I hate to admit this, but when I first fell in love with Joey Bada$$’ music, I did not expect him to reach the heights he has over the past five years.
That’s not to say I didn’t hope with every ounce of my being that Joey would become a big deal, it’s just that at the time, I didn’t see much space to operate for a group of kids sonically traveling back in time to 1995 and rapping about Christ consciousness, astral projection, and meditation.
Man, I was wrong.
Fast forward to 2017, and several of Pro Era’s members have found solo success, while Joey’s profile has skyrocketed, both inside of music and out thanks to his acting debut on Mr. Robot. Not only have the squad members of Pro Era not let their musical styles grow stale, Joey’s 2016 hit “Devastated” completely turned the perception of his particular skill set and approach to making music upside down.
Just over two years after the release of his debut album B4.DA.$$, Joey is set to return this April with his follow-up, ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$. I’m personally hyped beyond reason for this album, so I’ve compiled five reasons why you should be, too.
1. It’s been two years since we last heard from Joey in project form.
Aside from a couple loosies and a pair of new singles that will find a home on A.A.B.A, Joey has been relatively quiet over the last few years while touring the world. This means two things: Joey took his time crafting the new album, and fans—myself included—developed a hunger for new material. Spending several years working on an album doesn't guarantee greatness, but given Joey’s track record, we could be in store for an album of the year contender.
2. Joey’s sound has continued to mature and evolve since B4.DA.$$.
Joey built a dedicated fanbase with a gritty, East Coast-influenced sound that reminded hip-hop fans of the glory days in New York in the early to mid-'90s. While I still love revisiting previous works like 1999 and especially PEEP: The aPROcalypse, recent singles like “Devastated” and “Land of the Free” hint at a maturing and evolving Joey B. At only 22 years old, Joey’s artistry has grown leaps and bounds, and seeing how that manifests on his second studio album is exciting.
3. His social commentary is always on point and it's needed now more than ever.
From the very first time I listened to PEEP: The aPROcalypse, Joey and his Pro Era cohorts impressed me with their knowledge and wisdom. As Joey has grown older, his opinions and beliefs have become more complex, informed and varied. With so much having happened over the last two years, hearing an increasingly thoughtful and intelligent Bada$$ go in against the ills of society is exactly what many of us need right about now. “Land of the Free” already delivered on that hope, and with song titles like “Super Predator” and “Amerikkkan Idol,” not to mention the title of the album itself, I imagine we’re in for a heavy dose of Joey’s unadulterated worldview.
4. A new album means a new round of exciting visuals.
Although many of Joey’s videos have historically been pretty straightforward performance pieces, B4.DA.$$ did yield some innovative, exciting visuals in “No. 99,” “Christ Conscious” and the heartbreaking BJ The Chicago Kid-assisted “Like Me.” The recently released video for “Land of the Free” already doubles up on the promise of his previous videos.
5. Those features, though.
Like I wasn’t going to address the outrageous features on this album!?
First of all, we have Joey’s first on-wax collaborations with both J. Cole and ScHoolboy Q with “Rockabye” and “Legendary,” respectively. While those alone should be enough to incite riot-caliber hype, A.A.B.A. also boasts appearances from NYC legend Styles P, reggae artist Chronixx who also appeared on B4.DA.$$ standout "Belly of the Beast," and a posse cut with Beast Coast comrades Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution and Meechy Darko of the Flatbush Zombies.
Needless to say, this album is going to contain some heat.