Joey Bada$$ is back!! The young independent rapper from Brooklyn, just released his second album ‘All-Amerikkkan Bada$$’ and he has a lot to say. We’ve been following this artist since his ‘1999’ (2012), with songs like “Waves”, “Summer Knights”, “Hardknock” and “Where It At” catching critics attention. Associated in his career with acts such as Flatbush Zombies, MF DOOM, The Roots and The Underachievers, he is also a founding member of the label Pro Era, formed with high-school friends Capital Steez and CJ Fly. Kirk Knight is also an important name who’s collaborated with Joey on multiple occasions and who also happens to be under the Pro Era label.
A warning for those who have/haven’t listened to the album: there isn’t any “turn-up” tunes, this is an album that needs listening and your attention as Joey takes us through deep problems for African-Americans in today’s America.
We start of the album with “Good Morning Amerikkka”, a twist of ABC’s famous Good Morning America and call of revolution with the faded “I said wake up” as well as the use of the triple Ks, short for Ku Klux Klan. The song is sort of an introduction to the album, talking about police brutality, him getting his message across peacefully and making sure you’re aware of the situation African-American’s are under in the US. “For My People” touches on the social and political issues people of color face in society and Joey believes his role as an artist is to fight for change against racism: “This for my people, Tryna stay alive and just stay peaceful, So hard to survive a world so lethal – Who will take a stand and be our hero?”. He expresses him standing up against this racism, police brutality and wanting to provide for his family as well as his people: “Music is a form of expression, I’ma use mine just to teach you a lesson, Rule one: this microphone’s a weapon, I’m shooting out the actions manifested in my passion, Never restin’, I’m surpassing the expectancy of life in my direction.”
“Temptation” starts and finishes off with the excerpt from a powerful speech given in 2016 by Zianna Oliphant, a 9 year-old girl from North Carolina in front of a council following the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. The super-catchy chorus involves Joey singing which has been great on this album, alongside his rapping about confronting racism and discrimination, using his song to assert the idea that Zianna has in her speech.
“Land of The Free” is one of our favourite songs off the album and one of the most telling through lyrics about mass incarceration, African-Americans’ history in the US and Joey’s ambition to make a change. Powerful parts such as “Full house on my hands, the cards I dealt, Three K’s, two A’s in AmeriKKKa” or “Sorry America, but I will not be your soldier, Obama just wasn’t enough, I just need some more closure, And Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over, Let’s face the facts cause we know what’s the real motives.” are just piece of what Joey has to say.
“Devasted” released a year earlier than the album, talks about Joey’s frustration of not being able to become famous, watching his mum fight cancer and eviction notices – it’s about turning his struggles into a strength.
“Y U Don’t Love Me? (Miss Amerikkka)” is also another favourite, its Joey’s version of a love song about America, who doesn’t treat him right and where he also confronts his identity and the identity of African-Americans within America. “Rockabye Baby”, accompanied by the great Schoolboy Q reflect both rappers’ past affiliations with drug dealing, gangs and wage inequality for coloured people. So many great lines but we love this passage: “Time is running up feel the burn in my gut, And if you got the guts, scream Fuck Donal Trump, We don’t give a fuck, never had one to give, Never will forget probably never will forgive, I guess that’s just how it is, And they still won’t let the Black man live”. With “Ring The Alarm”, joined by Kirk Knight, Meechy Darko (Flatbush Zombies) and Nyck Caution, they express their discontent with the rap game, doing this with “The Beast Coast” lyrical flow – a movement combined of Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers.
“Super Predator” is a term created by John Dilulio which demonises black youth as being disrespectful for human life and nature. This came back up during the 2016 elections when Hillary Clinton used it to describe youth gangs in 1996, something that was picked up on and criticised – “AmeriKKKA’s worst nightmare, the super predator.” Teaming up with Jamaican Reggae artist Chronixx, “Babylon” the ancient city used in terms of religion is also a reference to oppressors of the Rastafari religion. On all the songs of the album, even with a smooth track, this is the only track where Joey shouts, like he’s lost patience and he wants you to be aware of issues such as black lives matter, racism, constitutional problems in the US and the countless lost lives of his people. “Legendary” joined by J.Cole speaks more on spirituality, peace and what the rappers motivation, struggles as well as challenges are in their lives. This song also has some fantastic lines, both artists really putting it out there when it comes to their feelings on society and their roles. On the last track “Amerikkkan Idol”, Joey has a killer flow where he denounces the American government for its plan to exterminate people of colour, the title also playing on the show American Idol and again the lyrics are mad on this track (especially the last verse). One of his favourite artist, Nas, is also highlighted through his use of the lyrics in “The World Is Yours” (1994).
We missed out a lot of things when it comes to Joey’s lyrics, what he’s trying to say and the message he portrays in everything song. There is a reoccurring theme of injustice, police brutality and racism in the US’ judicial as well as social system. A lot had to be said and this is only the beginning of Joey, who’s really proved to the world what he’s about. Not many current, big rappers talk about these subjects, the clearest of them all being Kendrick Lamar but it’s clear through Joey’s eyes that change needs to come.