Review Summary: Brooklyn’s finest.
Joey Badass and his crew Pro Era burst on to the scene in 2012 with the release of his well-received mixtape 1999
. Joey and Pro Era were preaching the promise of the Beast Coast movement. Beast Coast’s objective was to bring back the 90’s New York hip-hop sound. The New York sound entails jazzy, “boom bap” instrumentals, clever wordplay, and smooth flows which does manifest in much of Joey’s discography. He’s not afraid to flaunt his influences either, often he’ll sneak in a Biggie or Jay-Z reference in one of his rhymes or hooks. After the release of 1999
, Joey released another mixtape in 2013 titled Summer Knights
which was not met with the praise of his previous mixtape, but was still a solid project despite its flaws. In 2014, Joey released a series of singles, all of which appear on the album, and all of them were excellent. “Big Dusty,” “Christ Conscious,” and “No. 99” showed Joey at his best since the release of 1999
with refreshing beats and his flow and lyrics being as on point as ever. Joey’s debut album B4.DA.$$
exemplifies his talent and lives up to Beast Coast’s high standards that they set for themselves.
On the album’s opener, “Save the Children,” Joey raps with a confident swagger over a smooth, but assertive instrumental dropping lines such as “They ain't tryna' see me in the battle / The lines is too narrow / They couldn't even outshine my shadow / They don't want the beef nigga, let alone the cattle / They just living out the saddle, so sad though.” A good start to B4.DA.$$
is followed by one of the strongest songs on album. “Paper Trail$” has Joey relentlessly spitting rhyme after rhyme about his personal struggle to earn money for himself and his family claiming that “money is the root of all people.” Although money is a common subject matter of rap songs, Joey’s approach is more sincere and more fleshed out compared to most songs that cover the topic of money in his genre. “Paper Trail$” along with other songs on the album, like “On and On” and “Black Beetles,” explores Joey’s tender side which on previous projects was hard to come by. “On and On” in particular comments on how Joey’s friend group was growing rapidly on his ride to the top, but only has a few people left he can actually call his friends. In “Black Beetles,” he raps about how life in the limelight is stressing him out constantly; even admitting that sometimes he wishes he wasn’t as big as he was. The songs released as singles, “Big Dusty,” “Christ Conscious,” and “No. 99,” fit extremely well in the context of the album and are easily some of the standouts on the record. Joey also embraces the use of interludes on B4.DA.$$
and executes them well making some tracks flow into each other seamlessly.
The instrumentals on B4.DA.$$
are great and stay true to the Beast Coast sound. Joey’s and Pro Era’s projects up to this release seemed redundant and one-dimensional when it came to beat selection, but the beats on this album come across more punchy and dynamic when compared to its predecessors.
does contain some blemishes. The hooks throughout the album are sub-par most of the time, which is a recurring quality of Joey’s music, but his verses usually make up for the poor choruses. The album is also a tad inconsistent when it comes to song quality, the weakest song probably being “Escape 120.”
is one of the strongest products of the Beast Coast movement so far and perhaps Joey’s best. Joey’s emceeing is excellent and so are the beats. This release also shows how far Joey has matured. B4.DA.$$
feels like a complete package and is composed well, unlike 1999
and Summer Knights
which seem to lack direction. B4.DA.$$
has few faults considering how much material is on the album and is worth a listen for any hip-hop fan. Joey’s output since dropping 1999
sounds like unrealized potential, but this album finally harnesses Joey’s incredible ability into a focused project.