ALBUM REVIEW: ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ by JOEY BADA$$

By Ryan Martin (@RyanMartin182)

As a prime member of Beast Coast, Joey Bada$$ has an enormous following. His last project, B4.Da.$$ was a solid debut effort with beats reminiscent of 90’s boom-bap hip-hop and impressive lyricism. Following that up two years later, Bada$$ returns with ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$, his response to the current state of our society that is filled with hate, racism, and police brutality. The New York rapper and actor makes his statements extremely present as the majority of the album revolves around his personal opinions and statements. As a piece of art that represents our culture at this point in time, it’s important. As a musical project, it’s lackluster.

Bada$$ does an excellent job addressing his concerns, frustrations, and despair about the state of our nation. Throughout the record, he expresses his concerns about wanting to be a voice for his people or how there needs to be a bigger figure for his people that might not even be him. At times, it can feel like he does too much talking about how his people need a voice and not enough of why he is the right person to be the voice of those people. The album doesn’t do enough of his general opinions of how we can move forward from this state of disconnection and hate that our nation has fallen into.

The first half of the album has a summery vibe to it that’s reminiscent of his earlier work (1999). The beats were quite impressive, especially the beat for For My People and Good Morning Amerikkka with the latter embracing a gospel influence and Joey’s rapid fire lyrics: it’s a strong way to start off the album. For My People had some pretty underwhelming verses except for the last half of the second verse. In these two tracks, Joey is addressing some issues but he isn’t saying more than what has already been said. Land of The Free has a great beat with a cool Notorious B.I.G. sample behind it. His verses are strong, aggressive and powerful and there’s an unshakeable paranormal vibe seeping through along with the background vocals.

As controversial as it may seem, Devastated has no part in being on this record. If anything, it’s a way to create more sales in order to promote the album and get it heard by more people so that Joey’s voice and opinions get a stronger reaction from the public. Bada$$ obviously is very strong in his beliefs as he has created an entire album behind them. While it’s easy to agree with them, he should fuel the reaction of the public based on his opinions in the album rather than the sales of a pop-rap record about overcoming the struggles of pre-stardom.

Y U Don’t Love Me is a filler track all around. The concept of Bada$$ talking to America as if she were a girl that treats him poorly came off as a little tacky and while the beat is entertaining enough, the chorus was much too repetitive. Rockabye Baby is easily the most enjoyable track on the album with its strong rhythm and ScHoolboy Q doing a great job with his verse, the chemistry between both rappers seems strong. It sounds exactly like Bada$$ is at home on this track and reminds me of earlier career highlights like No.99.

For Beast Coast fans, they’ll eat up Ring The Alarm like it’s hotcakes, despite the beat being very underwhelming: an average beast coast beat with no flavor to it. Meechy Darko, one of the members of the Flatbush Zombies, also makes an appearance though his cameo seems to be a very unnecessary part to the song seeing as he has no verse and his bridges are honestly annoying. Thankfully, Bada$$ has one of the best lines on the whole project on this track, ‘Firstly, it’s the double entendre monster // Takin’ haunted constant trips through your conscious’. Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight’s chemistry is wildly impressive as well as they trade bars for an entire verse.

The album’s gripes don’t stop there though as both Super Predator and Legendary unfortunately come across as boring filler. The verses on Super Predator are actually quite impressive, save for Styles P’s verse, but sadly the chorus fails to make a mark. Bada$$ taps into his Jamaican roots to spit out a chorus full of all sorts of different types of ‘tings’. While it could have worked two years ago, Drake has already beaten ‘tings’ to death with both Views and More Life making the chorus sound stale. J. Cole’s verse is extremely underwhelming on Legendary and if it truly is the last verse he’ll give out then good riddance. Extremely underwhelming. If it wasn’t for his presence on the track, it would be the most unpopular track on the album in my opinion.

