So is Momma BadaSS even aware of her son’s talent? “Now, since everything’s been happening faster and more effectively, she actually sees that I’m going somewhere with it,” says Joey. “(Still), her only concern is: finish school.” But Mom’s stance on education may be tested as her son continues to rise. “Certain shit I make sure she doesn’t hear too much, just so it can’t be processed.”
But just because Joey is careful not to bump certain songs too loud in the crib, it doesn’t mean he’s ashamed of his mature subject matter. “It’s not like my shit is not positive, this is my thoughts. I hang out with a lot of older people, so if I need advice—which, I never really take from anyone—I can go to people I hang out with who would give me more of a direct answer. But I do talk to my parents about a lot of things.”
His mom wasn’t truly aware of his potential to make a career out of rap until recently. “Probably when she seen me on MTV,” explains Joey, who appeared on the station’s primary hip-hop segment RapFix on March 26 (and had a predictably awkward interaction with Odd Future). “Actually, it was this whole last week. This whole week really changed it for her. We opened up for Mac on Wednesday at Roseland, that was like 3000 kids sold out and we rocked that shit. After we walked outside, all the shorties was fiending. And then after that, we shot the video for “America” (with Mac Miller) and I didn’t get home ‘til like 5 o’clock in the morning and shit. My moms was mad ‘cause I had to go to school the next day.”
So what could be going on in the mind of a kid whose eyes are focused far beyond the high SAT scores and college degree that society expects of him? Like most teenagers, he’s not even all the way sure what’s going on himself. But his rap fluency and eclectic influences suggest that 9th, Shipes and his other believers may be onto something when they speak highly of him as hip-hop’s potential next voice.
“I feel like we’re going into a new era where people are raising their levels of conscious,” says Joey of his appeal. “Consciousness, awareness, that’s what it is. I just feel like this is what the people need. They need somebody young talking about this or the youth will never know. Kids my age don’t want to hear a 40-year-old man talking about this shit. They’ll listen more if they have someone that they can relate to. And I don’t even do it just because of that, I do it because that’s what’s on my mind all the time.”
Joey and his crew’s interest in consciousness doesn’t necessarily refer to the socially aware lyrics of artists like Talib Kweli or Dead Prez. Politics and social issues catch their interest as well, but it’s meditation and herbal stimulation that have him and his Pro. Era homies thinking at levels far beyond their years. Now they’re acting to turn their elevated thoughts into reality, creating a network of young creatives and entrepreneurs, some of whom are still handing in high school book reports.
“It’s about like 18 of us,” Joey explains. “It’s, like, seven rappers, and producers, clothing designers and graphic designers.” The collaborative network Pro. Era has empowered the young freethinkers and provides purpose to their focus. “It’s great because we build on all these different aspects of the world together. We take it to the next level together, so it’s great.”
But while the energy surrounding he and his team has the potential to change the trajectory of hip-hop, the pressure of the task had Joey stressed until recently. Enlightening a new generation of listeners to the world beyond mainstream rap is a hefty assignment. And as capable as Joey is of achieving it sooner than later, his journey has already taught him the virtue of patience.
“(1999) has been pushed back several times because of me being nervous of what people want to hear,” says Joey of his highly anticipated debut mixtape. “But now I just don’t give a fuck and I feel like I put my full potential into all the tracks. So I’m just going to give the world what I’ve been working on.”
Confidence comes with experience, and considering all of the new memories Joey is making for himself, he may be ready for the world sooner than later. Va$htie no longer makes him star struck, and he’s quickly picking up on the fundamentals of the music industry game—a game he has little interest in playing.
“I’m literally fucking with people now,” said Joey of his new approach to the industry before adding a “pause,” for the record. “Before, I was stressing over what people would want to hear and shit like that, but now it’s just like, I’m not really for that whole business side dominating the music industry.” His words are convincing, and his intense stare assures us that he’s the only true pilot of this trip. “I honestly just don’t give a shit anymore. I just do me.”