Last time I dropped a review here, A Tribe Called Quest had five albums. Now they have six and Lil’ Yachty is Grammy nominated. Correlation? None, I just wanted to put the two in a sentence together to piss off a reader (Rest in peace to the illustrious Phife and happy belated to the good man Q-Tip).
But today, I’m here to discuss an album by a young man who could have very easily fit in with A Tribe Called Quest back in the 90’s in some sort of way. I’m talking about Jozif Badmon. I’ve been a fan of Joey Bada$$ since his breakout tape 1999, which some hail as a classic mixtape (I’m not here to debate or discuss it), and since the release of that project Joey has slowly evolved from being this young boy who spits prisons after prisons, and more into a young man who tackles a bit more thought provoking or introspective topics. Tracks like “LongLiveSteelo” from his followup tape Summer Knights is a heartbreaking ode to the great Capital Steez, may his soul rest in peace, and tracks like “On & On” from his debut album B4.DA.$$ proved that he can REALLY spark the feels HEAVY. This was all maturity.
Still, with that being said I wasn’t too crazy about his debut album. I can’t say there was anything that I disliked about the project, but I left it wanting more, which can be looked at as bit of a double edge sword. Leading up to the release of this album he dropped a few singles, most notably the track “Devastated” which people seemed to really enjoy. Others looked at it with a bit of fear and skepticism, worrying that Joey Bada$$ was possibly going to go for a more commercial sound. A little reminiscent of when people reacted to Kendrick Lamr first released “i” before his album released. I’m sorry, but that’s not the last time you’ll see me bring up that album in relation to this one here. That being said, let’s get into this thing.1. Good Morning Amerikkka
Produced by DJ Khalil
10 seconds in and I’m already rubbing my hands like Birdman after burying $100 million in backyard. It’s a pretty short track, but it’s a really great way to set the mood and start the album off. Lyrically, it pretty much gives you a synopsis of what you’re in for. Freedom, racism, and Amerikkka.
America my masseuse, massaging’ my back
Tryna act like, she ain’t gonna do me like Pratt.
Love it. What more can I say?
Holy cross on my back got a bullseye on it
I gotta get stoned to fulfill my moment
2. For My People
Produced by DJ Khalil & 1-900
The way the intro track transitions to this one here is soooooooo smooth. It honestly just feels like it’s all one track together.
While I do think the production on this track here is solid as hell, and lyrically the track is pretty top notch…I’m not the biggest fan of the chorus. It has it’s moments, but I’m pretty indifferent about it. Outside of that though, the track is pretty great. It’s Joey stating that he is on mission for his people. A mission to stay alive and take a stand to be a voice to speak on the unjust inequalities he sees in his everyday life.
Music is a form of expression
I’ma use mine just to teach you a lesson
Rule one: this microphone’s a weapon
I’m shootin’ out the action manifested and my passion
Never resting’, I’m surpassing’ the expectancy of life in my direction
Solid track. I dig it. Hopefully the chorus grows on me.
They don’t wanna see you fly, they just gonna shoot your wings
Produced by 1-900 & Kirk Knight
(Shoutout to Zianna Oliphant representing for the young Black community in Charlotte, North Carolina.)
AYE, YOUNG JOZIF GOT SOMETHING TO SAY! He just wants to see his people empowered.
Love this track. The production is soul touching and the performance Joey gives here is A1. He’s got two verses here and he starts the first off with:
Now everybody got problems, yeah
But wouldn’t know what way to solve ’em
And the second with:
Now everybody got vices, yeah
But wouldn’t know what good advice is
My take on it is, everybody has problems and struggles, but people don’t really put in the effort to fix them. They settle instead of making necessary sacrifices for the greater good in the long-term.
And everybody has their own vices within them, but nobody lends a hand to another to uplift from these immoralities. This can actually tie into the starting line from the first verse. Maybe that’s the way to solve the problem?
This just the way I feel
Mind’s been racing so long, yeah
It’s just no way to deal
With these problems alone
Joey isn’t D’Angelo or Maxwell or anything, but his singing voice actually goes over a lot better than one might expect. Personally, I think it’s a pretty lush, smooth, and beautiful track. Highlight.
4. Land of the Free
Produced by 1-900 & Kirk Knight
Full house on my hands, the cards I was dealt
Three K’s in AmeriKKKa
I’m just a black spade spawned out the nebula
The production. THE PRODUCTION.
I’ve been giving this heavy replay since he released this track as a single back in January or so. Truthfully, I could easily claim it as one of my favorite Joey tracks to date. The production is beautiful and Joey sounds more mature than ever here. It’s nice to follow an artist from the early stages and watch them grow into one of the greats of their time and potentially all-time.
Joey speaks on his aspirations to create change, while addressing situations like mass incarceration and the contrast of the current state of Blacks in America in comparison to our ancestors.
