In January, New York-based rapper Joey Bada$$ released “Land of the Free,” the third single from his forthcoming album All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (AAB). The album, released April 7, focuses on the social and political downfalls of being a Black American.
“Land of the Free” has a political foundation, calling for change in government and a re-evaluation of Black American values. Unlike Snoop Dogg’s “Lavender,” it features a less controversial video filled with enough symbolism and rhythm to grant Bada$$ a performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Bada$$ has never been a stranger to political lyrics and themes, but he takes it to the next level with AAB. Although most of the tracks deal with social issues, they are never one-dimensional. Not only does he highlight well-known issues such as police brutality and mass incarceration, but he also points to the lasting effects of slavery and skewed media portrayal.
What I really enjoy about the themes of AAB is that Bada$$ doesn’t get carried away with the political commentary. In “Rockabye Baby” and “Ring the Alarm” Bada$$ gives his listeners a taste of what they’re used to: the clever wordplay and deep New York intensity that makes his music so distinct. Mixing in songs like these enables the record to avoid over-saturation and serves as a reminder of Bada$$’s versatility.
In AAB Bada$$ cements his style and delivers an overwhelming sense of comfort and confidence in everything he says. This is evident in songs like “Babylon” and “Devastated” where Bada$$ stretches his vocal chords to present smooth and creamy choruses.
Although Bada$$ is comfortable in his own skin, he goes out of his way to reference and emulate the styles of his influencers. In “Land of the Free,” for example, his deeper, intellectual vocals and the jazzy instrumentation that accompanies them evokes a sense of Tupac (a rapper Bada$$ believes he’s better than). In “Ring the Alarm” Bada$$ spits a cheeky reference to Lil’ Wayne’s classic “silent G’s line in “6 Foot 7 Foot.” The same could be said about “Amerikkkan Idol” where Nas gets a nod with a reissue of his “dead presidents” chorus from “The World is Yours,” and there are too many Biggie Smalls references to count. These are the instances that I caught during a few listens, but Bada$$’s lyricism is open-ocean deep, so I’m sure there are some homages that I missed.
In terms of production, most of the tracks on AAB share a similar vibe. Each track presents a mellow aura with underwater-like synths, soulful basses and pronounced drum kicks. The instrumentation takes a darker turn with tracks like “Rockabye Baby” and “Ring the Alarm,” which works well since the lyrics of Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution and Meechy Darko share this sense of Big Apple grittiness. Speaking of features, expect to hear Schoolboy Q, J-Cole, Styles P and Chronixx join Bada$$ in AAB as well.
Although political commentary and hip hop music go hand-in-hand, Joey Bada$$ embraces the theme in it’s truest form for the first time in AAB. It represents a maturation that we all knew Bada$$ had inside him, ever since he released “Waves.” The best part of AAB is the reinforcement of Bada$$’s uncompromising attitude and the manifestation of his nurturing intellect.
With the current political landscape, I would be lying if I said I was surprised that the ever-vocal Bada$$ would be speaking about these issues on a full-length album.
All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ gets a 9 out of 10.
Contact CU Independent Staff Arts Writer Alvaro Sanchez at email@example.com