Rap’s all over and they now got an old wigga for this white crowd to follow. Hi! My culture’s name is?! Popped. We don’t follow nobody but the next nigga that can’t figure and now them gentrifiers want a new nigga to swallow. So what really is brandished on the young stallion with two dollar signs trailing the handle? Brooklyn’s Joey Bada$$ is lauded and I build it’s because he’s the youngest talent to really have studied the dexterities, cadences and stylist formats of the early to mid-1990s. Yet I reckon gentrifiers will parade it until they see the depth of introspection, insight and rhyme rage queries challenge status quo comforts. Then, with them, my brother will go from Bada$$ to another Joey with gratuitous grammar. Left with a dollar’s worth of integrity and another buck of talent. 2 bucks for 2 fucks you couldn’t give now. That’s how far the value of the blessed MC is afforded today. They have us believe Joey Bada$$’s B4.Da.$$ LP drops by the good graces of the Kipling crate caressers. Yet the Long Player is a languished pest to the packagers of comfort and the most fickly frivolous of custies.
The analysis on Joey is an amazing reboot of 90’s botched journalism. The brother could do no wrong when he appeared. The novelty of great Black skill only ages to the masses’ mouthpiece when it wilts into wisdom and wrinkles of righteousness ripple into the rhymes. While Joey’s debut lacks the musical supremacy of Illmatic or the lyrical pioneering of Paid In Full, it is filled with musical acknowledgment of what Boom Bap was naturally and is the epitome of ideal MC graduating the right schools of verse. It is also a triumph of mental strength on wax when we knowledge the tragedy my young brother has been through (Remembered In Perfection Capital Steez) in front of the media eyes and the resultant worth in his understanding relayed here.
The journalists today have small collections and no point of contact. That is they saw Joey on tracks with Buckshot, went to YouTube to knowledge Enta Da Stage and never were there the seasons of the early 90s to experience the wealth of lyrical styles that Bada$$ has become proficient in. There is a realness in the presentation of many learned styles merging that gives worth as it did early Guru (Remembered In Perfection God) from Rakim’s school or 9th Wonder essentially from the school of Pete Rock. With Joey, there is a precedent as he is influenced by the era that had to be mined. The era of Hip Hop where the Hip Hop music itself is now a crate. And to dismiss Joey as a biter is ignorant disrespect. He clearly is Buckshot inspired on “Belly of the Beast” as he is Black Thought inspired on “Like Me” and often rhymes in with nearly any space in between as Doom does. But the diversity of his styles ranges deep into the techniques that could range from Ol’ Dirty Bastard to the obscure Top Quality that gives his precociousness worth. A worth where once he really develops themes and understanding that he must share then his stylist gifts will match the nurtured self-styled wisdom.
Lyrically, the layering of Bada$$’s verses is expert (“Sitting back plotting, jotting information on my nation/Really started from the bottom, boy cotton/But they still planting plantations, we keep buying in/Closed-minded men, pride is higher than the prices on your Pradas…” – “Paper Trails”) with internal rhyming with an obsession for assonance and fitted words that constantly melodify the rhyme. In this his cleverness becomes apparent (“Ike with the mic, which nigga tryna turn up? – “Christ Conscious”) and his rugged ethos solidified (“On tracks wreckin’ shit, ask me why I’m reckless/Break a wrist, approach my demo with a risk/Brought my demo listens/I’m a demolition specialist…” – “No. 99”). His immediate illness is in expressing contemplative languish and retrospection with insight that ought not to be dismissed because great 20 year olds of mic past have dropped prior. His intensity on “Hazeus View” is powerful (“That in every way they wanna see my life decease/But I survive the question is for how long/Since my homie died, I been tryin to hold on/The happy days of my life is now all gone/But I cope with that weed I smoke/and writing these songs…”) where the short verse three is a peak of fluid precision. For Hip Hop music to be truly relevant is not in sales but in each generation having ill mic reps of all ages. Joey Bada$$ is a crucial lead MC for the brothers in their early 20s.
Beatwise, nothing is done incorrectly but this is where the derivativeness should be noted. After over three decades of beats it’s hard to make new ones. So redundant, innovators as Ka forsake the entire Boom Bap prerequisite. For Bada$$, the snares and kicks are absolutely familiar like watching a brilliant Kobe and still having passing thoughts of Jordan. “Paper Trail$” is the top jewel produced by legend DJ Premier but the expected signatures don’t take away from the great arrangements of crescendoing and timed beat drops and isolations. Statik Selektah’s work is a strong lead with cuts and drifting horns for an entrance (“Save the Children”) but “No. 99” with its “Scenario” reworking is exactly what leads to dismissal on grounds of rehash. Yet, the up tempo pace allows Bada$$ to go past the introspection that grooves the majority of the work. Kirk Knight’s “Hazeus View” is well produced but can be heard as derivative with Roots like keys and the standard strong break and snare we expect. Yet, it’s arrangements are always on time with Joey’s bars and is another excellent forum for his youthful power. Basquiat’s “Christ Conscious” epitomizes the LP as a track that promotes the best of Joey but also has familiarities with the lo-fi boom music hooks of the 93-96 era. Still, the beauty of Chuck Stranger’s “Black Beetles” with the crying siren through Bada$$’s melodic chorus that leads into like verses in style is where the Boom Bap is what really must be produced. Production is to draw out the best of an MC and Joey’s word choices, varied inflections, development of the best styles learned and an introspective relatability that inspires is all here. The Boom Bap is worthy here and it’s really hype and diluted ears that complain.
If the listener’s ears are also A&Rs and wonder about the artist and the repertoire that they will present to listeners over time, then the joy of study must be put back into the music. To see the hard work presented and with like mind work hard to hear the depth that is budding from B4.DA.$$. Joey Bada$$ must age with us lyrically and everything shared here reveals this will be a crate of honor in a young MC’s catalog.
TWITTER – @JOEYBADA$$
INSTRAGRAM – @JOZIFBADMON