Blazing over the Empire State with the young local rap star at the cusp of worldwide fame
We’re sitting on a roof in Chelsea, looking out over the Empire State building. It’s the summer Joey Bada$$ released 1999, so I ask him about the sounds behind his quick and high rise to fame. “How do you keep it fresh and progressive while still using MFDOOM beats?”
He looks around to his crew, the Pro Eras surrounding him on the staircase, giggles and says, “I stay level headed on level 9,” pause. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Can you repeat the question?”
And so goes the first 15 minutes of getting to know Joey. After being told to wait around in the lobby for about half an hour prior to the interview, I was convinced it would never happen. I loitered around with my photographer and a small selection of PR people, managers and handlers. One lady sat across from us organizing the Pro’s trip to Berlin; Some have passports, some don’t, Capital Steez might not get his in time to go on tour, a couple guys are too young to travel without parental permission. CJ Fly makes an appearance at the table, so the people we’re here to interview actually are around, just busy. I guess.
When we’re finally invited outside, multiple blunt roaches are being thrown away and the sweet smell of weed wafts above us. The publicist pulls me aside and asks me not to mention this in the final piece. The Pros seem less than bothered.
“On my way over here I heard someone playing your song on the train,” I tell Joey.
“Oh my god,” he says, a smile spreading across his face. “Was it ‘Survival Tactics?’”
The song was “Pennyroyal” and the dude playing it wasn’t even wearing headphones. As their older, working fans rode the 6 train through Manhattan, the high schoolers whose music was infiltrating New York were acting silly, high and giddy, enthralled by their sudden success. We spoke about Chuck Strangers saving up for a 2Chainz feature, what other Brooklyn-based crews the Pro’s listen to and their response to critics who hate on their live shows. The Pro’s talk over each other, finish each other’s sentences and constantly laugh at each other, but always look back at Joey for the final response.
As the interview came to an end we began the photoshoot and the Pro’s, perhaps projecting, perhaps getting more comfortable, ask me if I’m high as well. I blamed the assumption on my naturally droopy eyes, but they wouldn’t let up. “I’m not, but would’ve been if you invited me out earlier,” I retort. They laugh.
Instead of apologizing for the wait to start the interview, they apologize for not having invited me out to participate in the pre-interview smokeathon. I walk out to Joey laughing and saying, “If only I had known!” With the Pro’s, even the publicist apologizes for not sharing the ganj.