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14 February, 2015@4:55 pm

20 year-old Brooklynite Joey Bada$$ has been hailed as the torch-bearer for the return of the “golden era” sound, despite being born at the end of the era in 1995. Nevertheless, one can only imagine that songs from Black Moon, Mos Def, and Jeru The Damaja were playing in his neighborhood growing up, as he is the product of “the last generation” that M.O.P. told us about. His mindset is in the right place, even suggesting “This kid ain’t been the same since Biggie smacked me at my christening,” on the DJ Premier produced “Paper Trail,” that trail leading directly to a classic line on Biggie’s live freestyle with 2Pac from Big Daddy Kane’s birthday party recording. Yeah, the kid knows his shit.

We’re grateful to hear a young Brooklyn voice carry on the tradition of his forefathers, especially since many New York rappers of the last decade have instead attempted to adopt Southern styles of rap, or just resigned to emulating the over-thuggery attitudes of Ruff Ryders and 50 Cent. The production on the brilliantly titled B4.Da.$$, harks back to the late 90s / early 2000s sound, so much that if we didn’t know better and you told us this album was released on Rawkus in ’99, we would have believed it.

Statik Selektah’s lush jazz samples help open and close the album with the excellent pair of tracks “Save The Children” and “Curry Chicken,” while J. Dilla & The Roots provide the backdrop on the chilled out “Like Me,” featuring BJ the Chicago Kid. However most of the production is handled by affiliates of Joey’s Pro Era crew, such as Kirk Knight, Freddie Joachim, and Chuck Strangers, a team of producers that help flesh out the album well and deliver that classic sound. Songs like smoothed out, xylophone driven “Piece Of Mind,” the dancehall tinged “Belly Of The Beast,” and the 90s aggro gangsta rap driven “No. 99″ each capture that forgotten, vintage sound. Even Joey’s one crossover attempt, “Teach Me,” with Kiesza still has a cool, “Umi Says” kind of vibe to it.

Naturally, everything about the old school wasn’t great, and some of that surfaces here. “Big Dusty” employs a hollow, repetitive hook all too reminiscent of unsold HipHopSite retail store 12″ deadstock, as Joey chants “Check my style, check, check, check it out! Check my style, check check check it out!” Other times, things drag along on tracks like “Christ Conscious”, “O.C.B.” and “Black Beetles.” None of these tracks are particularly bad, they just make this otherwise solid album longer than it needs to be.

Best news of all, Joey Bada$$ has better first week sales that Rae Sremmurd and Kid Ink, suggesting that perhaps people are tired of the redundant formulas and are finally fiending for nostalgia. B4.Da.$$ is a well put together debut with a level of authenticity that clearly knows where it came from: Brooklyn, the planet.

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18 Responses to "Joey Bada$$ – “B4.Da.$$” – @@@@ [Review]"
  • gozomo33 says:

    you have to realize when you go back and listen to the classics there is a nostalgic element to it in your mind. imagine if you are a teenager today, and you listen to joey’s album front to back every day for a month or so. in a few years you will look back with your friends and say ‘oh that was a classic.’ it’s all relative. black moon was your classic, B4DA$$ will be some kid’s classic down the road.

  • the man the myth says:

    That’s a good point, but at the same time I have a couple of nephews who are in there late teens and are into a lot of new hip hop. They tell me who they are listening to and give their artists a listen, then I tell them, hey, if you like this, you should check this album from 1994. Now my nephews are bumping early Wu, Dangerous crew, early Outkast etc… They ask me what the hell happened to rap, because from a production standpoint, they are blown away by the older stuff, while realizing the new stuff just doesn’t hold a candle to it. It’s a good history lesson for them and everyone who I introduce to the older stuff ends up really liking it, they just don’t have a lot of perspective of those days cuz they are young. Like I said, I enjoy Joey’s albums, but he ain’t doing anything new.

  • Dayz says:

    I hear the argument but I’ll just say I think the LP is dope and I appreciate it for what it is. Yeah I too am a fincky old head that relishes in the Golden Era but this music speaks to me regardless if he’s trying to reinvent the wheel. Sounds doper than most artists out today so go on and make 90′s sounding LPs, I ain’t mad. I am not going to get caught up in the well others did it better 20 years ago stuff. This is now and it is a good LP so I choose to enjoy it.

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