[Joey Bada$$' recent LP ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ is one easily lost among the huge hip-hop blockbusters of today due to mammoth releases like Kendrick Lamar's DAMN which have undoubtedly stolen the spotlight. Luckily, Liam Curran is here to fight the NYC MC's corner. Watch out Kendrick, there's a new politically-charged poet hot on your heels...
Joey Bada$$, the New York rapper who since releasing his 1999 Mixtape in 2012, and his first LP B4DA$$ three years later, has ruled the underground with his distinctive flow over 90s inspired boom-bap beats, has returned with his sophomore album ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$. The title, unmistakably divisive and powerful, hails its lineage from Ice Cube’s iconic AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, and former friend and Pro Era member Capital Steez’s Amerikkkan Korruption.
ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ is a passionate continuous polemic against the state of racial and social injustice today. Musically, conceptually and potentially even personally Joey has evolved from his earlier work... AABA is clearly a project from a man possessed with purpose.
ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ is a passionate continuous polemic against the state of racial and social injustice today. Musically, conceptually and potentially even personally Joey has evolved from his earlier work. While most of his earlier work presented an artist attempting to understand a hostile world and tragedies such as the suicide of Steez back in 2012, AABA is clearly a project from a man possessed with purpose. Lyrics such as “How many times do I gotta tell you I'm a man on a mission”, provides a glimpse of his determination.
Back in 2015 during an interview for Noisey, Joey asserted the biggest misconception about him was that he could only make ‘90s sounding music.’ AABA certainly moves beyond that boom-bap, lo-fi hip-hop style to a much grander form of production with distinct jazz and trap influences. The record begins with a smooth, super-sonic ambience with the dreamy ‘GOOD MORNING AMERIKKA' and ‘FOR MY PEOPLE’. This continues through to ‘TEMPTATION’ however, it is here that a real energy is injected into the album with its triumphant and utterly uplifting chorus.
The juxtaposition of deep and sentimental lyricism with some of the more mellow, atmospheric jazz-beats requires focus on the part of the listener to fully comprehend Joey’s message. Such as in ‘TEMPTATION’; “Are you willing to make the sacrifices? I know we can’t continue living like this”, the track sounds as if it is a call to his community to elevate itself as Joey himself states; “I just want to see my people empowered”.
Despite ‘DEVASTATED’ being Joey’s most commercially successful track, going gold after its release last May, it finds a new, profound significance in AABA. Positioned after ‘LAND OF THE FREE’ by this point even a Badmon virgin can understand why Joey has been feeling so confused, conflicted and ultimately devastated. The weight of social inequality and racial violence rests heavy on his mind and so this track offers a form of release, one of the only songs people can really turn up to. It is a joyful and thunderous statement that propels you into the second and darker half of AABA.
In this half we see a list of featured artists including TDE’s ScHoolboy Q on ‘ROCKABYE BABY’, Pro Era’s Nick Caution and Kirk Night along with the Flatbush Zombie’s Meechy Darko on the thoroughly interesting ‘RING THE ALARM’ as well as J Cole on ‘LEGENDARY’. One of my favourite tracks ‘BABYLON’ features reggae revivalist extraordinaire Chronixx. His eloquent and soulful stylings match Joey’s ferocious lyrical onslaught and sees them paired in a vision to run away from Babylon to a perceived promise land. On this track a true sense of anger and anguish can be felt; “To tell the truth, man, I’m fucking disgusted, I fear for the lives of my sisters, my brothers”, “Nowadays they’re hanging us by a different tree, Branches of the government and I can name all three”.
With our current political and social climate, our values and our visions for an equal, peaceful society hang delicately in the balance, and if Joey does anything it is to tell people that such a vision exists, but it requires definitive action.
Certainly, in the way the album ends, very little in the way of closure is to be gained. Potentially this is Joey’s intention. He wants people agitated, disturbed and moved. With our current political and social climate, our values and our visions for an equal, peaceful society hang delicately in the balance, and if Joey does anything it is to tell people that such a vision exists, but it requires definitive action. He departs with, “Amerikkka is force feeding you lies with a silver spoon, and eventually, we’ll all be doomed, real, real soon.”
Do you think Joey has what it takes to come for Kendrick's crown? Let us know in the comments below or via social media.