Fighter: Joey Badass
Trainer (Gym): Jonny Shipes (Pro Era Records, Cinematic Music Group)
Cut Men: 1-900, Chuck Strangers, DJ Khalil, Jake Bowman, Kirk Knight, Like, Powers Pleasant, Statik Selektah
Weight Class: Rising Star
Notable Fire: “For My People“, “Temptation”, “Land Of The Free”
Notable Trash: “Ring The Alarm” (Feat. Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution and Meechy Darko)
Tale Of The Tape: While not yet a household name, Joey Badass appears to ready to take his message to the masses.
If you could take the stylings of a late 90’s Nas, the motif of The College Dropout era Kanye West and mix in the current sociopolitical climate, you might just come up with All-Amerikkkan Badass (a title inspired by his Pro Era predecessor, the late Capital Steez’s AmeriKKKan Korruption mixtape, and indirectly inspired by Ice Cube’s classic AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted).
Released in April, the second single from Joey’s sophomore album “Land of the Free” encapsulates the spirit of the album. The 22-year-old Brooklynite emcee blasts bars from a depth not normally seen or heard on radio…in fact, you’ll never hear it on the radio. “Trickery in the system, put my niggas in prison/All our history hidden, ain’t no liberty given/We all fit the description of what the documents written/We been lacking the vision and barely making a living/We too worried to fit in while they been benefitin’.”
All AmeriKKKan Badass is a 49 minute battle wherein Joey pulls no punches in sharing his views on “Toupee Fiasco” at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, the prison industrial complex, murder at the hands of the police, drug abuse and religion in the Black community. It’s extremely difficult to dissect these complex topics and avoid being “preachy”, or worse “boring”*, but Joey Badmon threads that needle expertly here.
Sidebar: *Cough, J. Cole, cough.
The album delivers the good news in two distinct tones; the first six songs are a bit lighter in production before sliding into a darker vibe throughout the second half. “Good Morning America” – “For My People” – “Temptation”- “Land of the Free” – “Devastated” might be the woke-est five tracks to begin a mainstream album in years. In an interview with GQ, Joey declares “Temptation” as his favorite song he’s ever made. “When I refer to this time, this song will be the one that stands out. With the message, the emotion, the little girl on the outro, I just feel like it’s the perfect representation of this moment, of where we are.”
And if Joey was adding sugar to the medicine in the first half of the LP, he was shooting it straight into listener veins on the second. “Y U Don’t Love Me (Miss AmeriKKKa)” is a present day look at the relationship between the Black community as a
second class subset of American culture.
It is also of note that the record’s latter half is where the album gets feature heavy, with guests on all but the closing track. Schoolboy Q partners with Joey Badass to limited success on the rugged “Rockabye Baby“; “Ring the Alarm” is the weakest track on the album.
“Super Predator” featuring Styles P, “Babylon” featuring Chronixx, “Legendary” featuring J. Cole and “AmeriKKKan Idol”wrap up the album with a perfect quartet (two of which produced by Statik Selektah) of which to ride and vibe.
Fight Night: Winner Twelfth Round TKO
The degree of difficulty in making an album of this nature shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Joey Badass created a fully realized mainstream ready conscious rap album that is both rich, but not too filling and won’t put you to sleep. There are no obvious holes in this album and it has replay value even as he shares a musical landscape with Kung Fu Kenny’s DAMN.
Joey might not be there yet, but with this album he could be the future face of the NY hip-hop scene. The rub is this LP scored a modest fifth-place finish on the Billboard 200 in its opening week, moving 51,000 units. Not terrible, but Joey didn’t exactly move the needle either. It’s also a slight step back from his 2015 debut B4.Da.$$, which sold 54,000 copies and also debuted at number five. Joey is not making waves on social media, he’s not dropping legendary cypher freestyles on the BET Hip-Hop Awards, he’s not dipping into the battle rap scene like Joe Budden did, he’s not particularly fashionable or catchy.
Joey might best be described the Tristan Thompson of emcees. Young, but he’s been around the block. Talented, but more of your classic lunch-pale guy who’s a bit of a throwback in approach. Not a household name, but he’ll have his occasional moments on the big stage, and smart people are aware of his contribution to the game. Is Joey satisfied with this place in rap though? If not, does his steelo contain enough magic to elevate him to the next plateau of lyricists/artists?
After all, even Tristan bagged himself a Kardashian.