When President Obama’s 16-year-old daughter Malia rocks a tee with your group’s name on it in a leaked selfie, the stakes go sky high. “My phone is tapped!” jokes rapper Joey Bada$$, whose Pro Era crew got a signal boost from the pic that went viral off Instagram. The timing was perfect: The 20-year-old, real name Jo-Vaughn Scott, just released his full-length debut, B4.DA.$$ (Cinematic Music Group), following a string of buzz-building projects, including 2012’s 1999 mixtape and 2013’s Summer Knights EP. His retro style — crinkly samples, dense lyrical turns — has set him apart from his peers, prompting co-signs from rap vets like Q-Tip and Jay Z (who reportedly tried, and failed, to sign him to his Roc Nation imprint). He may be young, but this is only the beginning for the budding rapper: “They don’t want me infiltrating my people’s minds with this good shit — and I won’t stop.”
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This story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of Billboard.