Joey Bada$$ Says He's Being "Pigeonholed In A '90s Era Box"

Exclusive: On the heels of "Summer Knights," Pro ERA's Joey Bada$$ gives his thoughts on a gentrified Brooklyn and Statik Selektah chimes in about the perception of sample-based Hip Hop.

Who is Joey Bada$$—a child prodigy? The story of Joey Bada$$ normally starts with a video of a child rapper drawing people’s attention on the 'net. Searches for “Jay Oh Vee” will return several videos of a younger Joey spitting bars. Regardless of which video drew people’s attention, fast forward to present time, and Joey Bada$$ has dropped two projects, 1999, and Summer Knights. The latter, critically holding its own among releases from Kanye West, J. Cole, Wale, Run the Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P) Mac Miller, and Jay Z. Joey constantly finds himself compared to the likes of Nas, however, he’s content to please an audience of one.  

“I just write for myself,” Joey said. “It’s a lot of things that boost it, or keeps it moving, or charges it, that keeps me motivated, but that’s what it is most of the time. Pressure is like steam that burst; I just take it in and release it.”

So, again, who is Joey Bada$$? Is he the leader of the Pro Era movement? Joey is the front-man for the Pro Era crew, a collective of talented emcees and producers, hailing from Brooklyn New York. Late December, the Pro Era crew released Peep: The Aprocalypse. Unfortunately, days after its release, they would lose one of their most influential members, Capital Steez. While the untimely passing of Capital Steez has been felt across Hip Hop, the Pro Era crew has continued to represent for their fallen brethren. Joey’s Summer Knights featured the track “#LongLiveSteelo” in honor of Capital Steez.

After rocking the stage of Rock the Bells in the bay area alongside his PE brother Kirk Knight, HipHopDX had a conversation with Joey Bada$$, in the presence of frequent Pro Era producer, Statik Selektah, possibly giving more of a glimpse of who Joey Bada$$ truly is.

Joey Bada$$ Explains Delaying The Release Of “Summer Knights”

HipHopDX: You recently dropped Summer Knights. How do you feel about the reception you’ve been getting?

Joey Bada$$: I’m pretty content with the reception, because the exact amount of buzz it got is what I needed to take more time with that album.

DX: It was originally scheduled to be an EP, correct?

Joey Bada$$: Mmm hmm.

DX: Why the decision to make it full length?

Joey Bada$$: I feel like I owe it to the fans to throw a little more content out there.

DX: You dropped that right around the time everybody else was dropping their projects in late June. There was Yeezus, J. Cole, Mac Miller and everyone else. Where do you feel you stand in comparison to the rest of the game right now?

Joey Bada$$: B4 Da $$ coming out next year.

DX: Since you guys just killed the stage, what’s your favorite song to perform off that Summer Knights?

Joey Bada$$: I like “Sweet Dreams,” but definitely “95 till Infinity.”

DX: You’ve also got the song “Death of YOLO” on Summer Knights. Do you feel like sometimes the youth may not realize what they have and take it for granted?

Joey Bada$$: It’s not just the youth; that’s a human problem.

DX: You got Collie Buddz on the project; how did you get that set up?

Joey Bada$$: Mutual respect. I reached out, and he was fucking with it.

DX: How do you feel about Summer Knights, in comparison to 1999?

Joey Bada$$: Well, 1999 is my firstborn, but you love all your children the same.

DX: We’ve heard that Chuck Strangers recently moved out to California, is that correct?

Joey Bada$$:  Yeah.

DX: Do you feel like that will affect the sound, with him being one of you guy’s main, in-house producers?

Joey Bada$$: No.

DX: So how do you feel the Pro Era project was received that dropped not too long ago?

Joey Bada$$: It was solid reception. We’re working on a group album right now…coming soon.

Joey Bada$$ Responds To New York Critics & Being Called A 90s Rapper

DX: I’m gonna quote this bar; from another Brooklyn rapper, “I’m strong enough to carry Biggie Smalls on my back, and the whole BK, nigga holla back.” Do you feel like cats are really looking at you to hold up Brooklyn?

Joey Bada$$: Nah, ‘cause I want to hold up Brooklyn. I don’t see nobody else—or at least nobody in my category, in this new generation.

DX: But it is whole generation though, that’s the thing that’s dope. You got the Underachievers, you got Flatbush Zombies. What I hear out here is “New York hip hop is falling off,” but I don’t feel that way.

Joey Bada$$: You still hear that?

DX: I still hear that out here in California.

Joey Bada$$: That’s probably because…well, I don’t know why. Tell them open up their ears more.

DX: I think it’s because it’s not on the radio.

Joey Bada$$: It could be.

