Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: B4.Da.$$ is Joey Bada$$'s Illmatic

On January 20th, Joey Bada$$ released his debut album B4.Da.$$ was dropped on the same day as heavy-weights Lupe Fiasco and Lil Wayne dropped projects. But, the Pro Era's album shone, and will probably be a contender for album of the year.

Bada$$ is well known for his classic, East Coast hip-hop sound. You'll find plenty of it on B4.Da.$$, as well as a variety of other complex sounds. The album is chock-full of boom-bap drum lines, and smooth jazz instrumentations but sounds takes the 90's sound much further. Bada$$ and his producers (which range from big names like DJ Premier, Hit-Boy and J Dilla to Pro Era affiliates Chuck Strangers, Kirk Knight, and Statik Selektah)  created a rich, gorgeous twist on Joey's classic sound, and even ventured into completely new beats for Bada$$. "Black Beetle" sounds somewhat like a G.O.O.D. Music beat, and there is a lot of fast paced of production, like on songs "Teach Me" and "Escape 120". Production-wise, this is without the strongest Bada$$ project.

This album was released on Bada$$'s 20th birthday. The word-play and themes on B4.Da.$$ makes Bada$$ sound wise beyond his age. Every single track, usually very subtly, showcases Bada$$'s view on life, crime, society, money, self-esteem and the government. There are obvious parallels between B4.Da.$$ and Illmatic, but while on Illmatic each songs has a specific story, B4.Da.$$. weaves together Bada$$'s thoughts, experiences and stories throughout the whole album. This allows his listeners to just chill back and enjoy the music, or bump it at a party, or actually feel his messages.

There are a moderate amount of features, and they all work well. On "Like Me", BJ The Chicago Kid harmonizes perfectly with Bada$$. Chronixx adds a slick, yet dark verse to the gloomy production of "Belly of the Beast". Keisza, who made "Hideaway", is a great addition to the bouncy "Teach Me". The oddest feature is Raury. He lends an ending verse on "Escape 120", and while his verse is great, there isn't a ton of chemistry between the two artists, and it sounds like a surprise every time I hear the track.

I have very few negative things to say about the album. A bit more insight on Joey's life would be nice, and some of Joey's sing-songy flows don't work too well. My main complaint is that there isn't a ton of consistency throughout the album. The ending track, "Curry Chicken", doesn't do a great job wrapping up this album, but it is a nice ode to his family. There isn't a single song on this album that I don't like. It's a wonderful project, and I recommend it to anyone who likes old-school hip-hop, or hip-hop in general.

Lyrical Skill- 4

Technical Skill-4.5





Notable Tracks- "On & On", "Save the Children", "Christ Conscious", "Like Me", "Belly of the Beast"

Overall Rating- 4

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