As a former DJ and producer, it’s often too easy to dismiss a mixtape, EP or album from the point of initial sonic contact. Weak production, awkward intros and bad beat selection can sabatoge a project in terms of first impressions.
As a former rapper from the school of rewind-the-tape-a-few-times-to-fully-catch-the-greatness-of-what-Kane-just-said, lyrical aptitude and fluidity of flow are attributes I personally admire, and therefore, I am occasionally guilty of slight prejudice against those who falter in this category.
As a professional with a marketing background, I don’t fall for hype too easily, especially in the upcoming music game, where email blasts often paradoxically tout an as-yet-unheard track as a “smash hit.”
In fact, Joey Bada$$’s mixtape release 1999 might have remained relegated to my really-want-to-check-out-but-probably-won’t queue. In this case, a word-of-mouth recommendation moved it up a couple of notches, and thankfully so, or I would have missed out on what can be simply described as a really nice sounding project from a Brooklyn MC on the rise.
Joey Bada$$ and his Progressive Era crew, who occasionally jump into his musical fray, enter during an evolving hip hop landscape, where traditional regional and stylistic divides are further exacerbated by continental shifts between those who favor lyrical complexity and wordplay, and those who could care less. We’ve already seen the effect where hip-pop artists are called out by advocates of “real hip hop,” and while such instances do little to change the grand scheme of things, the dialog that follows incidents like the Rosenberg-Minaj-Wayne Summer Jam fiasco can at least stir up a renewed argument that hip hop with more traditional tendencies should be given more credence.
Bada$$, only 17 at the time the mixtape dropped, would do well in such a world. Aside from natural flow, wordplay and strong production throughout, 1999 finds Joey Bada$$ occasionally delving into the same type of street-based philosophy found in the fabled Book of Illmatic, simultaneously chronicling his grind with introspective social commentary on tracks like “Righteous Minds” and “Daily Routine.”
A good listen straight from the top, it’s the meat of the mixtape, particularly around the 6th, 7th and 8th tracks, that should really start to invoke a bit more emphatic headnodding. It’s not simply because of the production (the beat selection and quality is exceptional throughout 1999), but the combination of lyrical content, delivery, beats, character and overall vibe that starts to reawaken a certain type of hip hop DNA that for purists may have fallen dormant in recent times.
There is great opportunity for fans of traditional New York-styled hip hop to get up close and personal to the up and coming. Often, we’ll shine a little light on an artist who still might not have fully mastered their craft, but because we have experienced their in-real-life persona, we know that they have an artistic charisma worth paying attention to.
With Joey Bada$$, it’s the opposite, as I have yet to witness a live performance, but for an emerging artist at this stage in a burgeoning career, there are few who I’ve come across who have a cleaner sound and a better defined vibe. 1999 should easily raise Bada$$’s stock, and I’d expect that the buzz factor will continue to rise in the months ahead.
In the meantime, 1999 is a great amalgamation of smooth, jazzy, well-chosen and well-produced tracks, playfully cocky but smartly lyrical content and confidently honest delivery that makes Joey Bada$$… Well… Pretty badass.
Download/Listen: Joey Bada$$ – 1999 [via DatPiff]