Joey Bada$$ was born on January 20, 1995, and was the first of his immediate Caribbean family to be born in the United States. He was born in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York City, New York. He was raised in Bed-Stuy and attended the Edward R. Murrow High School. He originally enrolled at Edward R. Murrow to study acting, but transitioned towards music around the time of 9th grade, with a focus on rapping.
In an interview with XXL, Joey Badass stated that he is influenced by Nas, Tupac Shakur, Black Thought, MF DOOM, J Dilla, Andre 3000, Jay Z, and The Notorious B.I.G. He has also been compared to Nas during his Illmatic era.
He started rapping under the name “JayOhVee”, but eventually changed it to Joey Badass. He says that the name change is due to the media’s focus on rappers with more cynical names, saying it was “what sounded cool at the time, what fit [his] mood”. He claims to have first started writing poetry and songs at the age of 11. Along with CJ Fly, he is a founding member of the collective known as Progressive Era, or Pro Era for short, which was formed by his high school friends Capital Steez and Powers Pleasant.
In October 2010, Joey Badass uploaded a video of himself freestyling to YouTube. The video was re-posted on to American hip hop site World Star Hip Hop and caught the attention of Jonny Shipes, the president of Cinematic Music Group, who soon after became his manager.
In early 2012, Joey Badass and Capital Steez released a video for “Survival Tactics” via their YouTube channel “PROfckingERA”, which samples the 2000 Fold song of the same name by Styles of Beyond. In February 2012, Pro Era released their debut mixtape entitled The Secc$ Tap.e. On March 21, 2012, MTV News featured Joey Badass’ verse from the video during a RapFix Live segment and subsequently appeared as a featured guest on Sucker Free the following month. The song was succeeded with the video premiere of “Hardknock” featuring CJ Fly on MTV2.
On June 12, 2012, Joey Badass released his debut solo mixtape 1999. A video for the song “Waves” was released in June 2012. The mixtape immediately increased his popularity in the underground scene. The mixtape was named the 38th best album of 2012 by Complex magazine and the best mixtape of 2012 by HipHopDX.com. On September 6 of the same year, he released another mixtape titled Rejex, which featured all the tracks that did not make it on the 1999 mixtape.
Subsequently, American rapper Mac Miller reached out to Joey Badass through Twitter to collaborate. He appeared on the song “America” from the mixtape Macadelic and opened for Miller at the Roseland Ballroom in April 2012. Along with headliner Juicy J, Joey Badass and Pro Era performed on The Smoker’s Club’s One Hazy Summer Tour, presented by Eckō Unltd. and livemixtapes.com. The 30-date tour began in July 2012. He was featured on the posse cut track “1 Train” off ASAP Rocky’s album Long.Live.ASAP (2013) which also features Action Bronson, Kendrick Lamar, Yelawolf, Big K.R.I.T., and Danny Brown.
In December 2012 it was rumored that Joey Badass would be signing to Jay Z’s Roc Nation record label, but in January 2013, he dispelled the rumors saying he would rather stay independent than sign to a major label for the time being. On December 21, 2012, Pro Era released the P.E.E.P: The aPROcalypse mixtape.
On November 9, 2012, Joey Badass released a track with Ab-Soul produced by Lee Bannon called “Enter the Void” along with “Waves”. These songs were his first official releases to retail. On January 14, 2013, he released the first single off his second mixtape Summer Knights, “Unorthodox”, which was produced by DJ Premier. On February 8, he released a music video featuring Big K.R.I.T. and Smoke DZA titled “Underground Airplay”. “Underground Airplay” was featured on the Eckō Unltd. mixtape. On March 5, 2013, he released the music video for “Unorthodox”. On March 21, 2013, he began the Beast Coast concert tour with Pro Era, The Underachievers and Flatbush Zombies. On March 26, 2013, it was announced that Joey Badass would be a part of XXL Magazine’s 2013 Freshman Class.
On October 29, 2013, Summer Knights EP was released. It featured four songs from the mixtape of the same name, and three new songs including a remix. Upon release, the EP debuted at number 48 on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
In August 2014, Joey Badass appeared in a quasi-autobiographical short film entitled No Regrets, directed by Rik Cordero, in which he portrays himself. In an interview on Shade 45 Radio in March 2016, he explained that “it’s been my dream to act since I was in like eighth grade. I always wanted to be an actor. And I feel like the music just made it a little bit easier for me to chase that dream.”
On August 4, 2014, he released the first single from his upcoming debut studio album titled “Big Dusty” with the music video coming out 8 days later. On September 30, he premiered the second single from the album titled “Christ Conscious” on MTV Jams. The third single from the album entitled “No. 99” was released on December 9. On December 23, the fourth single, “Curry Chicken” was released. On January 13 appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, he performed the song “Like Me” live with BJ the Chicago Kid, The Roots and Statik Selektah. On January 20, 2015, his 20th birthday, the album entitled B4.DA.$$ was released to critical acclaim.
On September 3, 2015, Joey Badass released a collaborative single with Korean hip-hop group Epik High’s Tablo and producer Code Kunst called “Hood”. On October 6, 2015, he collaborated with British indie rock band Glass Animals, releasing a single titled “Lose Control”.
On March 4, 2016, Joey Badass made his television debut in the second season of the hit TV series Mr. Robot, where he was cast in the recurring role of Leon, who is a close friend of Elliot (played by Rami Malek). On May 26, 2016, he released another single called “Devastated”. The song peaked at number 25 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart, which became Joey’s highest charting single to date (as a solo artist). On January 20, 2017, Joey Badass released “Land of the Free”. On April 7, 2017, Joey Bada$$ released his second studio album tilted “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$”.