By Ryan Martin (@RyanMartin182)
As a prime member of Beast Coast, Joey Bada$$ has an enormous following. His last project, B4.Da.$$ was a solid debut effort with beats reminiscent of 90’s boom-bap hip-hop and impressive lyricism. Following that up two years later, Bada$$ returns with ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$, his response to the current state of our society that is filled with hate, racism, and police brutality. The New York rapper and actor makes his statements extremely present as the majority of the album revolves around his personal opinions and statements. As a piece of art that represents our culture at this point in time, it’s important. As a musical project, it’s lackluster.
Bada$$ does an excellent job addressing his concerns, frustrations, and despair about the state of our nation. Throughout the record, he expresses his concerns about wanting to be a voice for his people or how there needs to be a bigger figure for his people that might not even be him. At times, it can feel like he does too much talking about how his people need a voice and not enough of why he is the right person to be the voice of those people. The album doesn’t do enough of his general opinions of how we can move forward from this state of disconnection and hate that our nation has fallen into.
The first half of the album has a summery vibe to it that’s reminiscent of his earlier work (1999). The beats were quite impressive, especially the beat for For My People and Good Morning Amerikkka with the latter embracing a gospel influence and Joey’s rapid fire lyrics: it’s a strong way to start off the album. For My People had some pretty underwhelming verses except for the last half of the second verse. In these two tracks, Joey is addressing some issues but he isn’t saying more than what has already been said. Land of The Free has a great beat with a cool Notorious B.I.G. sample behind it. His verses are strong, aggressive and powerful and there’s an unshakeable paranormal vibe seeping through along with the background vocals.
As controversial as it may seem, Devastated has no part in being on this record. If anything, it’s a way to create more sales in order to promote the album and get it heard by more people so that Joey’s voice and opinions get a stronger reaction from the public. Bada$$ obviously is very strong in his beliefs as he has created an entire album behind them. While it’s easy to agree with them, he should fuel the reaction of the public based on his opinions in the album rather than the sales of a pop-rap record about overcoming the struggles of pre-stardom.
Y U Don’t Love Me is a filler track all around. The concept of Bada$$ talking to America as if she were a girl that treats him poorly came off as a little tacky and while the beat is entertaining enough, the chorus was much too repetitive. Rockabye Baby is easily the most enjoyable track on the album with its strong rhythm and ScHoolboy Q doing a great job with his verse, the chemistry between both rappers seems strong. It sounds exactly like Bada$$ is at home on this track and reminds me of earlier career highlights like No.99.
For Beast Coast fans, they’ll eat up Ring The Alarm like it’s hotcakes, despite the beat being very underwhelming: an average beast coast beat with no flavor to it. Meechy Darko, one of the members of the Flatbush Zombies, also makes an appearance though his cameo seems to be a very unnecessary part to the song seeing as he has no verse and his bridges are honestly annoying. Thankfully, Bada$$ has one of the best lines on the whole project on this track, ‘Firstly, it’s the double entendre monster // Takin’ haunted constant trips through your conscious’. Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight’s chemistry is wildly impressive as well as they trade bars for an entire verse.
The album’s gripes don’t stop there though as both Super Predator and Legendary unfortunately come across as boring filler. The verses on Super Predator are actually quite impressive, save for Styles P’s verse, but sadly the chorus fails to make a mark. Bada$$ taps into his Jamaican roots to spit out a chorus full of all sorts of different types of ‘tings’. While it could have worked two years ago, Drake has already beaten ‘tings’ to death with both Views and More Life making the chorus sound stale. J. Cole’s verse is extremely underwhelming on Legendary and if it truly is the last verse he’ll give out then good riddance. Extremely underwhelming. If it wasn’t for his presence on the track, it would be the most unpopular track on the album in my opinion.
That’s not to imply that this record is a complete waste of time as Babylon and Amerikkkan Idol ended up being some surprise hits. While the chorus on Babylon sounds exactly like J. Cole, Bada$$ comes through with some of the most aggressive and hungry verses on this track. Need an example? ‘Fuck your breath, nigga, don’t even deserve air / Don’t even deserve shit, don’t even deserve nothin’ If black lives really mattered, you niggas would do something’. This is one of the only instances on the record where Joey has something really interesting and provoking to say rather than just pointing out what is wrong with our nation, something that has been done to death. It isn’t until Amerikkkan Idol that Joey says all he has to say about our country and more. This is the strongest track on the album, while Rockabye Baby would be the most enjoyable. Throughout Bada$$’s three long verses, he makes every possible point and opinion he had to say on the whole record present within the track’s six-minute span, a very strong way to finish off the album.
This album will not send you to sleep, neither will it change your opinion on anything, or change the way hip-hop is indulged or expressed. This is a very average politically charged rap record. There are no beats that are game-changing and there are no verses that are mind-blowing. Bada$$ made an average rap record that addressed everything he has to say in a positive manner, but nothing too dangerous (if you don’t count the Trump shout-outs that every other rapper has managed to do at this point). By last year’s election standpoint, every rapper was addressing Trump and the state of our nation: Run The Jewels, YG, Vic Mensa, Tribe Called Quest. So, my question is, in a world where everyone is talking about how bad our nation is and how we need to change, what makes Bada$$ stand out?