File Next To: Nas (Illmatic), Earl Sweatshirt (Doris) and Isaiah Rashad (The Sun’s Tirade)
Genre: 90’S Hip Hop, East Coast Hip Hop, Boom Bap
LAFV Verdict: 8/10, ‘Modern Classic’
Following our last remembering Series where we last featured Spooky Black’s Black Silk, I’ve decided to follow up with a review of Joey Bada$$’ 1999. Dropping 5 years ago to this day, this album is teetering on the edge of a modern day classic.
1999 projected Joey to the forefront of a new wave hip hop. Upcoming rappers at time of 1999’s release included the likes of Chief Keef and Flatbush Zombies who were making music which was aggressive as it was catchy. Add one hit wonder Trinadad James to that list also. Insert ‘1999’ which re-birthed a sound which was exactly that, from the late 90s which is remarkable because he was barely a veteran at pre-school in this pre-millennium era defining year.
Listening to this album on repeat for the last week has brought about some nostalgia. Initially one reminisces back to 2012 when this dropped. At the time Bondax and Julio Bashmore were headliners, tie dye tees were cool and loading up ‘bombs’ pre-night out was the thing to do. In a year when house moved from the underground to the mainstream, there was little room for hip hop during the pre-lash with the exception of Good Kid Mad City. 12/6/12, then 1999 arrived.
Putting out your debut mixtape at the tender age of 17, calling it 1999 and encompassing a heavily Dilla-infused jazz rap style and sound throughout was enough to garner media attention.
1999 opens with ‘Summer Knights’, an interlude produced by Chuck Strangers (fellow Pro Era member), that with its shimmering keys, loop of gentle background singing, and words from Bada$$ decrying the lack of rap “style with no gimmicks,” sounds like the direct spawn of Nas’ ‘Memory Lane’. This segways nicely into ‘Waves’ which uses a high pitched manipulated vocal at the beginning, definitely a nod to Madlib.
‘Funky Ho’ the stand out track on this tape as far as LAFV is concerned uses a classic Lord Finesse instrumental perhaps its message is more pungent than its delivery, this line is pulled up regularly in debates amongst peers:
‘Two things I never do is leave the crib without some rubbers or tell a funky ho' I love her’
‘Daily Routine’ is the second best track on the album (@ me if you disagree). Chuck Strangers shows he’s a far better producer than a rapper. The simplistic stripped down beat showcases Joey’s ease with numerous styles of production. It’s lyrics delve into more street tales which enhance the persona he cultivates on each track. T nah Apex features on ‘Snakes’ which uses a well-known Dilla beat, lyrically this track deals with avoiding the pitfalls of the ghetto. Joey is consistent with his vision for how his music should sound and you can be sure he will deliver a track reminiscent of the greats.
The comparisons with Nas are constant. Crown Heights, the home neighborhood of Nas is a 10 minute drive to East Flatbush the district that raised Joey. Poetic and storytelling flows synonymise these two and early debut projects in the shape of Illmatic and 1999 make both these artists stand out. The Nas comparisons will stop now because it is certainly too early in Joey’s career to be drawn into that magnitude of debate.
Following 1999, ‘Rejex’ released a few months later which is made up of tracks that didn’t make the cut for ‘1999’ but that Joey still thought were worth a listen. A mixtape of rejects? You’d be hard pressed to tell. Both are great. What is interesting on ‘Rejex’ is the tracks Joey recorded when only 15 years old.
Outside of production from his Pro Era crew, Bada$$ has repurposed beats for 1999 from MF Doom, Lord Finesse, and the late J Dilla. They play seamlessly among the newer productions, something Bada$$ was clearly invested in as Pro Era member Chuck Strangers recently revealed to Jayson Greene.
Joey is an artist that is slept on by many but I really feel he shouldn’t be ignored, this is truly a classic.
Article by Abraham