The world needs to know that B4.DA.$$ is a great album. What makes it great? The songwriting, the instrumentals, the sound, and most of all the narrative. Joey Bada$$ lives up to his name, as a true badass. He's a rebel among rebels and a force to be reckoned with. It's also important to know that this is his debut full-length LP.
Joey is a true street poet, rapping on multiple levels and artfully capturing the essence of a subject matter with style and substance. Joey's got classic NYC hip hop in his DNA, but he's no imitator. Vocally, Joey reminds me of Muhammad Ali; he flows like a butterfly and stings like a bee. Riding a beat is something that Joey Bada$$ does very well, and he hits some nice punch lines.
The album starts with a crowd chanting for Joey. Then we get right into "Save The Children," a track that shows Joey taking the beauty and intensity of Public Enemy's "Fight The Power" and putting some common sense into that energy with a sampled message pleading to "Save The Children" - This song is a WOW song.
Then we hear "Paper Trail$," which flips Wu-Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M." from "Cash Rules Everything Around Me" to "Cash Ruins Everything Around Me" and "Dolla dolla bills, y'all" to "It's the dollar bill that kills, y'all." This is another WOW moment. Only a 20 year old could have this much courage. Joey's brash ambition is offset with streetwise skepticism. This is the kind of guy you want to root for.
Things get less socially conscious after the soapbox first two songs, but those themes run through the album. For my money, the best songs are "Big Dusty," "Like Me," "Belly of The Beast," "No. 99," "Chris Conscious," "On and On," "Escape 120," "Black Beetles," "O.C.B.," and "Curry Chicken." The bonus tracks, "Run Up On Ya" (featuring Action Bronson & Elle Varner) and "Teach Me" (featuring Kiesza), show Joey's versatility but don't really fit in with the bulk of the LP.
The sound of this album is a throwback to the '90s New York City golden era, with sonics straight out of classic funk, soul, jazz, and reggae records of the '70s and earlier. Yes, it's got that '90s feel, but this is timeless. The instrumentals sound fresh and clean, pushing core elements of O.G. hip hop culture -- sampling and turntablism -- into the future. It's a heady album, that makes a good companion to partying, driving around, or chillin' with headphones.
On the day this record was released, Joey Bada$$ celebrated his 20th birthday. The Brooklyn rapper is not only one of the best up-and-coming MCs in the game, but one of the best MCs out there regardless of age. This album lives up to the hype, which reached fevered pitch leading up to the release thanks to New York radio stations and a photo of Malia Obama wearing a t-shirt of Joey Bada$$'s group, Pro Era. I'd say this stacks favorably against any debut album in hip hop history.
In music, and especially in hip hop, authenticity is hard to come by. What makes rap great isn't television actors who make pop songs or shameless self promoters who look like clowns and rely on record labels and autotune; it's true MCs like Joey Bada$$. Enjoy this now, and hopefully we'll be getting more great music from Joey Bada$$ and the Pro Era crew in the not-too-distant future.
Keep up with Joey Bada$$'s latest music, news, and tour dates on his Zumic artist page.