In a music industry where mediocrity is applauded as greatness, you’d think it’d be difficult for genuine talent to break through the airwaves. However, Bed-Stuy Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ and his recently released 17-track album “B4.Da.$$” (‘Badass’ or ‘Before Da Money,’ depending on your perception) is a project for the old and new school hip-hop lovers.
“B4.Da.$$” is Joey’s debut album that exceeded his fans’ and critics’ expectations. Since his mixtape “1999” (2012), fans have commended Joey (born Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott) for his diversity in subject matter and surprisingly refreshing production choices, especially in choosing DJ Premier and Hit Boy for this project. Joey and his hip-hop collective Pro Era all come with a late ‘80s and early ‘90s flow that are completely opposite their mainstream competition. Even first daughter Malia Obama showed her appreciation for the collective with a selfie of herself in a Pro Era t-shirt.
Joey is a prime example of New York hard hip-hop reemerging as a relevant and possible genre in the current music waves. “B4.Da.$$” lacks features, but Joey carries the album without fault. Joey has a wide range of topics on this album, but they all seem to tie into the tale of a young black man living in New York and telling what he sees. He gets into a bit of spirituality also on this album, in “No. 99” where he raps, “been up all night, my third eye ain’t even blinking.”
Even his more sentimental tracks such as “On & On,” where Joey delves into contemplating his own mortality, it doesn’t slow down the melodic formation of the album as a whole. The select instrumentals play a major part in the success of the album. The chill vibe that rides as an undertone throughout the project makes it a whole album and not just a collection of singles, similar to his summer night mixtape. Hard-hitting bangers like “Christ Conscious” and “No. 99” balance things out with the heavy hitter bass and sped-up delivery. He also discusses the capturing behavior of the music industry and its truths being unveiled in “Paper Trails.”
Given that Joey is only 20 years old, this is an ideal album for him to begin flourishing as a mainstreaming artist. Many new, up-and-coming hip-hop artists have the potential to shift the direction of the genre to a more traditional energy with an updated and current overlay. To that effect, Joey’s chorus on “Hazeus View” where he says, “We may be riding the same trains occasionally but I can’t see what I can’t relate to.” For certain, Joey brings originality to the music waves in his verses.
Sticking with the ‘90s feel, Joey even has electric dance music (or EDM) on the project, which could have been a huge risk because of the genre and his unexpected singing vocals. The track doesn’t disrupt the flow of the project; however, the album could have done without the track altogether.
Critics are excited to see where Joey Bada$$ takes his music career and hopes he keeps up the image of the new kid on the block with the old school flow. Who knows, we may be witnessing a game-changer.