The face of hip-hop is a coveted position. That person is the torchbearer for the entire community and genre, one whose critical acclaim is matched only by their commercial success and remains consistently relevant not only with rap fans but with a national audience as a whole. A good barometer of success in that last category can be summed up with the question, “Does my mother know your name?” That answer is very often "no."
Based off of those criteria, a handful of names come to mind immediately: Kanye, Drake, Kendrick, etc. It’s a shorter list than many die-hard fans would care to admit. What about Joey Bada$$? How many of you would put him at the top of that list? Near the top? Keep in mind that this is the entire genre, not just New York we are talking about.
Joey recently sat down with Skee TV for their InFocus series to speak on his creative approach as an artist and as the ringleader of the Pro Era collective. One comment in particular, though, stuck out:
“I say I’m the new face of Hip Hop in the whole.”
Only 20-years-old, Joey Bada$$ has accomplished quite a bit in his young career since breaking onto the scene in 2012, with his well-regarded 1999 mixtape. His debut album, B4.DA.$$, entered the Billboard 200 at number five and has gone on to sell over 120,000 copies and counting. He has certainly made his case as one of the most well-positioned up-and-comers and managed to find a sizeable and loyal fanbase by breathing fresh life into the classic Golden Era sound. The face of hip-hop, though? Has his quick rise been as meteoric as he believes?
“My message went deeper than New York. I started getting known and gaining credibility outside of New York first. It was like outside then it came in.”
This may be true. In the Internet Age an artist can spread their message far beyond the borders of their hometown, but as I've mentioned it takes a host of factors to determine the face of a genre. Then again, maybe he means that he is the physical embodiment of hip-hop; that he's taken the root of what encompasses it - mindframe, hustle, enlightenment, style and everything else - and considers his persona to be a living, breathing manifestation of what it means to be hip-hop! Or maybe he's merely trying to speak truth to power. Or maybe, just maybe, I'm reading way too much into this whole thing.
Regardless, Joey's statement raises a great question. Is he right? Is he the face of hip-hop? If not, who is?