At the risk of compromising our journalistic integrity, we have to say it: Jesse Boykins III is very cool. He's an unruffled pioneer of what he calls "world soul," and he possesses a distinctly cosmopolitan approach to music-making. His attire, which immediately draws the eye, is a collage of several cultures across many different time periods—both warmly familiar and entrancingly exotic.
Despite the moniker, Smoke DZA is not a weed rapper. In his own words, he makes "lifestyle music;" though Mary Jane is often the vehicle, Smoke identifies language, imagery, and aesthetic as the end goal. Sartorially, he rocks Polo Rugby nearly all of the time. He passionately reps his home-hood Harlem, refuses to kowtow to major labels, and tours and records like a machine.
If you want to get a sense of 17-year-old Joey Bada$$'s rapid rise in the hip-hop world, spend a few minutes in his management team's muggy, unfurnished, and graffiti-laden midtown offices. The newly-installed phones don't always work, much of the recent wiring is exposed, and the Internet connection is fickle.