Joey Bada$$ is, in fact, a badass. Known for his jazz-influenced sonics and sharp lyricism (not to mention an impeccable sense of style), the Brooklyn-based rapper first made waves at age 17 with his debut mixtape 1999. And in the seven years since then—with two studio albums, a role alongside Rami Malek in Mr. Robot, and some world tours under his belt—Bada$$ has skyrocketed to hip-hop superstardom. But when he’s not proving to the world that his name (with its essential double dollar signs) is not in vain, Bada$$ squeezes in 75 push-ups a day, meditates, and spends too much time on his “little electronic black rectangle.”
Interview spoke with him shortly after the release of his new collaborative album Escape From New York, and ahead of his starring role in Paco Rabanne’s Million Nation campaign in September. Mildly hungover behind thick-framed sunglasses, he fielded our questions from Andy Warhol’s 1977 interview with Glenn O’Brien, giving us all his thoughts on marriage, the future, and the all-important business of having fun.
MAT FERRARO: What was the first thing you ever made?
JOEY BADA$$: My first work was probably a poem that I wrote as a child. I started writing poetry at six. When I was in first grade, I was introduced to it by our teacher, and I immediately made the connection between poetry and the rap music that I was listening to at home. I was like, “Oh, this is what Biggie does.” Teachers definitely credited me for the natural talent that I have.
FERRARO: What advice would you give to a young person who wants to become a rapper?
BADA$$: I feel like my answer to this question has evolved over the years. My first natural reaction would to be to say something like sharpening your pen every day, because I thought I’d be talking to more lyricist types of cats. But as the generations progress, there are new sub-genres of hip-hop, which I think is pretty cool. What I would say now is pretty much just to be yourself and have fun. Be the best “you” that you could be. Because that’s your fucking power. Everybody’s going to paint their picture differently. If you’re left-handed, paint with your left hand. If you only paint in purple, paint in purple.
FERRARO: What’s your favorite piece out of all of your work?
BADA$$: Tough one, son. Don’t think it came out yet. No, I know it ain’t come out yet.
FERRARO: Well, I’m looking forward to hearing it. Do you make music every day?
BADA$$: I try not to do that. I don’t think that’s a good practice. I like to encourage and push myself to maybe write something every day, but I also don’t think that’s such a good practice either. I definitely try to put myself in a position where I’m sharpening my skills and making sure that I’m getting a good amount of practice. But there’s also a balance of letting things come to you naturally and waiting for those right moments to go about writing a song or expressing how you feel.
FERRARO: When you wake up, what do you do in the morning?
BADA$$: In the morning, I look into the black mirror and then I convince myself in my head, “Okay, you’re looking at this black mirror too long. It’s the first thing you’re doing when you wake up. This is ridiculous.” I meditate. I do pushups—it started at 50 a day, but now I’m up to 75. So I do my little 75 quick, and I go about my day from there.
FERRARO: How much time do you spend on the phone each day?
BADA$$: It’s a fucking straight up tragedy, cuz. Too much time, too much time.
FERRARO: Do you think the future will be futuristic?
BADA$$: Steve Jobs said that every once in a while something revolutionary comes into the picture that just changes everything. When we were speaking about the future 15 or 20 years ago, nobody saw this thing coming [points to his iPhone]. So when you ask me that question now, I’m not sure what to expect because I didn’t think my life would be ruled by a little electronic black rectangle. We don’t realize how futuristic it actually is, you know? When I think about the iPhone, I think about how long they were working on that shit before it got introduced to us.
FERRARO: Right now is a lot more futuristic than we might realize it is.
BADA$$: My cousin and I were talking last night, and he was telling me, “Yo, those McMansions in L.A. look like the cribs in The Jetsons!” They kind of do, and that’s crazy.
FERRARO: Do you believe in marriage?
BADA$$: Yeah, I believe in marriage. I just don’t believe in the government being involved in it. I don’t think they have any say in love.
FERRARO: Are you a Republican or a Democrat?
BADA$$: I’m Joey Bada$$. [Laughs.]