Rating: 8.5 / 10
In the Hip-Hop world today, there is a trend forming; a phenomenon of young talent coming together in collectives, led by one standout performer- such as SpaceGhostPurrp, A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, and Tyler, The Creator. You can add Joey Bada$$ to this category of front-runners now as well. The 17-year-old senior in high school from Brooklyn has burst onto the scene with his debut project 1999, representing his crew Pro Era, and giving listeners flashbacks and a breath of fresh air at the same time.
The buzz around Joey began with the release of “Survival Tactics”, an aggressive braggadocio record that displays the NY battle-tested rhymes of Joey and PE member Capital STEEZ (“But it’s definite/ I spit more than speech impediments/ Brooklyn’s the residence/ The best, and it’s evident”). It was the kind of kick in the door that leaves no choice for people to take notice. But as the entire mixtape is explored, it’s clear that Joey Bada$$ is more than just punch- lines. “Waves” is another example of his prowess on the mic, but in a mellow, more thoughtful context (“And I’m hopeful/ That me spittin’ this soulful/ Will have me in the daily postal/ Flying coastal/ Eatin’ tofu”). And the array of sounds continue; from the playful “Where It’$ At”, the introspective “Snakes”, or the melancholy “Pennyroyal”- which are over J-Dilla, J-Dilla, and MF DOOM instrumentals. Whether over original production or recycled beats by legends, Bada$$ maintains an intriguing vibe that keeps listeners on their toes.
Although he was only six years old when the decade ended, Joey is drenched in a ’90s style New York groove that proves too intoxicating to escape. “Funky Ho’$” is a perfect example of this; from the Lord Finesse beat, to the Big L inspired flow and the crew shout outs at the end, you’re taken back to the days of Buckshot and Mobb Deep. Furthermore, though the sound and tone of the project is old-school, the actual content is full of topics the youth can gravitate towards. On “FrombaTomb$”, Joey raps “F*ck Trigonometry…” and on “Daily Routine”, “These bloggers too emotional…”; speaking for an entire audience of adolescents who are stuck between Low End Theory and Black on Both Sides in musical time, but yearn for lyrics that they can apply to themselves in today’s society.
The album ends with a classic posse cut, “Suspect”; which features nine members of the Pro Era crew and the same hook of the Nas song of the same name. Being from Rap-Land- Brooklyn, New York- has certainly given Joey Bada$$ a foundation to work on. With a movement and ambition that mirrors today’s most successful artists, and a sound that is so authentic and ripe, 1999 is awesome. This is a project that will make any Hip-Hop listener excited.