“Start a new coalition against corrupt politicians
It’s not enough pots to piss in, too many murder convictions
Another family evicted, another black man a victim
That’s as real as it’s getting, you should take recognition”
When an artist puts politically and racially toned lyrics in their lead single these days the first assumption we have is that they are just trying to capitalize on what is currently going on in the country. We think they are trying to get sales by discussing something that will get people talking and further promote their product. It is very rare that we think the artist truly understands the impact their words are going to have as it reverberates back to the listener throughout random moments of their day. This is the difference when Joey Bada$$ speaks.
Anyone that has followed Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott (known to the masses as Joey Bada$$) understands what he brings to the table when he releases an album. This is not a fad or a trend that he has just picked up, in the name of sales or controversy. Joey has always put himself out of the norm, and directly into a box, by his choice. He thinks outside of the box, by being inside of the box. With soulful production and airy aesthetics his music has an almost transcendent tone to it. Then he brings you the nostalgic flavor of hip hop with dirty snares and ruff drums. He picks his beats intentionally on every project, and “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$” is no different.
We should start with the album artwork. The cover is reminiscent of Easy Rider (1969) with flipping off those that represent AmeriKKKa. The bandana style flag and no mention of his artist name on the cover, start us off with strong symbolism for his sophomore release.
With production handled by 8 selected pros (DJ Khalil, Kirk Knight, 1-900, Static Selektah, Powers Pleasant, Like, Chuck Strangers, and Jake Bowman) we get a cohesive blend that could easily be heard in a different decade than now. There is a slick and clever use of an Outkast sample on the track “Devastated” that will make fans of the legendary group say “Those horns!!” The production gives you the ability to play this album real low, on your headphones, on a Monday morning, to reflect. It also gives you the permission to blast it from your car speakers, on a Friday Afternoon, to project. And where the production is damn near flawless, the lyrics captivate like only the best lyricism can.
Joey gives us catchy choruses to sing, but he also gives us deep meaty lyrics to digest. The lyrics very quickly let you know where he stands on the spectrum of what is currently going on in our country, and in the world. He holds no punches when he says
“Because AmeriKKKa don’t love me
Whole country turned on me
There’s no love in the city for the homie
Just a gang of police, praying they don’t ever catch it on me”
Like it or not, this is where we are right now in America. Some may agree or disagree but the fact remains that these lyrics represent the sentiments of many minorities in America. He echoes what many are thinking but do not have the platform to say. And he does it with flare on songs like “Y U Don’t Love Me? (Miss Amerikkka)” and “Land of the Free“. The album shows a rainbow of emotions that anyone can relate to, if they listen with an open ear. And while he is open to educating and representing all of the unrepresented around the country, he never forgets where he is from.
Enter “Ring the Alarm” and “Super Predator”. The latter, which features a title that is used to remind everyone of what one of the presidential nominees of 2016 said in the 90’s about minority youths in gangs, has a pure hip hop boom bap beat and wordsmith Styles P to bring the New York grit. These songs show that not only does Joey put on for himself, his city, his culture, and his people but he also puts on for hip hop, for non mainstream rap, for the hip hop culture, and its legendary artists that broke the ground that started it all. He pays homage to one of the best (if not the best) from his hometown of Brooklyn with a small lyric that is BIG in itself. Those not in favor of this nostalgic New York sound may want to stay clear of “Ring the Alarm”.
I could go on and on about this album but the point is simple. Joey Bada$$ gifted us with a potentially GREAT album that has depth and perception. It has everything that we look for in great music. And it will be as great, it will be as great as you allow it to be.