Happy birthday, Joey Bada$$. January was a big month for the Brooklyn-born BET ‘Rookie of the Year’ nominee; few can attest to having their debut studio album released on the day they turn 20- years-old. But, for this East-coast prodigy, album drops and young money go hand in hand – B4.DA.$$ entered the American charts at number five, and sold close to 60,000 copies in its first week. It’s been a successful album thus far, and it’s easy to see why; Joey kills it.
B4.DA.$$ is a masterclass in old-school, nostalgia-driven East-coast hip hop. Joey’s flow is noticeably smoother than his previous outings, and album production has been cleaned and tidied. The album starts strong, with the classic lean-back beat of Save the Children. Joey’s rhymes are impressive for someone so young, and his syrupy flow mimics his New York heroes of old.
The album wastes no time and launches almost straight into what could be considered Joey’s ‘big’ track, Paper Trail$. Cash ruin everything around me, Joey laments in amongst a classically minimalistic beat.
Complete with scratches, samples, and turns, Joey’s beats are an obvious throwback to the East-coast scene of the 1990s. However, having said that, it does feel as though some of Joey’s more aggressive and deadly rhymes are hindered by beats that almost feel frightened to get too involved. Case in point, Big Dusty, the fifth track; in listening to his lyrics, Joey sounds like he wouldn’t think twice about stabbing someone – but this extreme violence is held back by a beat that’s reluctant to get too loud.
But, that’s my only real gripe with this album, and it only applies to certain tracks. For the most part, it’s a stellar piece of production that has definitely given Joey a few more staples for his setlist. It’s not afraid to get a little conceptual, a little bit spacey, especially on tracks such as Belly of the Beast, but make no mistake; this is not a considerate album. It is not an album upon which opinions are swayed – Joey knows where he stands and will not rest until you’ve been converted by the heat of Christ Conscious. Joey drops banger after banger as the album continues, with tracks like On & On taking the spotlight as the modern staple. It’s easy to see that Joey is a progressive thinker – it becomes clear from the album’s offset. It’s safe to say that the sounds that this album brings to the forefront; clean samples and classic beats juxtaposed with an unrelenting flow; are the new sounds of next week.
It may not be for everyone, and it may not be up to Joey’s usual standard of aggression, but there’s no doubt B4.DA.$$ is one of the most significant hip-hop releases of 2015. It’s a promising debut studio release by Joey, and there are tracks on this album that are certain to usher this young rapper even further into the spotlight.