The 17-year-old senior in high school and Cinematic Music Group affiliate Joey Bada$$ has burst onto the scene with his debut project 1999. Although this Brooklyn MC is not even old enough to buy a pack of cigarettes, Joey Bada$$ has generated a great deal of excitement thanks to his vibrant, vintage-sounding hip-hop, a sound that effortlessly channels New York rap of the 1990s. Joey is the most visible member of a young artist collective called the Progressive Era (Pro Era for short). These kids take musical inspiration from an era referred to by hip-hop purists as the “Golden Generation.”
The young man clearly has an old soul. 1999 opens with “Summer Knights”, an interlude produced by fellow Pro Era member Chuck Strangers, that with its twinkling keys and vintage loops of background singing allows each verse from Bada$$ to be easily absorbed. It leads nicely into “Waves” which uses a high pitched manipulated vocal at the beginning, with smooth jazz production and Bada$$ rapping, “Like I told you, I know niggas who trash rapping/ Worried ’bout the tending fashions rather than ascendin’ passion.” With no chorus he drops a 2Pac soundbite about rap not being ready for a “real person” in the middle of two verses. And the array of sounds continue; from the playful “Where It’$ At”, the introspective “Snakes”, or the melancholy “Pennyroyal”- which are over J-Dilla, and MF DOOM instrumentals. Joey is drenched in a slick New York groove that proves too intoxicating to escape. “Funky Ho’$” and “Daily Routine” are perfect examples of this; on “Daily Routine”, Joey spits, “But that’s just daily routine/The streets is couped fiends/Whether the hoops or the booth/Niggas shoot dreams/Better choose the right scheme/Cause you can think you cool wit yo nice things/But get wiped cleaned for ice cream when the lights beam.”
Without question, the most distinguishable feature of 1999 is its 90s Hip-Hop influence. Boom-baps, raucous choruses and head-nodding beats are excellently recreated, with the Brooklyn rapper’s mix of aggressive wordplay and youthful charisma meshing nicely with the backing score. Production credits go to unfamiliar names like Chuck Strangers (who also drops a verse on “FromdaTomb$”) and Knxwledge, who brings some distorted jazz horns to “Killuminati”; while 90s underground vet Lord Finesse brings a filthy cut for Joey to distance himself from all “Funky Ho’$.” The rapper even jumps onto classic productions from the late J Dilla and ominous underground genius MF Doom to showcase his lyrical damage.
Joey Bada$$’s mixtape is remarkable — giving listeners flashbacks and a breath of fresh air at the same time. Joey ends 1999 with the mandatory posse cut, “Suspect,” which features an entourage of spitters from his Pro Era camp (Chuck Strangers, NYCk Caution and Rokamouth to name a few) to deliver a fitting end to an mixtape which brings what is arguably Hip-Hop’s “Golden Generation” back to life.
Reviewed by Weston Sarver