Bada$$ from Brooklyn
“It's been a minute, since they seen a style with no gimmicks”. Brooklyn MC Joey Bada$$ makes this claim with the opening line to the intro “Summer Knights” off of his critically acclaimed 1999 mixtape that released on June 12th of this year. Summer Knights is a smooth, melodic, warm track reminiscent to an early to mid 90's summer night in the streets of NYC when hip hop was at its freshest and most innovative. Whats ironic about the scenario is the fact that Joey and most of his crew, known collectively as The Progressive Era or Pro Era, were yet to be born when all this was taking place. Born in 1995, Joey is merely 17 years old.
If you have heard what he has to say, and the maturity in which he presents situations in his music, his age could be a tough pill to swallow. What Joey and his crew will ultimately mean in the grand scheme of hip-hop is hard to be determined so early, but what I do draw from it is that kids aren't simply buying in to whatever is hot at the moment. In a Pro Era interview with The Fader, producer Chuck Strangers says how he was listening to the Nas classics, Illmatic and Stillmatic, growing up as opposed to something along the lines of Dem Franchize Boyz.
The influence of what critics have labeled as “real hip-hop” (a term that still lacks meaning in my opinion) is evident on 1999. With beats from the likes of MF Doom, J. Dilla and Lord Finesse, the sound of Joey's tape, which he is said to have had a distinct vision for, is essentially old school. On his song “Funky Ho'$” Bada$$ maintains a flow eerily similar to a young Christopher Wallace. Even when it comes to his content, Joey seems to be years older and wiser than those in his age bracket. The first time I heard Bada$$ I drew comparisons to the Odd Future MC Earl Sweatshirt. Their overall flows are relatively similar. They both pack bars full of syllables and paint pictures of what it is to be growing up in the world today but with an adult scope.
In one of the more popular tracks off of the 1999 tape, “Hardknocks” (video below), Joey displays his lyrical prowess in serious ways. In his second verse he says, “I take the competition out/Commission wit' my composition/Who the kid spittin' behind the bars/Like a con position”. His elegant wordplay and more than sufficient vocabulary makes Joey Bada$$ someone worth giving a listen. In a day and age where music, specifically hip hop, more often lacks meaning and substance Bada$$ is a breath of fresh air. Hip-hop's current state is a peculiar one. With artists looking for “hip-pop” success and to tackle the mainstream audiences that have been made completely rap accessible, there seems to be a void of sincerity. 1999 is one piece of work that will obviously not completely fill this void but to me, it at least applies pressure to the wound. Joey “got sick of class, started making classics” and I’m excited to see what his future, or past depending the way you look at it, has to offer.