That’s not to imply that this record is a complete waste of time as Babylon and Amerikkkan Idol ended up being some surprise hits. While the chorus on Babylon sounds exactly like J. Cole, Bada$$ comes through with some of the most aggressive and hungry verses on this track. Need an example? ‘Fuck your breath, nigga, don’t even deserve air / Don’t even deserve shit, don’t even deserve nothin’ If black lives really mattered, you niggas would do something’. This is one of the only instances on the record where Joey has something really interesting and provoking to say rather than just pointing out what is wrong with our nation, something that has been done to death. It isn’t until Amerikkkan Idol that Joey says all he has to say about our country and more. This is the strongest track on the album, while Rockabye Baby would be the most enjoyable. Throughout Bada$$’s three long verses, he makes every possible point and opinion he had to say on the whole record present within the track’s six-minute span, a very strong way to finish off the album.

This album will not send you to sleep, neither will it change your opinion on anything, or change the way hip-hop is indulged or expressed. This is a very average politically charged rap record. There are no beats that are game-changing and there are no verses that are mind-blowing. Bada$$ made an average rap record that addressed everything he has to say in a positive manner, but nothing too dangerous (if you don’t count the Trump shout-outs that every other rapper has managed to do at this point). By last year’s election standpoint, every rapper was addressing Trump and the state of our nation: Run The Jewels, YG, Vic Mensa, Tribe Called Quest. So, my question is, in a world where everyone is talking about how bad our nation is and how we need to change, what makes Bada$$ stand out?

 

6.5/10


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GR8 MUSIC M8: January 2017

A new segment where I’ll be taking a look at any albums, EPs and singles that were my favourites of the past month. Want something reviewed? Let me know via twitter.

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

Albums

Run The Jewels – RTJ3

“We’re in sync so much now, after two records and several tours – and this new one felt like we hit that point in the Rocky training montage when he’s just killing shit,” said El-P in an interview with The Guardian and RTJ3 very much feels like the point where both him and Killer Mike have managed to catch the chicken. Showing sincerity, awareness, and aggression all at once, RTJ are the epitome of every liberal’s worst nightmare: they’re an answer to the intolerance that has infected America since its birth and do not give a fuck who disagrees. Their music is sure to be the soundtrack to the revolution and what a fucking soundtrack that is.

FULL REVIEW HERE

10/10

Code Orange – Forever *

Having had no prior knowledge of Code Orange or any previous interest in metalcore, it came as a total surprise to me that Forever would be one of the first music gems of 2017. Managing to balance off the hardcore punk sound that appears on the vast majority of these tracks by dipping their toes into some alt-rock waters as heard on Bleeding In The BlurForever is a true tour de force, putting aside any worries fans may have had after the act moved onto a major label. If there were any doubts about Code Orange being on their best form then Forever puts them all to rest, under a tsunami of sheer fury.

9/10

The XX – I See You

While there are many changes that are apparent on I See You, what’s utterly remarkable and something that should be commended is the fact that The XX are simultaneously pushing themselves out of their comfort zone while staying true to their humble roots. The sampling on display and subsequent alterations to the sound make it feel like an R&B album more than an alt rock one but the emotional voices that manage to project both passion and insecurities feel so quintessentially XX. There are tracks that feel like they could have been ripped straight off of their debut like ‘Performance’ while others like ‘Dangerous’ and ‘On Hold’ feel like they’ve landed from a parallel universe where the band are far less timid.

FULL REVIEW HERE

8/10

Wiley – Godfather *

Even though he may hit out with the threat of retiring as frequently as Donald Trump tweets out a potential World War 3 catalyst, Wiley has still continued to make music and Godfather may be his magnum opus. Most members of the public no doubt know of the grime artist via his chart hits such as Rolex and Heatwave but it does the artist a complete disservice not to recognise the impact he has had on the genre, being there from practically the beginning and surviving both the boom, death and subsequent revival of Grime. Featuring some of the darkest production to appear on a grime record in quite some time, Wiley offers up a variety of different sounds as well as some amusing and hard-hitting lyricism. Speakerboxx may very well be 2017’s Shutdown as it packs in an Arabic sounding flute, which feels like it was taken straight out of Banjo and Kazooie’s Gobi’s Valley, alongside a dominating and intimidating Wiley who chats about his youth selling drugs while comparing himself to the Bob Marley of Grime. With an output and influence as huge as Wiley’s, it really says something when an album such as Godfather can do him justice.

