Joey Bada$$ is one of the youngest, yet most talented emcees in contemporary hip-hop. On his debut album B4.DA.$$, released in early 2015, there was an apparent ‘90s boom-bap influence. This paired well with his incredibly dense wordplay and aggressive flows makes it one of the best rap albums of that year.
On his latest effort, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, Joey pulls less from ‘90s rap and seems to be finding his own sound. He’s much more politically charged than normal, dealing with racism in America. But while he may have become more topical, his skills as an emcee seem to have taken a hit. He is still turning in solid performances on near every track, but they lack the explosiveness found on his last album. Joey also decided to sing even more on this album, especially on the lead single “Devastated.” His singing isn’t bad, but it’s not really what listeners want from such a high caliber emcee.
Joey tackles racism and the Trump-era head on this project, albeit quite amateurish. His criticisms of the current President never amount to much more than “if you got the gutsm scream f**k Donald Trump.” Joey has shown to be proficient at punchline rap in the past yet he was unable to bring that to this project.
Even if it is different from his usual sound, the production is top-notch. There is a much jazzier, atmospheric sound that pairs nicely with Joey’s softened inflection. One of the standout instrumentals is on “Ring the Alarm.” It features a haunting keyboard and a simple drum beat that cuts out at times to let the emcee shine.
The personal highlights of this album are all callbacks to Joey’s B4.DA.$$ sound. “Rockabye Baby” is a fantastic track featuring Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) artist ScHoolboy Q. Joey recently opened for Q on his Blank Face Tour which is likely what led to this collab. Joey delivers a solid verse but Q absolutely steals the track. Normally Q is quite animated and relies heavily on gimmicks, but those are hardly present in his verse. It starts slow then progressively evolves into a relentless flow that displays Q’s true ability as an emcee.
Another standout track is the posse cut “Ring the Alarm,” which features fellow Pro Era members Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight as well as the Beyoncé of the Flatbush Zombies, Meechy Darko. Unfortunately they waste the Meechy feature by only giving him a chorus, although he still manages to come through. Joey’s verses are solid but are still lacking in wordplay. He even ironically dubs himself “the double entendre monster” which would be true on any project but this one.
“Babyolon” delivers a much-needed burst of energy to the album. It features past collaborator Chronixx, who brings his reggae flair to the chorus. Joey deals with police violence and the black lives matter movement and comes off very sincere. His inflection is one the best parts, and is kind of like a pleading yell.
Overall, this is a solid effort from a dope emcee but it may be a step in the wrong direction. It is nice to see Joey become more focused topically, but not at the expense of his lyricism. While some fans may find this a suitable follow up to B4.DA.$$, it personally was a disappointment. That being said, Joey is still a young artist and his sound will surely continue to change.
“Ring the Alarm”
(Feature Image: All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, Cinematic Music Group/Pro Era)