What is it about Brooklyn? What is it about New York City‘s most populous borough that churns out stars more often than Mike Tyson churned out knockouts? More often that Jay-Z churns out hits. Is there something in the water that turns children into the next Papoose, Mos Def or Talib Kweli? The place that GZA declared on Fame, where stars are born. The place which saw the colour barrier being broken in sports, the place where arguably the greatest rapper hails from…
Joey Bada$$, Brooklyn native, breaks onto the scene at the age of 17. He is the frontrunner of the Progressive Era group, sort of the ‘A$AP Rocky’ of the A$AP Mob, or a ‘Tyler The Creator’ to the Odd Future collective. However, he is very much unlike the aforementioned artists. Joey isn’t concerned with the ‘swag’ or the ‘narcotic talk’ that has drowned the Hip Hop genre as of recent, but is more concerned with the uphill, day to day struggles that affect us all in life. From the onset, “Summer Knights” provides a poignant beat in which Joey declares himself “a style with no gimmicks”.Waves, the soothing yet relentless message of ‘trash rapping’ provides a vehicle for Joey to target the youth who are obsessed with “trending fashions than descending passions”.
Exhibiting jazz samples and a boom bap drums Joey returns back to Hip Hop’s Golden Age with fellow P.E member Chuck Strangers. There are clear Gangstarr production influences displayed in ‘FromDaTomb’, and Survival Tactics (see video below) provides the amphitheatre-like setting in which Joey showcases the art form in all it’s splendor. From a verbal barrage consisting of punchlines, metaphors, and double entendres that would make even Shawn Carter proud. Survival Tactics is ‘braggadocio rap’ at its purest.Capital Steez drops a verse, almost stealing the show with “They say hardwork pays off/ but tell the Based God don’t quit his day job“. It’s not just Capital Steez who takes aim at contempory stars, Joey phonetically pokes fun at J.Cole with lines such as “Better watch him Mr. Nice Watch, Don’t Wrist That“. Displaying the associated fearlessness of the youth in Brooklyn, the duo combine again on the Knxwledge produced ode to Tupac‘s Killuminati.
1999 was bag of mixed emotions in hip hop. Big L died February 15th , 8 days later Eminem released the Slim Shady LP to great critical acclaim. The year also saw “Money, Cash, Hoes” become the mantra, which is what the mainstream yearned for the next half a decade before the south influenced crunk came to the forefront. Yet Black On Both Sides by Mos Def is perhaps the last album of it’s kind of a while, focusing on live instrumentation and social consciousness. A type of social consciousness the P.E crew draw inspiration from. The type that Joey displays on Hard Knock as he raps on the hook “One I’m tryna have a wife and kids, so I can’t live my life like this“. The most impressive part of the song is the final verse where Joey descends into a zone reminiscent of A.Z in Life’s A Bitch. One rhyme, rhyming his way with such vivid imagery and articulation that listeners have no option but to accept his vision. It’s clear from this moment as it was from the beginning of the mixtape Joey Bada$$ is something special
1999 also holds a landmark for Daniel Dumile, who created the character of MF DOOM, and it’s no coincidence of his inclusion in the mixtape, as Joey uses beats by the Masked Villain. One of the reasons that the mixtape gives off a vibe, similar to the year of hip hop in which Joey was born, it’s because the mixtape features beats produced by Lord Finesse, Statik Selektah and the late J.Dilla. The careful beat selection ensured that the throwback sound was flawless and not fake, with tracks such as Daily Routine, which sounds like it could’ve been omitted from the Low End Theory, blends perfectly into Snakes. It’s impressive how Joey has been able to capture the essence of the 90′s in the project. You could close your eyes and see yourself in the era. The allure of 1999 is too intoxicating to escape as you find yourself consistently nodding your head.
A lazy listener would immediately draw comparisons with Odd Future, but there is nothing shocking about the Pro Era group. The straight trip down memory lane has opened the gates of nostalgia, bypassing the need for gimmicks and avante garde marketing concepts. Displaying a maturity well beyond his years and the ability to create a cohesive sound with a multitude of flows, clever punchlines and shocking double entendres, Joey Bada$$’ debut is reminiscent of a 20 year old from Queens back in 1994, right around the time he was born. 1999 is enough to get any hip hop listener excited, a mixtape for the ages caught in a time-warp, authentic to the core. New York is back, and we hope to God Hip Hop is back too.
You can download the mixtape here!