Joey Bada$$ “B4Da$$” – With all the hype surrounding the debut release from Joey Bada$$, “B4Da$$” has been mostly met with positive reviews from critics and strong sales by his fans. Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott, as many know, began his career by releasing mix-tapes of himself and his Pro Era crew. “1999” and “Summer Knights” were both met with critical acclaim for its 90’s Golden Age production and feel. Joey Bada$$’s desire to show that love and reverence to those old school cats, by creating songs that could be found on old DJ Clue tape, have led to “B4Da$$” being one of the most anticipated hip hop releases in recent memory. While the album does have have plenty of that classic grimy “Brooklyn” feel, Bada$$ does make sure to show the masses his ability to be both introspective and socially conscious.
The album starts with the track “Save The Children” a look at the social issues that face a young black man growing up in the boroughs of NYC. The track is solid with good production from Statik Selektah, but not the song I would have started the album with. While I feel the beat and like the song, it didn’t get me as hyped up as I would expect from a lead track. “Paper Trail$’ is the DJ Premier produced track off the album and the song I would have led with because it is a banger. At this point with both Bada$$ and Primo having collaborated a few times before, the pair weave a perfect symmetry of vocals and beats. These first two tracks really are a microcosm on how the rest of the album moves, swaying from the soulful and profound- “Like Me”, “Piece Of Mind”, “On & On” and “O.C.B.” to the raw and griminess of “Big Dusty”, “Christ Conscious”, and “Belly of the Beast”.
At times channeling Biggie and other times sounding like the entire Boot Camp Clik, Bada$$ really is a throwback to that mid 90’s era when rap was lush with creativity and talent. I would have liked more songs like “Big Dusty” or “Christ Conscious” , tracks that really have that dark ghetto feel, reminiscent of Da Beatminerz or Mobb Deep. The production on the album is top notch, its as if someone went back to 1994 and stole a whole bunch of beats from D&D Studios, but lyrically Bada$$ doesn’t shine as much as he is capable of on the album. There were far too few moments on the album where I felt like Joey ripped up the track and dropped the mic. Overall this is an impressive debut for Joey Bada$$ but nothing that would be considered a classic. Regretfully there are just not enough tracks from this album that I would keep on my mix-tape; however, the ones I would- “Big Dusty”, “Christ Conscious” and “Paper Trail$”, make it worth the buy. Hopefully as time goes on, the rest of the album grows on me and I begin to appreciate it more.