When I first heard Joey Bada$$ spit his hefty verse on A$AP Rocky’s “1Train” back in January, I knew that this was a mere mainstream introduction and that there was way more to meet the ear from the Brooklyn native. Mr. Bada$$, the center of attention of his Brooklyn hip hop collective, The Progressive Era (Pro Era for short), is not even 19 years old and yet has more soul, wisdom, depth, personality and knowledge than the majority of the ‘so-called’ mainstream hip-hop scene coming up now and a hell of a lot more to offer as well, which is why I particularly have a large soft spot for in my heart for the promising young star. Upon the release of much acclaimed mixtape 1999 back in June 2012, Joey did something so great in hip-hop music that would make the beatboxers and early 30-somethings who grew up in 90’s lift their heads up in rejoicing: Joey was out to revive the sound of boom bap from era of Golden age hip-hop and did so with the perfect execution of style. From the gritty, thick voice and mid-tempo pace of Joey’s rhymes to the samples of early 90’s greats such as Nas, Jay-Z, J Dilla, A Tribe Called Quest and even the way him and his crew dress, their lingo and cool New York mannerisms, he is out to take you on a nostalgic ride that will have you wanting to walk down the street with the boombox on your shoulder. But while Joey used the 1999 tape to establish his style, he uses his 2013 release Summer Knights to establish his budding skill. For someone of his age, Bada$$ has the mature and mastered caliber and precision in delivering his bars in a style that resemble the times of true MC-ing, which may be another telling of his up-bringing in Brooklyn, were many of the real and legendary MC’s originated from. The tape starts cleverly with a sound clip of Queen Latifah from the early 90’s movie “Juice” starring Tupac Shakur, where she is announcing during a DJing battle “And the champion– reigning that is– from Flatbush, Brooklyn”, which gives us strong insight into how Joey views himself ranked to his competition and showcases his tenure in the game to solidify the second release. Though he still uses a majority of 90’s sampling and still works up the production from boom bap masters MF Doom, The Alchemist and Statik Selektah on this release, he decides to take a fresh and fun approach and go back to his Jamaican roots on the track “My Yout” featuring Collie Buddz, creating a reggae infused hip grinder that can appeal to the masses and just simply get young people dancing. From listening to Bada$$’s previous works, we know a lot of his lyrical content and clever wordplay is coiled through themes of spiritual awakening, rebellion, pro black promotion, enlightenment and the third eye movement that is currently creeping through the interest of the urban youth in America. He continues to spread this knowledge on this release through tracks like “Word is Bond”, “Sit N Prey” and single “95 Til Infinity”, where he ambitiously spits lyrics such as “Supernatural disaster on you half-ass rappers, pass the herb to an actual pastor, word to the black lip bastard, that drop knowledge like a Five Percenter, every time I drop a line, it touch like five placentas”, which exemplifies the insatiable hunger that he still has while making a name for himself in this rat race of a game called the rap industry. Also on this project, Joey offers a deeper, darker and more sentimental side of himself on tracks like “Right on Time” where he speaks of an emotional and physical love story he has with an special girl in his life, “Death of YOLO”, where he talks about a near death experience sparking in him a new perspective and appreciation for the important things in life and “LongLiveSteelo”, where he reminisces and pays homage to late friend and Pro Era member Capital Steez, reflecting on times they had together before his death. Altogether, this tape offers many different textures to the talented young MC as he continues to mature and offers him a chance to really claim his stake as the hottest thing coming out of present day East Coast hip-hop, but ironically is so far removed from present day to praise his roots and influences that he so greatly admires. Lately, Bada$$ has been on tour in Australia after recently finished headlining the Smokers Club Tour with TDE’s Ab Soul. He is currently working on his first major album release, wittingly titled B4.DA.$$, which is said to be released in February 2014. I chose Summer Knights as my number 6 pick because I am so far greatly impressed and floored by not only Joey Bada$$’s impeccable rap skills at his age is, but is unyielding purpose to spread knowledge and wisdom to youth his age about things other than money, clothes and exploiting women, but a deeper spiritual purpose to life and sense of self and pay respects to those who can before him in the most sincere of ways.
Best Song: “Death of Yolo” ft. Smoke DZA/ ”95 Til Infinity”
Best Production: “My Yout” ft. Collie Buddz