Equipped with rugged flows and the classic boom-bap stylings of ‘90s era golden-age hip-hop, Brooklyn native Joey Bada$$ sets out to prove himself on his debut studio album “B4.Da.$$.”
For those unfamiliar with Bada$$, he has been one of hip-hop’s most promising young faces since 2012. At 17 he garnered critical acclaim for his “1999” mixtape which saw him breathing new life into the hip-hop landscape by revisiting the beloved boom-bap sounds of ‘90s era New York greats such as the Wu-Tang Clan, Gang Starr and Nas.
Three years later and a few more projects under his belt, his long awaited debut album “B4.Da.$$” has finally been released.
After following Joey’s career since the release of “1999” and not having been as charmed by some of his other projects, I entered “B4.Da.$$” with high hopes and crossed fingers. Luckily, he managed to completely destroy all of my expectations.
Despite being 15 tracks long with a runtime of nearly an hour, there is little filler. The entire album is filled with fantastic songs that are a mixture of gritty boom-bap bangers and introspective looks into the pitfalls of newfound success and fame.
One aspect of the album that had me worried, but that I actually found to be a strength of the album, is the relatively small list of featured artists. This lack of outsides voices leaves the project feeling very cohesive and keeps Joey in the spotlight at all times, which is great because he is the best he’s ever been on this album.
The grittier songs on the record like “Big Dusty,” “Christ Conscious” and “No. 99” feature some of most aggressive verses and intricate wordplay of Joey’s career, while the introspective songs “On & On,” “Piece of Mind” and “Paper Trail$” show how much he has matured as he deals with heavier topics like mortality and the pitfalls of wealth in a very sophisticated and poignant manner.
Joey’s verbal skills are aided by great production from a variety of producers, such as New York legend DJ Premier, Pro Era crew mates Chuck Strangers and Kirk Knight and modern day big names such as Samiyam and Hit Boy.
If I had to point to a negative on the album, it is that the album loses momentum after the song “On & On” as the following songs are less aggressive than anything on the front half of the album.
The song “Escape 120” is probably the weakest moment in the album, seeing Joey spit over an electronic-inspired breakbeat. It is nice to see him step out of his usual boom-bap comfort zone but the track just slightly missed the mark.
Overall, Joey Bada$$ has released a stellar debut album and one that will probably stand as one of the best released in 2015. If you are a fan of ‘90s golden age hip-hop or if you don’t want to miss out on one of hip-hop’s most promising young talents, be sure to give this album a listen.