Jo-Vaughn Scott, a.k.a. Joey Bada$$, a young, now 20-year old Brooklyn rapper has been both praised and written off for rapping over old beats by MF Doom & J Dilla. He’s conservative where young artists are expected to challenge tradition, but, over time, the newcomer with the unsightly name has turned out to be less of a nuisance and more of a serious prospect. Following two mixtapes, B4.DA.$$ is his “official” debut, and its greatness seems imminent as soon as the applause swells during its opening seconds. His wordplay, comparable to abstract lyricists like Jay Electronica, Common, and Talib Kweli, remains integral to his approach, but here he’s more personal and purposeful than he was on his mixtapes, rapping about simply, rapping, but also lamenting on the realities of being young and black in America.
He’s still young though. However well his wordplay has gained him attention, at 20-years old, releasing B4.DA.$$ on his 20th Birthday, it would be wrong to declare him the future king of Hip-Hop. Sure, the recent release of a picture of Malia Obama donning a Pro Era shirt on Instagram marks an unexpectedly full-out mainstream assimilation, but the anecdote of Joey claiming he didn’t even know who the first-daughter was, showcases his room to age.
I won’t deny his talents, but as good of a lyricist, wordsmith, or rapper that Bada$$ is, B4.DA.$$ doesn’t exactly live up to his mixtapes. I say that timidly since the record is still purely great hip-hop and I’m sure Bada$$ will go extremely far in the rap world, and he definitely deserves it, B4.DA.$$ still a great record, it’s just not as great as 1999 or Summer Knights was. Nonetheless, B4.DA.$$ is everything a debut rap album should be: a little bit of myth-making and braggadocio, all backed up by a focused flow and beats that give Bada$$ the freedom to run amok. Whether you’re a fan of his vintage-yet-new style or no, he won’t be just another fleeting MC.