By Zackery Quigley
The best kind of art is something that makes the audience think.
Joey Bada$$, a 20-year-old rapper from Brooklyn, New York, produces innovative music through his double entendres and beats that are reminiscent of the ’90s. His new record, “B4DA$$,” is no exception to his usual technique, granted he could have shown fans a more diverse use of beats, and a departure from his usual ’90sinfluenced style.
The album’s theme is centered on life growing up as an African American in New York City, and how he lived before his rise to fame. The record is not just background noise, ⎯ it demands the listener’s undivided attention in order to understand its many intricacies.
Right off the bat, Joey makes you think. The Brooklyn native’s album paints the scene with melodies that coincide with the message of each song, which tells the story of his life before the money. The imagery that he uses is what sets him apart from rappers who promote violence and gang culture.
Joey’s relaxed delivery of his lyrics and the heavy emotional tone of his songs are often in opposition with each other. Most of the tracks on the album are laid-back, filled with steady beats and an equally steady delivery. His message, however, tends to be aggressive in its content as takes on subjects such as inner city life and greed.
The songs depict him at each stage of his life, so far. Growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it is fitting that he uses melodies that take the listener back to the earlier eras of rap. Although his beats are reminiscent of what some consider to be the golden era of rap, his lyrics are what keep it fresh. His flow sometimes goes with the rhythm of each melody, or against the grain, depending on the emotional tone of each song.
“B4DA$$” starts out with the infectious roar of a live crowd. Trumpets blare and signify that the long awaited debut album has arrived. Fans of the rapper were forced to wait almost two years for the album, making its arrival one of the most anticipated hip-hop releases of 2015.
Joey’s message was unavoidably clear in the opening track “Save the Children.” He commented on society’s need to give our children a good life, so that they can carry on the future of humanity. Joey uses the song to point out that rap is often lacking good role models and that rappers don’t care what message they are sending to our youth. “They just wanna ride the saddle, it’s so sad though,” Joey raps in the opening song.
“Piece of Mind,” the fourth track on the album, begins with a telephone conversation between Joey and a friend in jail. The crackling sound of the phone call evokes an image of Joey opening a window of empathy for his friend, letting his friend know that he will never be alone as long as he hears the music. The track then breaks down into a train-like, cymbal heavy beat that pervades his high-minded lyrics.
“Teach Me” is an exceptional song because it is a complete departure from Joey’s ’90sinfluenced instrumental style. The song is uplifting, fast paced and infects listeners with the need to gyrate much like the Caribbean Shata music that inspired the song. The dynamic beat and chants of “teach me how to dance” turn his usual style on its head.
If you are looking for some new music, buy B4DA$$. The album is like a Swiss Army Knife. Every listen will bring about a new discovery. It is sure to put a smile on your face.
Zackery Quigley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.