It’s not often I get genuinely excited about the release of a mixtape. But ever since Joey Badass dropped his video for “Survival Tactics”, I’ve been eagerly anticipating any material he’s got in store for us. So with this in mind, 1999 had a lot to live up to. Now it’s arrived it’s caught the attention of hip-hop heads worldwide. Prior to it’s release he had relatively few songs circulating online, it’s a testament to his quality that he managed to build such a big buzz without the usual abundance of material.
The mixtape opens with “Summer Knights” a short introductory track with an ultra-relaxed vibe, he sets the tone here for what’s to come. It’s a chilled instrumental counter-balanced with his grimey style of rapping. It leads nicely into “Waves” which uses a high pitched manipulated vocal at the beginning, definitely a nod to Madlib. Joey sets out his ambitions on this track, it reminds me of how Jay-Z would make similar predictions on his debut album Reasonable Doubt, it even includes a line which sets out his goal as “’til I meet Hova and my Mom is in a Rover”.
“FromdaTomb” is the best track on the tape thus far. The jazzy beat is a throw back to the early 90’s, for me it is influenced by classics like Mobb Deep’s “Temperature’s Rising”. It also has the first feature of the project; Chuck Strangers adds a verse which unfortunately doesn’t reach the lyrical heights of Joey Badass. Still, it’s a pure head nodder with a nostalgic feel, sure to satisfy all of us wanting to get back in touch with a classic hip-hop sound.
“Survival Tactics” (video, right) which I mentioned earlier, got me into Joey. This banger has to be a contender for both video and single of the year. Joey speeds up the tempo on this one with an enthusiasm similar to legends like Big L. Capital Steez, who features throughout this mixtape, does his best to steal the show on “Survival Tactics”. A member of Joey’s roster of artists called Pro Era, Capital Steez may just be his most promising signee. Steez demonstrates his skills further on “Killimunati”, he brings out the best in Joey and their styles complement each other nicely. The beat produced by Knxwledge was an inspired selection. It has an noir vibe with Joey and Steez trading verses with ease, I would listen to a full album of these two if they brought this level of mastery to the table.
“Hardknock” featuring CJ Fly was the second video release from 1999. Joey raps on this like he’s been around for years and seen it all. An unusual quality in a rapper still in school. Perhaps it’s more fantasy than life experience but him and CJ deliver a reflective piece which works well within the context of the mixtape. CJ Fly may not have the jaw dropping skills of Capital Steez but he’s more than competent here over a sorrowful beat. The chorus revolves around the hook “I just can’t live my life like this”, a cautionary admission that the good life may not all be it’s cracked up to be.
“Funky Ho” uses a classic Lord Finesse instrumental which maintains my interest, conceptually it’s a little tired but Joey’s flow works well on the beat. “Daily Routine” is a huge step up from the last two tracks. Chuck Strangers shows he’s a far better producer than a rapper. It’s simplistic stripped down beat showcases Joey’s ease with numerous styles of production. It’s lyrics delve into more street tales which enhance the persona he cultivates on each track. T nah Apex features on “Snakes” which uses a well known Dilla beat, lyrically this track deals with avoiding the pitfalls of the ghetto. Joey is consistent with his vision for how his music should sound and you can be sure he will deliver a track reminiscent of the greats.
[wpaudio url=”http://d2jos65913uaef.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/07-Joey_Bada-World_Domination_Prod_By_MF_DOOM.mp3″ text=”Joey Bada$$ – World Domination” dl=”0″]
“World Domination” is the first of two MF DOOM beats, it features a cheerful piano loop and I find it amusing that Joey’s rapping style changes slightly here, it seems it’s hard to rap over production by DOOM without sounding like him. It’s pure hip-hop fun with a block party vibe. “Pennyroyal” doesn’t work quite as well for me. I admire his attempt at revealing his insecurities with women but it’s a relief to get this track out of the way as it brings the tempo down considerably.
T nah is the only female that appears on the mixtape and she brings something completely different to proceedings; singing on the chorus. “Don’t Front” featuring CJ Fly is yet another song about “ho’s”, if that’s your thing you’ll like this one, for me it’s too cliche to be enjoyable. “Righteous Minds” is what I’ve come to expect a great Joey Badass song to sound like. It may be more of the same but that’s no bad thing. Bruce LeeKix delivers a chilled instrumental worthy of an early Nas album.
[wpaudio url=”http://d2jos65913uaef.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/13-Joey_Bada-Righteous_Minds_Prod_By_Bruce_LeeKix1.mp3″ text=”Joey Bada$$ – Righteous Minds” dl=”0″]
The classic East Coast sound is resurrected on this mixtape, sounding as fresh as ever. “Where It At” takes another Dilla beat from Illa J’s album “Yancey Boys”, it’s not a patch on the original and a rapper called Kirk Knight makes a forgettable appearance. “Can I be your Daddy, you can hop up in my Caddy” is a cringe worthy line which sums up a misused opportunity. “Suspect” closes the mixtape with features from the whole Pro Era crew. This posse track reminds me of street collab projects like 2Pac’s Thug Life album. It’s dark instrumental is the perfect backdrop for the Pro Era artists to show off their skills.
All in all, this mixtape is a great taster for what’s to come. Joey Badass is one to watch and although this project is not without it’s flaws, he must be commended for bringing back a sound real hip-hop fans have been yearning to hear again for some time. His lyrical content may be nothing new, but skill wise he is the alternative to swag rap low on quality. Joey is one of the more promising artists from the new generation of emcees. He is a student of the greats and although he may still be learning his trade, there’s enough here to suggest he may one day take his own place amongst them.