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20 November, 2013@5:42 pm

When hip-hop took a turn for the worse, this critic remembers looking far into the future, and seeing, well, nothing. Nas declared “Hip-Hop Is Dead” at a point when it was making more money than ever, however he was referring the death of its original, unpolluted form. That original form was replaced by its more commercial counterpart, so naturally we’d begin to see a new generation of fans and artists that were raised on that by-product, whom missed golden eras like the 80′s and early 90′s completely. So looking far into the future, there’d be no “true” hip-hop artists any more, simply because tomorrow’s rappers would have never been exposed to what us older, disgruntled folks call “real hip-hop”.

And then came eighteen-year old Brooklyn emcee, Joey Bada$$.

The music that Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era crew are creating right now is a stark reminder of what hip-hop once was, and when a sound like this has been gone for so long, you can’t help but feel nostalgic when you hear it. Hearing Joey’s new Summer Knights EP – a slimmed down version of the mixtape of the same name from earlier this year – many will ask the same question once it rings through the speakers: “This is new??”.

It’s a sample-based, many times “jazzy” sound that we heard in the Stretch & Bobbito era, and then again during the MF Doom-led indie hip-hop movement. You’d be hard pressed to believe that songs like the opening track “Hilary $wank” or “Sit n’ Prey” weren’t produced by the Metal Face Villain, much less Buckwild or The Beatnuts in 1993.

Doom actually had a hand in producing “Amethyst Rockstar” for Joey’s longer Summer Knights mixtape, however this entry was left off the retail EP release. Unfortunately many of his other high-profile mixtape collabs are also absent: “Unorthodox” produced by DJ Premier, “Word Is Bond” produced by Statik Selektah, and “Trap Door”, produced by Alchemist, to name a few. This almost works to his advantage, however, as his core sound remains in tact throughout the EP, largely using in-house producers.

New additions to the retail EP include a remix of “My Yout”, replacing Collie Buddz with Maverick Sabre, however the original mix utilizing the same beat is also included. “My Jeep”, a posse cut with the Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers is another new addition, but seems like filler in comparison to the EP’s and mixtape’s stronger moments.

While Joey was likely forced to release a slimmed down version of Summer Knights for iTunes, its mixtape counterpart remains largely superior. This does collect some of it’s best moments, and works as a strong introduction for those still not up on Joey, but lacks both the completeness and consistency of an album. Hopefully his upcoming LP, B4da$$ (a clever censoring of “bad ass” and a double-entendre for “Before The Money”), will truly fill that void. Until then, he’s filling a void of a different kind: the sound of classic hip-hop.

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