Joey Bada$$ is a New York rapper who’s conscious lyrics and ice cold flow has seen critics compare him to NY greats such as Nas and Raekwon, high praise indeed for a man who is just 22 years old. His breakout mixtape ‘1999’ was released in 2013 and received rave reviews thanks to Joey’s icy style and the awareness he showed lyrically. His debut studio album ‘B4.DA.$$’ shared these qualities and more as he truly announced himself as a top draw MC. Luckily for him, Kendrick decided to delay his release for a week so Friday 7th April was all about Joey Bada$$ and his second album ‘ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$’; lets see if Joey can continue his rise to the top with this one.
Something that strikes me immediately with this new Joey project is his incredible ability to balance important topics and catchy songs. The prime example is one of the singles ‘LAND OF THE FREE’ and ‘FOR MY PEOPLE’, both of which are direct addresses at the issues lying in American culture at the moment, from black oppression to Donald Trump’s presidency; but they also have incredibly catchy hooks and smooth beats behind them. Creating this balance means you can listen to each and every song innocently and positively while also acknowledging the importance of his words. This is a rare skill that Joey possesses and is something he utilises magnificently. Lead single ‘DEVASTATED’ gave us a mainstream commercial flavour to Joey’s new sound and it still sounds great to this day, although I was quite surprised to see it feature on the album, pleasantly of course.
Joey’s features are borderline perfect too, calling upon two of hip-hop’s biggest names in J Cole and ScHoolboy Q on ‘LEGENDARY’ and ‘ROCKABYE BABY’ respectively and both suit the featured artists down to the ground. That boom blast grit on ‘ROCKABYE BABY’ compared to the slick soul and attitude on ‘LEGENDARY’ is evidence to us all that Joey Bada$$ has the variety to venture into all avenues of hip-hop, from the most aggressive beats to stripped back passion, only a select few can do both successfully and Joey really is one of them. Chronixx is very good on ‘BABYLON’ too amongst others who do themselves immense justice on this album, including Styles P and Nyck Caution.
I’d like to take a moment to talk about the album’s finale, ‘AMERIKKKAN IDOL’. Upon first listen I knew it would be great, but it wasn’t until I sat and absorbed the lyrics that I truly acknowledged how special a song it is. The whole album does a great job of flagging up major social issues in America but this takes it to a new level, the beat switch up mid-way through tells us all that Joey isn’t playing around and he’s here to “be the voice” as he puts it; and that’s exactly what he is on this track. The hook is hugely important as he talks about “dead presidents” but it’s the verse where he discusses police brutality which is truly special. Anything I say wouldn’t do it enough justice so please just listen to it, it’s better than ‘Mortal Man’ I promise you.
Best 3 songs: TEMPTATION, ROCKABYE BABY, AMERIKKKAN IDOL
Worst 3 songs: Y U DON’T LOVE ME? (MISS AMERIKKKA), RING THE ALARM, GOOD MORNING AMERIKKKA
To be Frank and honest with you, this album is absolutely sensational from start to finish. He shows wisdom that is way beyond his 22 short years on this earth and gives us all a culturally vital album which looks racism, political corruption and oppression square in the face and challenges them to the core. Joey is as lyrically mature as he is animalistic in his flow and cadence, which has the perfect variation between savage and subtle. I honestly didn’t think he could top his last project but how wrong could I possibly be, he’s not only stepped up from that, he may well have just soared to the heights of the very best in the game. This right here is Joey’s version of To Pimp A Butterfly, it could be the beginning of a monumental career for another of New York’s finest.