DX: I think it’s because there’s not a lot of stuff in the stores. When I look at Brooklyn right now, it reminds me a lot of what was happening in LA wth Pac Div, Blu and Exile and Fashawn, with all these cats right before Kendrick broke big. Do you think about that when you’re writing rhymes?

Joey Bada$$: I just write for myself. It’s a lot of things that boost it, or keeps it moving, or charges it, that keeps me motivated, but that’s what it is most of the time. Pressure is like steam that burst, I just take it in and release it.

DX: That’s the energy of Brooklyn though. That’s like the environment that used to be in Brooklyn, in certain neighborhoods.

Joey Bada$$: You said, “used to?”

DX: Used to, in certain neighborhoods…

Joey Bada$$: That’s Brooklyn period, that’s Brooklyn and will always be Brooklyn.

DX: It’s a little bit different though, I look at Fort Greene, and Bed-Stuy, it doesn’t remind me of Fort Greene and Bed-Stuy.

Joey Bada$$: It’s not that much in the streets like it used to be and all that, but it’s still the right zone.

DX: With that, things are changing, but your sound is quintessential Brooklyn. When I think about Shipes, to put out an artist right now with a sound that is from the 90’s, or in homage of the 90s with a little flip on it. Everything is real turned up right now, but you’re not doing 180 beats per minute type joints.

Joey Bada$$: Who said I’m not?

DX: I just listened to your show.

Joey Bada$$: You don’t know what I’m working on in the studio.

[At this point, Statik Selektah, who has been sitting silently, interjects.]

Statik Selektah: Technically 180 BPMs is 90 BPMs. You mean 120?

DX: Yeah…120. Excuse me. That’s not your sound?

Joey Bada$$: What you’re saying here is, you’re one of those interviewers who continue to pigeonhole me into this ‘90s era box. What it really is, is that the more you guys do that, the more people turn away from it, ‘cause they just easily perceive it as that. This is fresh new music. From 2012, 2011, and now 2013.

DX: So do you think about that when you work on your new music?

Joey Bada$$: I think about just making great music all the time.

DX: Being put in that box, that’s the first time I’ve heard that viewed as a negative. You have a lot of people who view it that way as paying homage to the music they love. So you’re saying that could be viewed as a negative also?

Joey Bada$$: I’m not saying that it’s a negative aspect. I’m saying it’s what the media puts me out there as. When it’s just really all new music; it’s fresh.

Statik Selektah: Jay Z’s biggest record of his whole career is “Empire State of Mind.” That beat is a sample, and boom bap drums, and it’s the biggest song of his whole career. When he made that song, not one single person said, “So, why did you decide to make an old-school Hip Hop song?” Hip Hop is from New York; it’s built off samples, and it’s built off sample drums…that’s what it’s built off. The whole culture. Whether it’s off vinyl or whatever. All the music—it doesn’t matter if you’re doing Trap shit, or you’re doing…even Run DMC came from that. And they didn’t want to deal with all the looping the breaks and all that; that didn’t come until a little bit later as far as on record. It all came from looping a break beat. That’s what Hip Hop is from. We’re not talking about ‘90s, we’re not talking about ‘80s and we’re not talking about 2000’s. Hip Hop period is built off drums and samples…period. So if you’re one of those dudes out there that’s talking about, “I don’t sample, that shit is old school,” or “I don’t want to pay for the samples,” you’re just kind of a cancer to our culture. It doesn’t mean you always have to sample. It doesn’t mean any of that. I’m just saying if we can’t keep the balance, then you’re probably just the herb who got into Hip Hop in fucking college.

RELATED: Joey BadA$$ Breaks Down Golden-Era Sound Influence & Intentions, Support From Mac Miller & Rapsody


  • me nigga

    I'm a huge Pro Era fan but Joey was being an ass in this interview. I swear artists these days need media training. Everything from the way they dress, the samples they use ("No.99" being the PERFECT example since it's literally the same sample used in "Scenario") to their lingo is throwback. I don't think it's fair to pigeonhole him, but he needs to stop acting like all the 90's inspiration is just a "cowinkydink." Honestly, it's what got a lot of people to give him a try (especially the old heads). Joey is so talented but he needs to humble himself for real.

  • Tucker Chisholm

    Yo I love Joey but he gives this interviewer such a hard time he acts like a pompous bitch. I think artists should be defined by his lyrics, and Joey is superior to most rappers nowadays and most rappers in the 90's in that category. He's done a million different beats before, don't define him by that, define him by the types of stories he tells and the wordplay, something hip hop is just learning now with JCole and Rockie Fresh and Joey and Chance. I think Joey Bad does whatever he wants and does it well. But he shouldn't be such a dick to the interviewer


    Joey's word is law.

  • amc fearfest

    180 is 90 bpm if you can rp to 180 your a bad mothafucka

  • Dick B

    Well, that's what he is. He's pigeon-holed himself.