9/10

Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart Of Life *

While it may not be as groundbreaking or solid as their past releases, Japandroids have avoided falling into the pitfall that many bands do after taking a break of half a decade away with their third record Near To The Wild Heart Of Life. There are some obvious complaints: there’s a clear lack of witty lyricism from King and it feels far too polished, not a granule of grit to be found. That’s not to say that what is on display isn’t ambitious as the American punk act do all they can to push themselves out their comfort zone and bring new life to a genre many have said is stagnant. Dig beneath the surface and you may find the rock record that you’ll be comparing every subsequent release this year to.

7/10


EPs

David Bowie – No Plan *

Ever wondered what it would sound like if David Bowie had written a James Bond theme tune? Then look no further than No Plan, an EP that marks what would have been the artist’s 70th birthday. Featuring the aforementioned Bond-esque Killing A Little Time as well as the beautiful title track, No Plan manages to display all different facets of Bowie’s musicianship, reassuring all that his legacy will live on.

9/10

Cabbage – Young, Dumb And Full Of… *

Acting as a compilation of all the band’s work thus far, Young, Dumb And Full Off…demonstrates the prowess and sheer energy that Manchester rock outfit Cabbage possess this early in their career. Not just a release full of sad romantic songs about girls, Cabbage touch upon a wide array of political and social matters such as the monarchy, NHS, Austerity and a certain tangerine president with whimsy and appeal, making Cabbage not only one of the most exciting bands in the UK but one of the most aware too.

8/10

Boosegumps – on the way to meet you*

While certain seconds on this EP would give you the feeling that this Heeyoon fronted project had been recorded in a bedroom then swiftly left in the loft for a few years, this only adds to the utter enchantment on the way to meet you offers. Concluding track Happy embodies this EP’s message, with the lines “I am so positive/ I am so happy/ I tell myself every day/ I’m starting to believe me,” being both relaxing and resonant. Lasting only a brief few minutes, Boosegumps EP is very much like its artwork: alluring, soft and calming, full to the brim with positivity.

8/10


Singles

Sleaford Mods – BHS 

With their follow up to Key Markets set to drop in March, Sleaford Mods dropped another tease as to what to expect from English Tapas. BHS, which is clearly in reference to the now defunct UK chain of stores, takes a stab at the 1% and offers the politically aware alternative that Fat White Family constantly slated various other indie rock acts for. On top of that, the rather stripped back drum machine and guitars gives the track the serious vibe needed to carry the duo’s message across and does so wonderfully.

FKA Twigs – Trust In Me

It may have only appeared in the latest Nike ad for what feels like a few seconds but it’s truly a testament to FKA Twigs that this brief amount of time is all she needs to make an impact. While details on her upcoming album are scarce, if the vocals are as beautiful as they are here and the instrumentals just as jarring, unsettling yet alluring then it’ll no doubt be one of the best releases of the year.

Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Father John Misty’s latest eponymous cut off his upcoming third LP Pure Comedy is a relatively simple piano ballad that holds no punches when discussing its subject matter, delivering some particularly beautiful and thought provoking lines like only Misty can. With 2016 being infamous to say the least, it’s a relief to see that something can come of it and Pure Comedy is sure to be one of many pieces of art that stands as a reflection of what has been and a glimmer of hope of what is to come.

Joey Bada$$ – Land Of The Free

Dropping around the time of President Trump’s inauguration, Joey BadA$$ has undoubtedly provided the best political track of the year so far which touches upon topics of mass incarceration and racism, delivered witfully such as the line on his first verse “Two A’s, Three K’s in AmeriKKKa”. Finish that off with some killer production from Kirk Knight and you have yourself a track that cannot be slept on. 

Mac DeMarco – My Old Man

Making sure to leave fans with more than enough music to keep them content until the album’s release in a few months time, DeMarco dropped the reflective title track My Old Man. While not as stripped back as This Old Dog, My Old Man incorporates some simple synths that, in the context of the album’s concept, shine through as utterly delightful, showing that less can indeed be more. The lyrics, which are usually DeMarco’s strong point, are as touching and introspective as always, in no small part due to the different way he went about writing this album.


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