Friday, April 7, 2017

Joey Bada$$ - All Amerikkkan Bada$$ Review

America, as it stands, is in truly turbulent times. Every noted voice, from presidential candidates to talk show hosts to rappers, agree on this front. The problems however, arise not in the matters at hand but the growing disparity amongst those who see the issues with staunchly-held opinions in tow. Donald Trump believes the United States is in need of serious reform, as does Bernie Sanders. The problem? What they believe needs to be changed is vastly different, as are their monumental solutions. With fake news and alternative facts becoming headlining statements thanks to our current political regime, the division between conservatives and liberals are growing greater each passing day as each side can easily find information or events that suit their belief. Joey Bada$$ wants no more. He's not alone, but given the Internet's relentless consumption of propaganda, the point of no return may have passed years ago. All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ finds the Brooklyn emcee putting his foot down, taking no prisoners, and reigning fury through his words. Unfortunately, the ferocious aggression sidesteps critical thought and musical enjoyability, resulting in a final product that's poorly executed in terms of achieving conscious enlightenment, dulling listeners with tedious production and numerous cliches along the way.

In many ways, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ plays out as a response to two things: a corrupt American system and Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly. That's right, the TDE kingpin's 2015 epic clearly had an effect on Bada$$, so much so that the Pro Era rapper's debut album B4.DA.$$, released mere months before TPAB, sounds as if it came from an entirely different person. On 'For My People,' Joey spends the majority of time wishing, hoping, praying for a hero to swoop down from the sky and make everything better again. Of course, that hero, in Joey's eyes, is himself. But in reality, if one such person were to exist in Hip-Hop, it would be Kendrick Lamar. Praise is certainly limitless on my behalf, but no such political stand since To Pimp A Butterfly has rivaled that album's greatness. From the ideas to the ambition to the originality, it stands on its own, and really, just makes All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ appear worse by merely existing. For Joey, someone who achieved Hip-Hop notoriety by obsessing over the real Hip-Hop of the 90's, now was his chance to be likened to the greats. Instead, through a series of missteps, The Underachievers, Ab-Soul, and J. Cole seem more comparable.

Which is sad because I enjoyed B4.DA.$$. In many regards, it felt like an ode to the 90's, an era in which Joey was raised. But here, that style has been substituted by the flashy trends of our modern era. The transformation was inevitable, and necessary mind you, but rarely does the production find ground not recently soiled. Essentially, he jumped from one unoriginal foundation to the next. Joey's rapping, both in terms of flow and lyrics, are the only remaining remnants of his 90's side, with a trove of overused quotes spilling through each track. Unlike a majority of albums that take issue with our current climate, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ actually begins, instead of ends, with the last glimmer of hope. In fact, there's a loose concept running through the LP of Joey becoming more solidified in the issues surrounding him, something that's executed quite well with the tone of each track progressively getting more distraught. The leading trifecta of 'Good Morning Amerikkka,' 'For My People,' and 'Temptation' showcases this, with the first transformation happening at the end of the latter track through Gospel. The sugary vibe and elaborate structure of 'Temptation' actually makes it one of the better tracks here.

'Land Of The Free' isn't a slouch either, and instilled high hopes for All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ when it released as a single back in January. In response to Donald Trump's inauguration, the political track felt composed, clairvoyant, and well-rounded, with tantalizing production to match. Unfortunately, numerous political tripwires happen later in the album, imploding All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ under the weight of its own ignorance. Many of these fit under the umbrella of media distrust, a hefty topic in today's culture. However, as someone who clearly wants a better world for his fellow minorities, the hate Joey bestows upon mass media is gravely misguided, as if they've been handed down by Donald Trump himself. There's cases like 'Babylon' where Joey hears of a gunned down black man at the hands of a cop through CNN whilst, one verse later, telling listeners that they've being spoon fed wrongful information by those same news outlets. Or 'Amerikkkan Idol,' the closer, where a long, autotune-tormented verse acknowledges the need of news stations, merely three songs after Styles P on 'Babylon' says to "burn the newspapers and kill the editors." There's no overall message All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ hands down, because Joey himself doesn't have one.

However, that's not to say he doesn't try, as this LP is stuffed to the brim with pseudo-intellectual pandering that would fit rather snugly on Ab-Soul's latest Do What Thou Wilt. Talk of chem trails in the sky, peace by way of literal killing, and the aforementioned media confusion fill the back half of this LP. Not to mention, 'Amerikkkan Idol' uses the hook "I'm out for dead presidents that represent me, because I've never known a live one that represent me," which is used laughably bad because, while I understand Joey's intent using Nas' famous line in relation to money, the comparison implies those aforementioned dead presidents somehow treated minorities better than the current ones. All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ can't ever seem to shake these constant, ill-advised roadblocks. The best tracks are those which find Joey in a humble or reflective state of affairs, like 'Temptation' or 'Land Of The Free.' 'Rockabye' and 'Ring The Alarm' can both be enjoyed as well, as they abstain from getting political and feature two strong choruses. Just sit in awe at Schoolboy Q's verse on the former, and try not to cringe on Nyck Caution's on the latter. As far as appreciating Joey goes? That's a tricky path to follow, just be aware of the potential potholes. I'm sure Joey's all-seeing eye would want you to stay woke anyways, even if it meant being aware of the rapper's own contradictions.


  1. Pretty long write up for an album you only listened to twice...

    1. What do you mean twice? If you're using my for reference, that's inaccurate, as that only Scrobbles songs I listen to while connected to the internet. That amounts to about half, the other half gets added to an iTunes playlist that I eventually get around to playing back when not listening to music.

      I listened to this album around five times, which is around the same I do for every new album.

  2. I like the comparison to Do What Thou Wilt. Joey Bada$$ didn't really have anything insightful to say. Do you think he should sidestep this kind of commentary altogether? I think it could be overlooked if the production was as enjoyable as on his previous album.

    Also, looking forward to your thoughts on DAMN. First impressions are good!

    1. Yes, at least until he has a better grasp on the situation while not restating topics people have already covered to death. I do agree with the production though, I could've easily forgiven much of the topical content if the beats were more enjoyable. I don't see myself going back to the album, like ever, for that very reason.

      And yup! First impressions are very good. He can't do wrong, apparently.