the first song that I can’t really put one genre on, and I thought that was such a rad thing.’
Many critics have noted that this album is more musically accomplished than anything you’ve done before, do you agree with them?
‘It is something I was focused on. I tell people all the time [that] with this project it’s the first time I learned how to make music, and I say that because this was me actually bringing musicians together and orchestrating them and creating sound from scratch. Everything else was me just selecting beats that were already done and finished, and I just put my piece over. This was totally different, this was putting it all together and watching it grow.’
‘I started to feel responsible… for how we can bring about change. I think it is very vital, important, imperative to speak for the people who have no voices.’
You’ve spoken before about how multi-layered ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ is – could you tell us a little more about that?
‘So the micro, the surface level of looking at this album is that you look at it from the perspective of a young black man living in America. It’s this young black man speaking on the problems, confusion, implications that he’s facing. But as you dive deeper into it, it’s not just about him speaking to his people, it then becomes about him speaking to his country. And if you dive even deeper it’s about the human race altogether, because I don’t believe we can have human peace and human equality if there’s one group that is not experiencing that – if there’s one demographic of people who are oppressed or limited, then as a human race, we can’t progress.’
Because of the position you’re in and the talent you have, do you feel a sort of responsibility to give a voice to people who might not usually get heard?
‘Definitely. What inspired me to make this body of work is everything I was seeing going on in my country, and I felt it was hitting really close to home because it was a lot of stuff with police killing innocent black men and it felt really close to me because it could happen to me, my dad, to my brothers or my friends. So I started to feel really responsible, not for what was happening, but for how we can bring about change. So being in the position that that I’m in, I think it is very vital, important, imperative to speak for the people who have no voices.’
‘I dress differently, period. One day I might feel like I wanna wear sweats and be comfortable… And another day I might just be on some rock-star shit, it varies so much. I’m not really into fashion, I’m more into style.’
Coat by John Lawrence Sullivan (coming soon), jacket (worn underneath) by Jean Paul Gaultier Vintage from House of Liza, T-shirt Languages from Browns, trousers by Gucci from Spazio Pritelli, and sneakers by Nike from Spazio Pritelli.
What’s the most empowering track on the album?
‘So many – the whole damn album is pretty empowering! Temptation is probably the most empowering though, when you feel the beat come on you just feel great right away – it’s a good vibe – but then when you listen to the message you’re like, oh my gosh, is this what he’s saying?’
Do you dress differently on stage?
‘Not really, I just dress differently, period. One day I might feel like I wanna wear sweats and be comfortable. Next day I might wanna look very studious because I have a meeting and I wanna present myself properly. And another day I might just be on some rock-star shit, it varies so much. I’m not really into fashion, I’m more into style. I wear clothes because I like them, not because of who made them, you know?’
Finally, what’s your summer go-to outfit?
‘Shorts and a vintage T-shirt and some Adidas Stan Smiths. I like rock-band tees or old hip-hop tees, like an old vintage AC/DC tie-dye or Grateful Dead.’
ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ is out now. Joey Bada$$ is currently touring the USA and Canada, and Europe from October. For more information, click here.