The meteoric rise of Odd Future and Azealia Banks has confirmed that rap music has become a game for teenagers. View it as younger people being motivated to make their voices heard, feeling dissatisfied by the older rappers on the radio, or the fact that it’s becoming more and more easy to make the music, upload it to the internet and watch the hits roll in.
Joey Bada$$ is the latest young rapper to release a mixtape of impressive proportions. It’s impressive because you wouldn’t have any idea about how old he is from listening to it. It’s got a maturity which demands attention, through the beats, his flow and the appearances from his Pro Era group. And it’s a throwback to the early 90s scene which Joey Bada$$ wasn’t even alive for.
Hearing influences from older musicians on debuts is normal; listeners expect styles to be mimicked while an artist is trying to carve out their own style. The astonishing thing about ‘1999’ is that this isn’t a half-baked remake of something released 15 years ago, this feels like the real deal. There’s none of the harsh violence and misogyny that takes centre stage on most rap, instead ‘1999’ showcases lyrics about dumb boring shit like the future and heartbreak, but because Joey Bada$$ is cool, the topics are cool. ‘Pennyroyal’ is the closest to a ballad on ‘1999’ as Joey murmurs that ‘cos I’m a player/I’m not gonna let you see my tears’ while jazzy bass and chromatic synths add to the melancholic mood. The jazz vibe floats across the mixtape, popping up on ‘World Domination’ too, which will be the only track this year that samples Pinky and the Brain. The piano underpins a vision which sets out Joey Bada$$’s plans to take over the world. And if he keeps writing like this, he might just do it.
Jessy Parker Humphreys