Appearing on hip hop’s radar around ten years ago in 2012, Joey Bada$$ was a breath of fresh air and one of New York’s most promising young rappers. With most people’s eyes and ears firmly on the South after the success of rappers such as Lil’ Wayne and Soulja Boy in the late ’00s, Joey Bada$$ put New York hip hop back in the limelight when he dropped his mixtape 1999. With so much talent, it is unfortunate that with the arrival of trap music, hip hop tastemakers were quick to discard Bada$$’ quality music, fascinated by the latest musical fad.
Bada$$, with unforgettable songs such as ‘Waves’, was unfairly and all too quickly dismissed by hip hop. As trap and its derivatives, such as drill, would go on to prosper and become the new sound of hip hop, Joey Bada$$, with his J Dilla and Tribe Called Quest style beats, would begin to Fade in spite of the fact his music contained substance and positive messaging.
Bada$$ has a very original sound which some have labelled as progressive rap. However, for most of his career, he has made music in the shadow of prominent southern trap artists such as Future, Young Thug and Lil Yachty. In fact, some have labelled him as wrongfully and disrespectfully underrated. In an interview with Complex, when confronted with questions about whether or not those beliefs are valid and if it bothers him, he calmly responded, “I think it’s a great thing. I’d rather be underrated than overrated because I always have this place to get to, you know what it is? It’s social currency. The fact that you could still put people on to Joey Badass makes it exciting.”
With his 2022 album 2000 already in competition to be the best album of the year, Bada$$ has most definitely not let the industry discourage him. The album features live piano and many other live instruments, which is a breath of fresh air considering so many artists have ditched live instrumentation to achieve a harsher digital sound that, sometimes, sounds unnatural.
The album is an extension of his 2012 mixtape 1999, and this year marks a decade since its release, so Bada$$ makes sure to show growth on this album. The track features live piano from the rapper himself, who is a pianist also. Furthermore, the artwork is a modernised version of 1999, so you get a sense the album is an upgrade of his 2012 project. The instrumental tracks blend into each other with ease. Furthermore, the way some of the classic live instrumentation has been underlaid with 808s makes something that may have felt dated work in the context of modern hip hop.
Below you can listen to the isolated vocals of ‘LAND OF THE FREE’, a single from Bada$$’s 2015 album All Amerikkan Bada$$.