Joey Bada$$ is Ready to Become Rap’s Next Big Crossover Actor
The critically acclaimed Mr. Robot made it’s season two televised premiere last night. For those that tuned in, I’m certain viewers who love rap felt a swell of pride as Lupe Fiasco’s “Daydreamin’” scored in the background during Rami Malek's opening monologue. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, the first season was applauded for it’s musical selection, and there was a nice bit of rap in the mix: Mos Def’s “Quiet Dog,” Old Dirty’s “Got Your Money” and ScHoolboy Q’s “Hell Of A Night.”
Hearing the lush instrumental that dates back to Food & Liquor was a nice touch, but during the opening monologue, as Elliot is revealing what has happened in the month since season one’s finale, viewers are introduced to his new friend Leon, played by Joey Bada$$. If hearing Lupe gave you tingle of satisfaction, seeing Joey was an explosion of delight.
Mr. Robot isn’t your ordinary series, it’s deeply rooted in the technological present where brilliant computer hacking is the only needed super power to save or topple the world. It puts viewers in the midst of psychological mayhem, a thrilling series that delivers enough food-for-thought that your mind will be bloated by the end. Joey Bada$$'s music is rooted in a similar depth, he has always been a thought provoking lyricist, listening to “Survival Tactics” in 2016 it would come as no surprise if his music was featured in the series, but I never expected his physical presence as an actor to appear in such a show. His character Leon is a Brooklyn kid who befriends Elliot, how they met isn’t yet explained, but the dichotomy of their friendship is clear - Leon speaks and Elliot listens. Seinfeld is the topic that keeps his mouth running, it’s lighthearted and humorous, what you expect from an over thinker who just discovered a show about nothing. He has two major scenes, both showcase his natural charisma, Joey has star quality behind the mic but last night he took his first step toward proving he could be star in television.
Seeing rappers appear in television series has become a fairly regular occurrence. I remember watching Biggie on Martin and Tupac on Different World. More kids will likely know Ice-T for being an officer on Law & Order than the song “Cop Killer.” Common is another rapper turned actor that juggles the two, but being on the big screen likely brings him more visibility than some of his more modern music. Mos Def, Andre 3000, Ice Cube, Will Smith, Queen Latifah, the list goes on forever. Not everyone is good, there’s been some terrible actors in hip-hop’s history, but we also have had some impressive crossovers and Joey Bada$$ is seeking to be the next rapper to take acting by storm.
Originally, he wanted to pursue acting, and even did plays in high school. As he told Rolling Stone, his goal shifted as he met the Pro Era crew at Edward R. Murrow - the same school that Basquiat and Adam Yauch attended before him. He just happened to move into rap and become highly successful, now he’s given the opportunity to pursue the passion that was burning before he had dreams of rap stardom.
Is acting something you have wanted to pursue? You're obviously well known as a rapper.
Yeah. I pretty much auditioned to get into Edward R. Murrow. Acting was what I was set to do. Every school that I applied for, I had to audition to get inside because I wanted to be part of the acting programs in those schools. By the time I was 14, 15, I was really committed to becoming an actor. It was just that when I got to Edward R. Murrow, I met all the guys from my [Pro Era] crew, and we were all so interested in music. So I realized in high school that music is my calling. - Rolling Stone 2016
Mr. Robot isn’t the only casting Joey's achieved, he will also appear in the forthcoming bio-pic Barry - a film that will follow the early life of Barack Obama. After his audition, Joey was cast as Barack’s childhood best friend, but he couldn’t accept the role due to conflicting schedules - the week of shooting was the week of Coachella. Turning down a potentially huge movie role to perform at a huge music festival shows that it’s not easy balancing the two jobs. Even though he won’t be appearing, the fact that Joey was given the role after his audition only further proves people are seeing potential in his ability to act. He told Complex that he wants to carry the torch that Pac left and taking it further than he could. Pac left the world with both classic albums and films, only time will tell if Joey can do the same.
Have you ever thought about doing any kind of producing or directing?
Oh yeah. That’s in the future, too. It’s all going to come into fruition really soon and I can’t wait. I’m really excited for my acting career. I plan on being in movies. I want to continue and pass where ‘Pac left it at. Pac was on his way, I want to be on that path plus more. - Complex
Mr. Robot is Joey’s first televised acting performance, but back in 2014 he did a short film with Green Label entitled, No Regrets. The length of the release is under 15 minutes, not long enough to display a budding actor ready to take the world by storm, but it’s a glimpse into where he was then and where is he now on Mr. Robot. Other than Chance The Rapper, who appeared in the Vice film Mr. Happy, and Stro, a castmember on the short-lived Fox program Red Band Society, there aren't many young rappers seeking to maneuver into serious film work. As of late, it feels like the actors are the ones crossing over into music. Donald Glover is an excellent example of someone who was well-known on the small screen before being known for gracing stages. Drake as well, even though despite killing SNL twice and hosting the ESPYs, Drake has kept his distance from really falling into any long term roles. Mack Wilds, who made a name for himself as Michael on The Wire, was also seen on several television shows and movies before the release of his 2013 studio album, New York: A Love Story. Even Tyler James Williams from Everybody Hates Chris freestyled while on Sway In The Morning. Both forms of entertainment have are linked and you never know who will flourish in which industry.
Based on early reports, Joey will be a recurring character during this season of Mr. Robot. I’m excited to see how his character evolves as the season moves forward, one thing about befriending Sam Esmail, things are never calm for long. Let us all remember what happened to the last person that Elliot got close with. Joey hinted at a plot twist during his interview with Complex so there’s no telling what will happen. A huge win for Joey, another win for hip-hop. I feel that pride swelling up again.
By Yoh, aka Yohvn, aka @Yoh31
Photo Credit: Twitter