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UO Shoots: Joey Bada$$

This Brooklyn rapper is out to change the world—just as soon as he finishes high-school.

Photographed by Bobby Whigham

Where do you go to school? I’m a junior at Edward R. Murrow in Brooklyn. It’s a high school for performing arts. I auditioned for the drama department, because I wanted to act. I did a couple of plays, but then I dropped out of the program because I started picking up music. A couple of teachers in the musical department actually bought me two midi devices that I can use in school, and would bring in my computer.

So you rap and make beats? Yeah, I do. I’ll be putting out a couple of my produced beats on a couple of the Pro.Era artists’ tapes, and I’m going to do more self-produced stuff as well.

When did you start rapping? Rapping was something that I always did. At age two, I was singing Biggie lyrics and stuff like that. It was a subconscious thing, my mind wasn’t really developed to understand what I was yearning for. But as I got older, I got really interested in poetry and as time went on, my teachers always said I had a rapper’s flow in my poems. But I didn’t start taking it seriously until 9th grade.

Who are some of your favorite poets? I like Langston Hughes, Tupac Shakur, Maya Angelou, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Is it intimidating or inspiring when you think about how many great rappers are from Brooklyn? I’m from New York, so there’s not going to be anybody who’s not going to hear what I’m doing. At the same time, I’m from New York, and this is where most of the greats are from, so that’s where the pressure would come from. But it’s more inspiring than it is intimidating.

How do you think your generation is going to leave its mark on hip-hop? I know a lot of artists in my generation, and not even just my group Pro.Era, and it just seems like this generation is going to be the rebirth of the golden age. I see it coming and I’m ready for it.

What is Progressive Era? All of the founders, we all came from the same school. There’s about 18 of us. It’s rappers and producers, clothing designers, engineers, it’s a whole bunch of things. We hang out and build ideas together.

How long have you been skating? I first started skating when I was in sixth grade, and then I stopped. I just picked it back up last summer. Like, I’m no one—all of my friends are better than me at skating. Like, I’m not a poser, I’m actually like trying to do. Most of the time I just cruise, but now I’m trying to trick.

Define ‘swank.’ It’s in the dictionary!

Yeah, I want you to define it! It’s elegance, it’s like cool. It’s not swag, it’s swank! I guess it would be—hm, how can I explain it?—I guess it would be like well-put-together swag. You combine those two things and it’s swaankkk. It’s pizazz.

What do you want to accomplish with music? I just have a message that I want to get across to people. Like, you can do whatever you want to do. Whatever you put your mind to. I actually want to change the world. I want to have an impact on not just my nation, but the world. I just want to show people that being good is not bad. I guess.

Wait, what? That being good is not bad? Yeah. And being bad isn’t bad either. SHOP THE LOOKS DOWNLOAD “WAVES” WATCH THE “SURVIVAL TACTICS" VIDEO BOBBY WHIGHAM