Sometimes I speak and I feel like it ain’t my word
Like I’m just a vessel channeling inside this universe
I feel my anscestors unrested inside of me
It’s like they want me to shoot my chance in changing society
But how do I go about it? Tell me where I start?
The production is really smooth, and and actually sorta reminds me of the track “Juicy” by Biggie as far as sound goes. Of course topically the two as VERY dissimilar. Joey’s performance on this track is great, it’s really passionate and he gives a couple solid shots at Donald Trump. Definitely one of the best within the tracklist here.
Produced by 1-900, Kirk Knight, & Powers Pleasant
Truthfully…not the biggest fan of this track. I don’t hate it or even necessarily dislike it, but this is just a bit of a more commercialized sound that I don’t personally care to here from Joey, that’s all. BUT, I will say that within the album I do like this track a lot more than I initially did. I think with how the previous track flows into it and how they sort of connect off each other helps build upon what’s going here. See, album context always matters people.
6. Y U Don’t Love Me? (Miss Amerikkka)
Produced by 1-900 & Powers Pleasant
Oh look, a love song. But not just a love song about anyone. A love song about our lady AmeriKKKA. I dig the concept here with how he’s personifying and portraying the nation as this insensitive and mistreating lady:
Tell me why you don’t love me
Why you always misjudge me?
Why you always put so many things above me?
Why you lead me to believe that I’m ugly?
Why you never trust me?
Why you treat me like I don’t matter?
Why you always kicking my ladder?
Why you never hearing my side of the story?
Never look me in my eyes, say sorry?
Conceptually, and even sonically, this feels like something I could’ve seen Kendrick take on in To Pimp A Butterfly. Joey here does the concept to a t though. Certainly one of the best tracks on the album, with a lot of standout lines and very lavish production with these nice drums and horns that sort of flutter in an out. I think I heard a bit of guitar too.
Why you gotta kick me down on all fours?
Why you can’t stand to see me stand tall?
Tell me why we gotta war?
Why we gotta fight? Why we always gotta spar for?
Why you always trine see me in trouble the law?
I guess some things will never change
Locked in the cycle, trine break the chains
Handcuffs so tight, nearly slit my veins
This what tough love feels like, feel my pain
As far as love songs in Hip-Hop go, my favorite happens to be “Fancy Clown” off Madvillainy. Just throwing that out there.
7. Rockabye Baby
Featuring ScHoolboy Q; Produced by Chuck Strangers & 1-900
NAAAAAAAASTYYYYYYYYY. The bass and those piano keys. Top notch production.
Joey delivers a hard verse, but ScHoolboy Q definitely steals the show here. I love how at the start of his verse they strip back the keys and bass and slowly as his verse progresses it builds back.
From gettin’ lynched in field into owning buildings
Getting millions, influencing white children
And oddly we still ain’t even
Still a small percentage of blacks that’s eating
The chorus is truly something serious. Sick shit. So far it’s the most hard hitting track in the album as far as sound goes. Most certainly a standout track that will be getting heavy rotation from me.
8. Ring the Alarm
Featuring Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution, & Meechy Darko; Produced by Kirk Knight & 1-900
Now… I have a lot of good things to say about this track, but I also have an issue with it. The beat is pretty weird, but not in a negative sense. Joey and company do it justice. Speaking of company, Kirk Knight and Nyck Caution going back and forth with fire, and Meechy Darko doesn’t have a full verse, but his addition still adds a good deal of enjoyment to the track. My issue with the track is that sonically and topically it doesn’t really fit with everything else here on the album. So while it is a pretty nice track to bang, it stands out within the album as something that doesn’t necessarily feel like it needs to be here.
Definitely something I’ll bump here and there, but I don’t think it fits all too well here. This track has crazy bars though.
Real shit though, when Lil Wayne said, “Real G’s move in silence like lasagna”, I didn’t get it for 2 years. Embarrassing right? Yeah, but Joey tried to get me again with that “Real G’s move in silence like my designer” line. You thought you had me, but not this time!
9. Super Predator
Featuring Styles P; Produced by Statik Selektah
The production here is super fly. Statik did his thing. Lending a hand to Joey, we have the pretty underappreciated STYLES P OF THE LOX. Styles gives a dope verse here.
Pray to Jesus, hope he got you
No I’m not a chicken, I never listen to Fox News
Niggas built the country, but never givin’ they props due
Payin’ for my people, I’m still paying’ for my pops due
This track here is mainly just taking on the meaning of the “Super Predator” term, which is defined as a youth with no morals or regards for human life. Issue with that is, it’s something that seemed to be directed exclusively of Black youth. Probably a shot at Hillary Clinton who has infamous history with the term, and who had a hand in the mass incarceration of many blacks.
