02 July 2013

MIXTAPE REVIEW: Joey Bada$$ - Summer Knights

Joey Bada$$ is set to drop his first studio LP B4.DA.$$ later this year. But until then the Pro Era front runner has blessed us with a mixtape for the summer, aptly titled Summer Knights. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately) this mixtape is not going to ingratiate the young emcee with many heavy radio rotations. Many rappers talk about taking their own lane, but few can walk the walk. Joey was rumored to have an opportunity to sign to major label but chose an indie label instead. This significant move gives a clear message: Joey Bada$$ and the Pro Era movement are not about making Hip-pop. Instead they have the freedom to make the music with little interference from outside interests. Production on this mixtape is varied with a good mix of producers, while still providing a consistent feel and sound from start to end.

Statik Selektah is one of the few big name producers that provides his talents for the track Word Is Bond. The title alone is a call back to a phrase that was prevalent throughout 80s and 90s Hip-hop. Statik provides a throwback instrumental with a simple piano and boom bap foundation. The 18 year old emcee seems most at home spitting on old-school type instrumentals. In between the scratches Joey is able to effortlessly flow from bar to bar. His metaphors and multiple entendres take a few listens to fully appreciate, but it is the only way to fully comprehend his intricate rhyme patterns. "Yo, I spray 9s or 4s, but if you pick 5 emcees/ 7 8 gon flow like me [dude] I'm 2 6/ I mean 2 sick.."

95 Til Infinity is either the first or second single I heard off of Summer Knights (this or Word Is Bond). Another title with a 90s influence. This time a play off of the Souls of Mischief album and title track 93 'til Infinity. I assume he choose 95 because he was born in 1995 (I know, that's insane, I guess he just has an old soul). This is another old school feeling track with a more melodic smooth beat. Joey Bada$$ lays down a more gritty/raspy vocal to juxtapose the tranquil instrumental. Again he seems to just play with flows and poetic structures with the greatest ease.

Of course I couldn't review this mixtape without touching on the Premier produced track Unorthodox. Speaking of effortless, DJ Premier yet again adds to his ridiculous classic instrumental catalog. The simple loop is complemented with a few snares and drums, and of course accompanied with Preem's legendary scratches. Once you catch up to Joey's figurative language you can then focus on the content. This kid raps as is if came up during the golden ear of Hip-hop, not born during it. The chorus sums up Joey and the Pro Era movement best: "Cause money aint a thing if I got it I won't spend/ All I got is my Pros I don't need no friends/ Feel like this glory road is coming to an end/ The only soul that won't sin/ No he won't give in/ Though this world is bone chillin/ Make mills in hell's kitchen with these dishes/ Properly delivered drop trees in my swisha/ Now bring that back to my property with ya."

Joey has sited a heavy Brooklyn influence (his birth place) as well NY Hip-hop in general. In an interview he commented that he wanted to bring the golden era back. This is a high bar to reach, not even taking into account that he was essentially born halfway through it. But I like it. Mr. Bada$$ seems to have the foundation and the God given talent to be at the forefront of an emcee movement. His "Progressive Era" crew has stated that their movement is literally about "Progressive, positive thinking, enlightenment." While this mixtape is not as good at 1999, (which in my opinion is close to a classic, well as classic as a mixtape can be) it still shows growth in the young emcees young career. The 90s influence is prevalent throughout this tape and is really a staple of Joey's style. But his lyrics seem to be from the future, the complexities and word manipulations are done in a way that they seem to come from someone who is light years older. Yet this is the beauty of Hip-hop, at a young age (before he could mumble his first words) young Joey was groomed by the best in the game. Joey recalls memorizing Biggie lyrics and writing poetry of his own years before his WorldStar video freestyle. It is my hope that these new hybrid emcees (that are rooted in the history of Hip-hop and provide a new perspective on the culture) will keep emerging and progressing.

Peep mixtape stream below!

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