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  • GetReal

    The same dude who named his mixtape "1999" is feeling some type of way about being "pigeonholed in a '90s Era box" ? lol, ok..................... 0_o

  • Amosasin

    The KiD needs to relax look how the interview went short, he won't get far with that shit

    • Anonymous

      hes better than any rapper and he is on top and he knows it and so does everyone else know that hes somthing else even fake rappers u think he wanted to take the interview short? its cause that interviwer new nothing about rap game or broklyn and joey knows his real place and that hes gunna turn into the best mc maybe thats why he was so short

  • Anonymous

    Well that didn't go well.

  • RC

    It's not being pigeonholed homie it means you found your niche, just consider yourself lucky there are actually real Hip-Hop fans still out there that actually buy music and care about the culture. People still love that gritty, grimy, East Coast, back-alley, Boom Bap shit.

  • Anonymous

    Empire state of mind had more than just old drums. It also had Alicia Keys on the hook. Apples and Oranges. Joey Badass is mad at people for calling him what he is. Do a freestyle to a Young Chop beat and actually stay on beat and we'll decide if you're not....bitch nigga.

  • rbgwarrior

    Joey is ill, but I think cats need to pump up YC The Cynic more.......that dude has it all to be one of the greats....He's the young hot dope emcee the east needs to carry the torch (ala K Dot-to the west)....gnk is a classic!! DX, where's the cd review??

  • johnjohnphenom

    Am I the only one that noticed the PE. Doesnt that stand for public enemy? Oh well, I guess everything gone for a shit.

  • Rena

    I grew up on 90s hip hop but all this 90s obsessive talking is killing me. Hip Hop fans are sounding real old like when our parents used to hear our music and say "what's all that noise". Let the music grow and change. For better or worse you have to move forward.


    Hip Hop period is built off drums and samplesperiod. So if youre one of those dudes out there thats talking about, I dont sample, that shit is old school, or I dont want to pay for the samples, youre just kind of a cancer to our culture. It doesnt mean you always have to sample. It doesnt mean any of that. Im just saying if we cant keep the balance, then youre probably just the herb who got into Hip Hop in fucking college." FOR ALL YALL DX DICKRIDERZ... INCLUDING THESE BITCHMADE JOURNALISTS (AHEM... SLAVA KUPERSTEIN and STEVEN J HOROVITZ)

  • Aesop Rock fan

    haha joey a straight bitch

  • Skinny Pete

    Statik Selektah sounds ignorant at the end. Sayin like hip hop is some sort of elite culture that doesn't take on new ideas and styles from people that were influenced by hip hop in the first place. and he is like the ringleader tryin to represent all of hip hop. Ask some of the more "high-tier" producers about this and you'll probably get a completely different answer i.e. Kanye, RZA.

    • anon

      "It doesnt mean you always have to sample. It doesnt mean any of that. Im just saying if we cant keep the balance, then youre probably just the herb who got into Hip Hop in fucking college." sounds like he would agree with everything you said except the part about sounding like an idiot... idiot.

  • Ryan

    You guys are missing the point. He knows what he sounds like, he makes the damn music, not the fans, we listen. He doesn't wanna be called a 90's rapper when this 2013. Don't blame him, this is a new game, he just writes music off what he grew up listening too, like most of these shitty rappers do with terrible beats and bad punchlines and delivery. Get it through your damn heads.

    • quality

      It's what we need more of because all that techno rap shit is weak, hip hop is turning out like rock feeding the radio to please the masses. Make them eat, shit, drink & sleep what we want them to like we did before!

  • Minty Water

    I like the part when he said 1999 was his firstborn but you love all of your kids the same.

  • nahman

    This dude needs to grow up...acting like the interviewer owes him something, or like he got better things to do. Do me a favor Joey, stop using MF DOOM's rhyme schemes. You don't sound right.

  • Lucy Howard

    before I looked at the draft 4 $4776, I didnt believe that my mom in-law was trully erning money part time from there pretty old laptop.. there mums best friend started doing this 4 only 21 months and just took care of the dept on there cottage and bought themselves a Land Rover Range Rover. special info----->

  • Demetri

    The only thing I found alarming about this interview was Statik Selektah saying "you're a cancer" (in regards to not sampling). I love samples as much as the next guy but VSTs make producing so limitless now days. To be sampling to 2/3 to 3/4 of an album just seems a bit lazy to me. That's why you really have to tip your hat to the Tyler the Creators of the world.