-but here’s for the Presidents, the Congressmen, the Senators
Who got us all slavin’ while they reaping all the benefits
God the world shining that it’s true ’bout what they said of us
AmeriKKKa’s worst nightmare, the super predator
Definitely something I’ll be coming back to. Dope track.
Featuring Chronixx; Produced by Like & 1-900
This song is really POWERFUL. Joey’s vocal delivery and overall performance on this track is actually pretty heartbreaking to hear with him speaking on this topic. The main topic of this track I would say is police brutality, and the mistreatment of blacks by the system.
Turn on to CNN, look at what I see again
It’s another black man, died at the white hand of justice
To tell the truth , man, I’m fucking disgusted
I fear for the lives, for my sisters, my brothers
He ain’t breathing, you made it clear
Fuck your breath , nigga, don’t even deserve air
Don’t even deserve shit, don’t even deserve nothing
If black lives really mattered, you niggas would do something
Reggae artist Chronixx gives a really dope feature as well, being the bridge between the verses.
Who you think investing in penitentiaries though?
Same owners as them labels, same owners of your cable
Spoon feeding you fables, trine keep your mind stable
This is one of the most, if not the most, powerful tracks Joey has ever released. I love it. Easily one of my favorites on this thing. (Rest in peace to Eric Garner.)
They say you never know what you got
‘Til it’s all up and away
And it’s so lonely at the top
Sometimes you wanna throw it away
Featuring J. Cole; Produced by Statik Selektah
Probably the most peaceful track on the album. The production is pretty subtle and nice, with some horns that come in and out along with some piano keys. Joey does his thing, but the standout for me is J. Cole.
Look, ready for whatever comes
I hope for the bestsellers, I taste the peace and pray it never leave my tongue
But yet, before long, the feelings done
Perhaps, I was foolish, just like the boy that only prays to see the sun
I don’t want to be “that guy” and this might be far fetched, but I wouldn’t mind a little Joey and Cole EP if the topic and production matches a bulk of what’s on here. Joey obviously has a lot to say, and I tend to enjoy J. Cole when he’s on more jazzy production and being political, at least when he takes the mile to be direct and not hold back. But I digress, this is a very dope track.
12. Amerikkkan Idol
Produced by DJ Khalil
Final track. The production. THE PRODUCTION. I vibe with these lowkey electric guitars.
This track is literally just like….“FUCK THE GOVERNMENT” in one of the most smoothest and well played ways. We have Joey telling his audience that he perceives that the government is trying to start a civil war by pitting Blacks, whites, and others against each other through slander and propaganda. The final verse and the entire track itself really feels like a solid closure for the project Joey has turned in to his listeners. Definitely a perfect way to send off the album. (Rest in peace Alton Sterling.)
It’s a great album. What more could I say? Took me a couple of listens to fully appreciate it. At first I was a little bummed that it didn’t have a more abrasive and hard start, and instead gave us more smooth and melodic tracks for most of the first half. Honestly, that’s probably my fault for building such expectations as those, but after some time passed I thought about how Joey never really has crafted tracks as smooth and melodic as the ones here, or at least they didn’t go over as well as the ones here do. Joey REALLY sounds more mature than ever on this album and that’s very apparent with the topics he tackles throughout this entire album. People are probably going to be comparing this album to To Pimp A Butterfly A LOT, but while they do share some similarities, they’re actually very different in many ways.
A lot of people after the announcement of the title of the album sort of had this eye roll feeling, because you know…the three K’s in America? It can sort of come off as a pseudo intellectual move, but when you think back to earlier Pro Era work (AmeriKKKan Korruption), and earlier Hip-Hop work in general (AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted) it actually seems pretty fitting. Joey is sort of cut from that same “fuck the police” cloth as an Ice Cube or a Tupac. The fabric is just newer. And from the east.
Since I brought up Tupac in relation to Joey I might as well speak on it. Is Joey a better rapper than Tupac? Does this album propel him into being on the same level as a Tupac or a Biggie? Well, Hip-Hop evolves. Times change. So comparing two rappers from completely separate generations of the genre, one two decades dead and the other two decades old…it’s kinda hard. BUT strictly compare the lyrical abilities of the two…I think present Joey might have him beat. But I don’t think Joey or many other rappers will ever reach the great status as a Tupac Shakur. But…maybe that’s just a challenge for them to prove me wrong, eh? So, fair enough? But this album definitely propels him more as one of the already cemented greats of this generation.
It’s powerful, very well produced, lyrically superb, and every feature is well done. My only complaints would have to be that, yeah, at times it feels a bit too smooth, but never in a way that it feels like it’s dragging on. A couple tracks pale in comparison to others and there’s a few inconsistencies I feel, but there’s not necessarily a track that I could call BAD or TERRIBLE. It’s either between solid and great. And the average hits great. So, it’s great. Super proud of Joey.
Can’t change the world unless we change ourselves.