Michael Brown was shot dead by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014. Less than a week later, Joey Bada$$ (@jozifbadmon) found himself on stage in New York City, paying tribute to a man whose death was still being processed, debated and fought over.
“A lot of crazy things have been happening this week and I just want to dedicate this song to Mr. Michael Brown. Rest in peace,” said Joey, with two fingers raised in the air, before launching into a blistering, energetic rendition of his track “Hardknock.”
“This is a situation we find ourselves in — trapped in America every day.” It’s now a year later, and the 20-year-old Brooklyn rapper is reflecting on that impromptu tribute and the events that followed. “This is nothing new to me,” he adds. “I already have the music that speaks on these issues.”
That night was a unique one for Joey — not least because of the situation in Missouri, but also for who he was playing his music with: The Soul Rebels, an eight-piece brass band from New Orleans known for their blend of jazz, funk, soul and hip-hop. Joey doesn’t typically perform with a live band, but something about the Rebels struck a chord. That’s why, later this week, he will collaborate with the group once again, this time for a show on their turf, at the 2015 Voodoo Festival. Before the concert, Joey will be sharing photos from the road leading up to the event via the #BadassTourDiary hashtag.
“I can’t remember how it got set up, but they were having a show in Brooklyn and they just invited me,” says Joey, of his first encounter with the group. “I came through and our chemistry right away was amazing.”
The show is at the tale end of what has been a banner year for the rapper. After releasing his debut studio record, B4.DA.$$, in January to critical acclaim, he set off on a worldwide tour, hitting the United States, Europe and Japan — all while letting his friend, photographer @deeknows, document his life on the road: Joey diving off the stage into the crowd, Joey seeking a quiet corner to write lyrics, Joey hanging out backstage.
“We pretty much document our experiences all the time,” he says. “I just try to capture all my moments as best I can. I usually don’t like cameras in my face, but when it’s [Dee’s], I am super comfortable.”
Comfort is just as important to Joey on stage — which is what led him to another Soul Rebels collaboration. He knew from that night a year ago, when the band took his lead on the Michael Brown tribute, that this group was on to something. Now they’re going to try it again — but don’t expect Joey to tell you what will happen ahead of time.
“I always tell people you shouldn’t expect things, you should accept it,” he says. “When you’re expecting something from me, you’re never gonna get what you expect. Fans can just accept life that day and enjoy the show.”
The Soul Rebels Brass Band with Special Guest, Slick Rick at Brooklyn Bowl 2/14/14
As many of you know, New Orleans brass bands hold a special place in my heart – after all, if you don’t feel genuinely happy when you hear a great brass band, you must have a cold, cold heart.
When I caught the Soul Rebels Brass Band perform at the opening night of the New Music Seminar Festival at Webster Hall last June, they were among my personal highlights of the entire festival. Much like their counterparts in the Rebirth Brass Band, their sound employs elements of hip-hop and old school soul and R&B – while remaining dedicated to funk and to the their hometown’s musical traditions (without being stodgy or inaccessible).
Check out some photos from their live set at Brooklyn Bowl last week, and catch them at a venue near you.
There’s my mom, who was my date, with a very lovely concert friend by the name of Adelyn. Whenever a brass band comes out, anyone who has even a passing connection to New Orleans comes out to show love; although I have to admit that the first time I caught Rebirth at Brooklyn Bowl took the cake, only because that show felt like half of New Orleans had come up and there was a dedicated group of folks who had brought incredibly detailed parasols – the type that you’d see while catching a second line march. Of course, I think the weather played a little bit of a role in that.
Slick Rick joined the boys for a messy rendition of “Children’s Story.” I couldn’t hear half of Slick Rick’s vocals as he was drowned out by the band; however, most of the crowd, including me, knew the lyrics and wound up shouting along in unison.
For these photos and more, check out the Flickr set here: