B4.Da.$$ marks a return to hip hop’s gritty boom bap, backpacker roots and a much needed break from its trap sound of late.
Due for release on January 20th 2015, it will stand as New York rapper, Joey Badass’ first studio album, following a number of successive mixtape drops in recent years, including the critically acclaimed 1999 (2012).
Badass, born Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott, is noted for his snarly gravel toned voice and distinctly east coast beats which hark back to 90’s New York and call to mind the likes of Wu Tang Clan, Nas and Mobb Deep.
Like most accomplished emcees Badass started rapping young, and while in high school formed the hip hop collective, Progressive Era (Pro Era for short), which included classmates Capital Steez, CJ Fly and Powers Pleasant. As chance would have it one of his youtube freestyle uploads in 2010 caught the attention of Jonny Shipes, president of Cinematic Music Group and manager to Big K.R.I.T. & Smoke DZA. Snipes then contacted Badass and signed the Pro Era collective to his label- under which they released their debut mixtape (The Seccs Tape) and still remain.
Deciding to go it on his own however, Badass embarked on the release of a solo mixtape,1999. With a total of 15 tracks, and production from heavyweights J Dilla, Lord Finesse, and MF Doom, it proved a sizeable underground release and garnered Badass increased respect and popularity in the hip hop community.
Stylistically, it has all the features of a golden era debut release : experimentation on mood, theme and vocal delivery, a rich sample archive and a backbeat of hard bass drums and snapping snares which firmly solidify Badass as resurrector of a bygone style. As a testament to the mixtape’s excellence Pitchfork Media awarded it a hefty 8/10, while on HipHopDX, it came to be listed among one of the best releases of 2012.
By the release of his second mixtape, Summer Knights, it soon became clear that Badass was an old soul trapped in the body of a young bed stuy kid. As a breakaway from 1999 this release places greater emphasis on original instrumentals over sample diggin’ and sees increased backing support from the likes of Maverick Sabre (My Yout) Flatbush Zombies (My Jeep) and Smoke DZA (Death of my Yolo). While not a coming of age tale, it continued to demonstrate Badass’ maturity and growth , with increased emphasis on the original boom bap production style.
With a string of music videos to his name, a BET Hip Hop Awards nomination , and gigs to come shortly in Australia and New Zealand, Badass couldn’t be in a better place ahead of his first studio album release.
Contrary his earlier mixtapes B4.Da.$$ cuts a much grittier, sombre soundscape – combining chilling orchestral vocal samples, grimy bass and nightmarish imagery, with Badass’ fire tinged voice as gas hob lighter to the entire recipe. Stand out tracks on the album for me are the apocalyptic, Christ Conscious , and as a delightful contrast , the bouncy, soulful , jazz seasoned Curry Chicken (both below)
B4.Da.$$ is a must- have for any true hip hop connoisseur, especially those who thought New York rap was dead. For in the soul of this sprightly 19 year old appears to lies hip hop’s latest answer to Illmatic and a much welcomed return to advanced level lyricism.