The hip-hop community has dubbed Joey Badass one of the era’s best lyricists and it’s fairly easy to see why.
His debut studio album, “B4.DA.$$,” was released on his 20th birthday in January 2015. And it let us all see his life and struggles before reaching success. But his latest album, “All-Amerikkkan Badass,” is different, but in a good way. The deliberate misspelling in the title tells you all you need to know about the concept of this project, as it basically details how the government and white authoritarians continue to oppress African-Americans.
In this day and age, it’s almost too easy to rap about President Donald Trump and police brutality. But Joey is able to do so in captivating and, occasionally, creative ways.
The first track is an intro where Joey lays out the thesis of the record: racism, oppression and just how messed up the country is to the black community.
This flows perfectly into the second track, “For My People.” The chorus is, “This for my people, tryna stay alive and just stay peaceful/ So hard to survive in a world so lethal.” Here, Joey sings in a calm, monotone voice, accompanied by a mesmerizing instrumental. He explains why he wants to be successful in a world that is against him.
The intro and outro to the third song, “Temptation,” has a child expressing his worries about the way African-Americans are treated. After the intro, the beat grabs you and you’re hooked, with Joey passionately singing the refrain and rapping about how successful people can become selfish and forget about the poor areas they grew up in.
“Land of the Free” was one of his singles and encompasses everything about the opening two tracks: very political with a great delivery and crisp production.
Another one of my favorite tracks is the other single, “Devastated.” I love it because it fully personifies him in the African-American community. Through his personal lyrics, Joey says it just takes patience and hard work to be where you want to be.
In “Y U Don’t Love Me,” Joey draws parallels between a romantic relationship and the American Dream. He says, “Why you treat me like I don’t matter?/ Why you always kicking my ladder?”
The next four tracks are all very good and use great features that give other perspectives. At the same time, I started getting tired of this point being made in the album because it stopped being creative.
The penultimate track is very forgettable, and it’s not all Joey’s fault. His hook is forgettable, but it’s actually “Mr. Double Platinum with No Features” that brings this track to a grinding halt. Joey brought energy to his verse, then J. Cole just drops uninspired bars. He says more basic Cole lines than you would see on a horoscope, such as “Life happens like tides/ one minute you’re low and feeling shallow/ then all of a sudden/ you rise.”
“Amerikkkan Idol” sees Joey reviving his project with an energetic six minutes of pure thematic summation, basically saying white America sucks. But his rhymes are so good that I can’t help but enjoy this finale track.
While the album bangs my head repeatedly with the same message, his delivery, features and lyrics all elevate it beyond the standard fare. Joey’s content is good and necessary right now, but he was barely able to put together a 49-minute album from his lack of topical diversity.
Featured Image: Joey Bada$$ performing at Hovefestivalen 2013. Wikimedia Commons.