Who's this new Bada$$ kid???: A UK Perspective

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With Kendrick and the rest of Black Hippy dominating the New West-Coast scene and a Mr. A$AP Rocky handling matters in the East, it seems as though we are witnessing the “resurrection” of Hip-Hop that rappers have so long been complaining about being dead. This does not forget Tyler’s OFWGKTA collective which has been causing huge controversy around the world with their foul-mouthed rants that find a new way to show us “that breaking rules is FUCKING COOL AGAIN”. Odd Future also features Earl Sweatshirt, who is gaining huge respect in the Rap game right now, already compared with the great Nasir Jones at such a young age. When it comes to this genre of music, the UK is slightly behind the States with only a select few of us up-to-date with the latest ridiculously respected rappers. Even still, the truly powerful names and players make it overseas in a rush.

And then along comes Joey Bada$$ straight outta Brooklyn with his millennium approaching mixtape title, which in my personal opinion is incredible. It seems another 17 year old is putting his stamp on the game, asking his rapidly increasing fans to bear his ‘Smoker’s Club’ chain. “Joey Bad and Chuck Strangers, leaving niggas endangered” with a style that echoes Nas’ ‘Illmatic’ old-school vibe, whilst also integrating a 2012 style that feels oh so fresh. Considering the incredible amount of new talent already mentioned, that’s a tough sound to engineer.

It was actually a 17 year old kid that informed me about Bada$$ ,(already causing a stir in the States, just last week. Since downloading his tape I’ve been fixed. It feels so fresh, crisp and real whilst also drawing on the classic New York style of Rap which has been established by the 3 Kings of NY: Biggie, Jay and Nas.

The first track I heard of Joey’s was ‘Waves’ and was instantly impressed by his opening Verse:

Since nine five, momma been working nine five
And I know the landlord fed up with our lies
So we pray to the Gods, the Jahs, and the Allahs
To keep us safe and watch our lives

In four lines this teen references the daily grind, rent payment issues, religion and keeping safe. He’s clearly got his head screwed on for a high school student and obviously, the big question on people heads was immediately “Is this kid as good as Earl?” But to me, it seems like this question is irrelevant. Earl has presented the platform for teenage rappers to shine, and Joey has seized this opportunity. The style is completely different in many respects but obviously, both have fantastic lyrical ability. There’s no need to pick sides. Both rappers are dope.

I took to my laptop after this young gentleman played me ‘Waves’, to go check out the video on YouTube. I was equally as impressed with the video as I was with the track. With better cameras and technology constantly becoming more affordable, new artists are able to arrive on the scene with a polished video to accompany their work. BadA$$ is different: he hired the legendary hiphop director Vashtie to have her way with Bada$$’s badass track.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51e1gIkzHgk

The video begins with a 6.30am wake up, a 17th Birthday card from his (US) Mom/Mum (UK), and a flash of Jo Vaughn Scott’s student ID, clearly displaying the 01/20/1995 Date of Birth which has left many of us feeling rather old (and stunned at his ability). After vacating the stairs, he kisses his Mum on the cheek whilst the listener hears the line, “keep us safe and watch our lives”. This moment clearly parallels The Notorious, who as we all know also had a close relationship with his Mum. So despite his stage surname, Jo is clearly a good kid at heart.

After this scene, the day-in-the-life-of-a-teen unfolds before our eyes, with shots of Edward R. Murrow High School, snapback wearing street skaters, close-ups of cracked phone screens, flashes of a house party and uses of public transport. The message: Joey is just another teen. The difference: Joey is “tryna go global” and “tryna be a mogul”. He’s got ambition, and as J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar have been displaying, ambition and focus are what you need more than anything to succeed in the game right now. In contrast to displaying the typical daily teen routines, Vashtie also shows us the other side of Bada$$’ life: the swag. We see Joey at night on a building rooftop with the Empire State Building lit up behind him. This image foreshadows the new rapper’s path to the top now that he’s become “an MC master”. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but arrogance has always played a big part within hiphop; if you don’t big yourself up people won’t notice you. Joey knows “niggas trash rapping” and clearly does n’o believe that his work is to be considered in the same category as others. As he explains himself in a cleverly constructed lyric, you’ve “gotta give credit where it’s due. Coz you aint gon’ like the Karma when it’s set upon you”. Thus, give Joey the credit he deserves and stop judging a book by its cover.

Toward the end of the video we get to witness the type of gig where Joey is currently performing. It’s an intimate gig, which to many fans is a favourite kind; one in which you feel a closer connection to the rappers on stage. In the video, Vashtie fades blue circles across the screen before the red lit concert emerges. This camera technique could be interpreted as the flashes of stardom which are flickering around the 17 year old right now, with the whole video foreshadowing a potentially massive career in the hiphop game for Joey.

But what about the rest of 1999? Anyone can release a killer track and then fill the rest of the tape with fillers and tracks you tend to flick over. Not the case here. ‘Snakes’ feat. T’nah Apex is a very smooth and very chilled track, littered with biblical references whilst also providing the listener with a solid chorus, reminiscent of Christopher Wallace’s female chorus providers. On top of this track you have the incredibly funky ‘World Domination’ which aptly ties together Bada$$‘ determination and strive, with the classic catchphrase from the Warner Bros, famous genetically enhanced Lab Mice:

Pinky: “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"
The Brain: "The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!”

We wish Joey luck in his mission to conquer the world!

Hardknock’ feat. CJ Fly is another of my favourite tracks in which we see an extremely conscious Joey who knows how to enjoy his teenage years, whilst at the same time recognising that he can’t live his life this way forever, as it will eventually hold him back. Marijuana and Marley are referenced throughout Joey’s work, with the Pro Era crew clearly aiming to please the stoner rap fans. But unlike rappers such as Wiz, weed is not a major focus of Joey Bada$$’ music; drugs just accompany his flow and add depth to his lyrical ability.

I understand that to many keen hiphop junkies, Bada$$ may have been around for a while and is now old news. The UK is slightly behind the States. If this is the case for you and you’ve just read an article that teaches you nothing new, my sincere apologies, I just wanted to convey the perspective of a US hiphop fan from Manchester, England. On the other hand, if you haven’t yet checked out Joey Bada$$, now’s the perfect time, you won’t regret it!

P.S. Serious props to MF Doom, J Dilla, Lord Finesse, and Statik Selektah for providing us with the production side of things. Some killer beats on this tape indeed, even if some are samples.

P.P.S. Get on Mac Miller’s new track ‘America’ from his 2012 ‘Macadelic’ mixtape for a sick feature from Joey himself.