Born Jo-Vaughn Scott to parents from the Caribbean, Joey Bada$$ cofounded hip-hop collective Pro Era in 2010. He was just 15 years old.
“It started as a progressive movement,” the Brooklyn-born emcee tells EW. “Yeah, we was all into hip hop. But it just started with a group of friends with a bunch of similar interests: positivity for the youth, being anti-corruption. The simple shit, man.”
A lot has happened between then and now: Scott’s solo debut mixtape 1999 (2012), released when he was 17, earned underground fame. Later, the hot track “95 Til Infinity” from third mixtape Summer Knights (2013) showcased his original flow.
But Scott didn’t always expect his career to take the hip-hop route. “In third grade, I was voted most likely to be president,” he explains. “I never decided I wanted to be a rapper, not a day in my life. It just happened.”
Scott hasn’t pursued political ambitions, at least not yet. The rapper, however, did receive an unexpected presidential shout-out in January, when a selfie of first daughter Malia Obama rocking a Pro Era shirt went viral.
These days, stacking up accolades with 2015 studio debut B4.DA.$$, Scott is focused on operating the Pro Era record label as well as the Steez Festival, named for the late Pro Era cofounder Capital Steez, in New York’s Central Park this July.
“We’re sitting here in the office,” he says. “All of the tour merchandise just came in so we’re going through everything. It’s such an exciting time for us right now.”
Joey Bada$$ performs with Chicago hip-hop artist Mick Jenkins and Florida rapper Denzel Curry 9 pm Thursday, June 18, at WOW Hall; $27 adv.; $30 door.