    • Anonymous

      only Tyler, The Creator? You must be one of those 'just started listening to hip hop in college herbs' Statik was talking about. GO DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Listen to DJ Shadow, listen to Prince Paul, listen to Madlib & Dilla, listen to Premo, LISTEN TO HOW YOU CHOP BEATS and you will understand sampling as an artform. know your history damn

    • Anonymous

      right cuz its aolotta you niggas on the vst's cuz you can't sample the way its supposed to be done and your shit sound like a charles barkley commercial

    • Anonymous

      Sampling actually takes hard work. If sampling was easy most of these wack looney tune producers will be doing it. Sampling, when done properly, gives music the hip hop feel. Hiphop started from improvisation, that's why sampling is cherished and dope producers like Kanye or Noah shebib or Jus Blaze all sample. Sampling is not an easy thing so stop talking about lazy.

  • Derv

    Massively under-rated but, whatever he says, the thing that really made me appreciate his style was that it reminded me my youth in the 90's. Joey is New School for the Old School, Old School for the New School. People like that he reminds them of the golden era, so he needs to stop being a little bitch about it and embrace it, it wont stifle his creativity. The only thing I can really fault him for is that he is mature on the mic, but jesus that boy talks some shit on twitter and facebook......

  • Anonymous

    New York hip hop has been dead for a while and he's bringing it back. Good I'm tired of all these southern rappers and Soulja Bois

  • aj

    idk about this one guys. the 80s and 90s were the golden era of rap/hiphop and to say this guy is pigeonholed into the golden era is a bold statement. his production if ANYTHING is the only reminiscent thing of the 90s and maybe his attempt to rap so much in a verse because back then they had so much to say. but the lyrical content is a little immature, and his flow and delivery seem effortless and careless. if the guy would mature a bit more, and really try flowing to the beat then maybe hes got something. cuz at this point hes kinda just talking a little faster than normal with a beat in the background hes not trying to match his vocals to the rhythm of the production. BUT. i give him points for trying to recreate the era that hip hop most thrived in. kudos.

  • Concerned Reader

    That was not a good interview.

  • def

    This kid sounds cocky as fuck in this interview and arrogant. His little slick answers and short responses. You got pigeon-holed in a 90s era box because that's the exact kind of music you're making dude. You rapping over not only sample based beats but sample based beats with the same drum breaks people used back then. Just because it's sample based don't make it 90s by default look at what the in-house TDE producers are doing w/ samples. None of that shit sounds 90. This dude just sounds salty he isn't blowing up like his more talented, creative peers that actually dare to think outside the box!

    • djsteez

      TDE has 6 in house producers to my knowledge: The Antydote, Chris Calor and the producer group Digi+Phonics consisting of Sounwave, Tae beast, Willie B and Dave Free

    • bad mf

      Let Joey do him cos nobody else is really doing it

    • Jon

      Dude's trippin lol TDE has what, 4 producers in house (Tae Beast, Sounwav, Willie B & Dave Free) anybody else is a "guest" producer, NOT in house.

    • Fuck Outta Here

      "this kid sounds cocky as fuck" - Have you ever known a rapper not to be?

    • R.Pgh

      95 til infinity definitely sounds like an old Boot Camp type of beat, but his flow, to me, sounds nothing like OGC or Heltah Skeltah.

    • Andr

      lol TDE has their own producer group, eg Sounwave and the rest of them, theres a specific group Boi1da TMinus and that are just guests... like having drake or jay z on your album

    • def's right to an extent

      Now that's retarded. How can I be a future fan if I mentioned OGC and Heltah Skeltah? Obviously I'm a fan of early 90's hip hop. What I'm saying is that def is right to a certain extent. I didn't say Joey was a wannabe 90's rapper did I? I was basically saying his style is REMINISCENT of a 90's East Coast rapper. Other than that, the dude is alright with me, highly underrated.

    • def's a bitch

      How is he right? He's talking about TDE in house producers when TDE uses the same producers Drake uses: T minus, Boi-1-da, Neptunes and all those house hold names. Joey has songs like Death of YOLO and Hillary Swank. Explain how those songs are 90s. What is wrong with programming beats the way it was done in the 90s. Jay-Z's biggest hit was programmed that way. Just because Joey gives you the East Coast feel he is 90s. think about the box how, stupid? Joey has two acclaimed mix tapes. You sound like a Future fan.

    • def's right

      or orininoo gunn clappaz (OGC), for that matter.

    • def's right

      I gotta agree with the comment on this one. I don't care how much he denies it: he's bascially a throwback to a 90's era East Coast Rapper. It's all in his dialect, his delivery, concepts, etc. Listen to 95 til Infinity and tell me he ain't on some Heltah Skeltah shit.

    • Anonymous

      Shut up dude. You are not making any sense. TDE works with T-minus, Boi-1-da and other producers Drake work with. Joey Badass does good music, works with dope producers who make dope beats.

  • Walker

    Dis nigga looks like Michonne in that picture