As we live in an era where Drake’s lifestyle out shines the messages of Kendrick Lamar, and as the genre gradually mixes into mainstream pop, which is arguably a great achievement, the genre’s heritage is becoming blurred. However, Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ blows the dust from the history books to teach the masses the authentic meaning of hip-hop and continues to evolve the 90’s sound of east coast rap whilst still maintaining a modern feel in his debut commercial release, B4.DA.$$.
His tribute to heritage is noted as he endlessly references 90’s rappers / singers with his use of wordplay, flow and inspired songs. This wasn’t the only way Joey showed respect to his peers and idols as the albums production grasped onto the soulful sounds of sampled jazz music just like rap in the 90’s. Producers such as DJ Premier, J Dilla and The Roots were all a part of a long list of people who helped to modernise the 90’s sound in this album, a task that has always seemed difficult to achieve since the “bling era” of the early 2000’s. Heavy beats and pretentious verse from the likes of 50 Cent and other rapper from the southern rap scene never gave the authentic sounds of hip-hop any room to naturally progress which left the young money-hungry genre room but lacked much food for thought.
It’s bizarre to think that it’s taken nearly 15 years to see further evolution in this sub genre of rap, but it’s something that Joey has worked hard to achieve. The narrative of a 20-year-old male in Brooklyn may seem cliché for an album, but Joey’s story recaptures the imagination with a sense of nostalgia to tell a story about the hustle in New York, but with the slight twist of an ongoing struggle to balance sudden fame with a down to earth lifestyle.
Showcasing Joey’s full potential, a limited amount of features were required and, in most cases, the artists who did feature never outranked him. Not only that, but the few carefully picked artists also compliment the track’s sound extremely well. Collaboration with Maverick Sabre and Dyemond Lewis on the track ‘On & On‘ adds a new dimension to the track by correctly using Sabre’s unique vocals to give additional layer of atmosphere. However, Joey seemed to be caught off guard on ‘Escape 120‘ with Raury’s Andre 3000 style stealing all the attention on a 90’s disco influenced beat. This fast beat and Joey’s singing are his lowest point on this album but the track, about wanting to just have a break from all the drama, is still a hit.
Impressively, Joey captures so many different emotions within these 15 tracks, giving a true perspective of his life and the environment he grew up in. Each song has it’s role and helps create the ambience of Brooklyn. ‘No.99‘ is Joey’s “Fuck the police” anthem with an aggressive flow and bass guitar that sends rippling, suspicious and suspense sounds through the speaker creating sounds that resembling a game of cat and mouse with the police on the streets of Brooklyn. Fans generally enjoy the type of song that ‘No. 99′ represents but to give the album a real personal feel, Joey includes tracks like ‘Chicken Curry’ to bring in the meaning of his family and home.
Our need to hear a head nodding beat and raw lyrics is catered for as Joey cremates the track with a raw street flow on ‘Christ Conscious’. But, there is also plenty of food for thought on this album with Wu Tang Clan inspired song ‘Paper Trail$‘ allowing Joey to look at the pros and cons of making money in the music world.
The album covers so many aspects of Joey’s life, some topics do seem very typical of this sub-genre of rap. Joey however, has added to the stories with aspects of modern day-to-day life, the internet and the opportunities he’s had at a young age. This updated perspective makes his story more relatable than his earlier albums and brings the people closer to the genre again.
Within only a couple of years, Joey has shown us glimpses of his artistic ability and the soul within his music with his previous two releases – 1999 and Summer Knight$ – but B4.DA.$$ has now beautifully showcased his full skill range. To further progress this great achievement, Joey needs to fill-out his lyrical messages with a wiser outlook on things to greater hold weight, but this will soon come with experience and age.
In this age of the internet and music, genre borders are becoming less and less clear with the merging of different sounds now common place. After 2014 changed the publics perception of hip-hop to be just trap beats and meaningless lyricism, it’s refreshing to see that Joey has accepted responsibility to represent the traditional, iconic image of the hip-hop genre and release an album that reinstates hip-hops real identity.