I always knew he could do it. Joey Bada$$, one of the youngest rappers in the game, released his first mixtape entitled 1999 when he was just seventeen years old. Two more successful releases thereafter combined with a born-great rap voice alongside the likes of Ghostface Killah, and Joey Bada$$ was a boom-bap force to be reckoned with. Now at twenty-two years-old, the new youthful voice of Brooklyn took his solo debut B4.DA.$$ to showcase his rap prowess, but on All Amerikkkan Bada$$, he’s here to give his reach a purpose.
“This new project is very powerful,” he told WiLD 94.1, “that’s the best thing I can say about it: it’s very strong music. It’s like hella vegetables. It’s hella good for you, and it’s almost my hesitance with it: the fact that it’s so good for you, because these kids these days want candy.”
That’s not to say that Joey has “sold out” and gone pop however, but instead he’s made a kind of “organic-candy,” as he later calls it in the interview, where he makes some important black issues and racial themes very palatable.
Falling under the scrutiny of being a Brooklyn rap purist, Joey had to evolve to the changing rap climate if he ever wanted to break through the ceiling into youth-rap stardom. He does that very thing here on All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, which turns the grey of B4.DA.$$ into vibrant, bold colors.
From the very beginning of “For My People,” we see a singing Joey Bada$$ over some truly danceable grooves, using the pop/R&B music outlet to get his message across to the younger generation. It’s followed by “Temptation,” one of the most surprising yet amazing tracks on the record that’s not only catchy-as-hell, but features a book-ending sample from the September 2016 speech given by nine-year-old Zianna Oliphant to the people of Charlotte, NC following the police shooting of Kieth Lamont Scott. It’s a truly heart-crushing moment over an otherwise uplifting message that sends us the reminder that although All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ is fun as hell, the themes the record present are very heavy, pressing and important.
I come here today to talk about how I feel
And I feel like that we are treated differently than other people
And I don’t like how we’re treated
Just because of our color doesn’t mean anything to me
We are black people and we shouldn’t have to feel like this
We shouldn’t have to protest because you are treating us wrong
We do this because we need to and we have rights
– Zianna Oliphant (nine-years-old)
Tracks like the Outkast sampling “Devastated,” the charged “Rockabye Baby” with a fantastic ScHoolboy Q feature, and the passionate “Y U Don’t Love Me?,” a brokenhearted song directed at America, fill out the rest of the record, really showing his versatility as an artist. There isn’t a single moment on All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ in which it sounds like Joey Bada$$ isn’t giving it his absolute all, and the pure emotion and passion in his words really bring out the energy.
All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ is a concept-rap record built on the struggles of being black in America that I haven’t seen as successful since Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and even that record was arguably more personal than political. Sure, it’s a topic that’s been covered in contemporary R&B a ton recently, recalling Solange Knowles and Jamila Woods, but All Amerikkkan Bada$$ is truly one of the greatest and cohesive concept rap records that I’ve heard in a good while.