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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]"
  • the man the myth says:

    Yeah, I like Joey too, and I really appreciate that he respects the architects of the game, and you can tell that he is a hip hop head, not just in it for money. But like you said, his music isn’t jaw dropping, it’s just solid, but us older cats simply have heard it before and done in a much better way by legends. It’s kind of like this DJ Mustard cat that is getting a ton of love. His production is hailed as a 2015 gfunk throwback, but when I listen to it, it just sounds generic. I would rather listen to some Above the Law, Ant Banks or Dj Quik from 1994 if I want a G funk fix, it’s just better. Freddie Gibbs is another one that I don’t see the hype about. Decent rapper who only talks about drug dealing. I liked The Madlib collab, but after a couple of spins I just got bored with it, and at the end of the day I have heard drug rap for the last 25 years, so the topic is just played out and un-original.

  • the man the myth says:

    It also seems to me that the real risk takers in the game are the vets. I love what El-P and Killer Mike are doing right now. From production to rhymes, those dudes just go in. I loved Funcrusher and all of El’s solo stuff, but his collabs with Mike have been a true evolution of this music. I also really like what Ghostface has been doing the last few years, and am really hyped for that Sour Soul album next week. While most of hip hop has devolved into pop drivel, there are still cats out there pushing the envelope, but it’s few and far between.

  • Mitch 3K says:

    Yeah, EL & Ghost are probably my favorite surviving artists from back in the day who still keep me interested, because their not afraid to go in new directions while still maintaining there authenticity. It never comes off as switching up their sound just to do it, it’s an honest creative evolution. As much as I loved Fantastic Damage and Supreme Clientele, if they were still sitting around making knockoff versions of them, I’d have tuned out years ago.

  • Battlehound says:

    It’s a good album that plays and sounds just like his mixtapes. All good but not the bombshell I thought it was gonna be. Funnily enough the best track is probably ‘teach me’


    I felt that the 2nd half of the album was just kind of a slow pace. If he had more bangers like Sit n Prey from his mixtape. This would have no doubt been a near classic.

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