After being hyped up to be the next Nas, Biggie or Jay Z for three consecutive years, Joey Badass released his debut album B4.DA.$$ (spelled: before the money) two weeks ago. Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott, as goes his government name, born to a mother from St. Lucia and a father from Jamaica, grew up in the Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and astonishingly started writing poetry and rap lyrics at the age of 11. While on his mixtapes, he didn’t really rap much about himself, his debut album is more grounded into his story of growing up and being young and black in America.
Not strikingly revolutionary, right? No. Joey Badass is undoubtedly talented, yet he received a lot of heat for not being more than a “90’s” nostalgia rapper. His rapping technique and style are neither as outlandish or interesting as that of current competitors like Chance the Rapper or Childish Gambino. And yet, there is something that draws people towards his demeanor. The song No. 99 shows why this is the case. JB’s work, at least at times, is a clear homage to the vigilante gang mentality of the 1990’s Rap. A mentality that says “I will take justice into my own hands and show the parental generation how it’s done”. This anarchist wrath, aimed at the hypocrisy of the older generation and the 1%, resonates with a lot of young people around the globe.
“We comin’ for groups of guys in suits and ties
Who chose to hide truth from the eye
Grab a white collar by his white evil eye
Fight or flight, yo, that’s just what it is”
JB’s slight Jamaican accent only adds to the ferociousness. The video brings to mind Big Pun and Fat Joe going at it in the late 90’s. Apart from that, there are more introvert and playful tracks on the album. The tracks Escape 120 and Piece of Mind shows what JB can become a revolutionary force in Hip Hop. He can connect the Old School with the progressive. I wouldn’t say the hype around his work is unjustified, but that his talent is only half-realized on this album. I feel like he can be much more. He can push the boundaries if he escapes his musical comfort zone and goes all in. If you still get excited when the Wu Tang Clan announces a reunion, this album is for you. If you’re not, but Hip Hop still flows through your veins, you will still find tracks on the album that suit you. However, if you’re looking for progressive hardcore Rap à la Yeezus, you will probably have to wait for JB’s next album.