Release Date: Jul 1, 2013
Record label: Self-released
P.O.S. :: Chill, dummyDoomtree RecordsAuthor: Patrick TaylorI've been a fan of Stefon "P.O.S." Alexander since his debut nearly 10 years ago. On "Audition" and 2009's "Never Better," he proved himself to be one of the few artists who could successfully meld punk rock and hip-hop. Fellow Minnesotans ….
For being only 18 years old, Joey Bada$$ sounds like a veteran. I suppose putting out multiple mixtapes while you’re a teenager will do that. Now that he’s poised to climb up from the underground, he’s put out a new EP, Summer Knights, which shares its name with his newest mixtape from this past summer (as well as five of its tracks). Reminding hip-hop fans to pay attention to him might otherwise come off as desperate, like a child repeatedly calling for his parents just for its own sake.
This new mixtape from Brooklyn, NY-based teenage rap phenom Joey Bada$$ was originally supposed to be an EP-length offering. Then, a little more than a month from its release, Bada$$ took to Twitter and announced that it would be a full-length. In retrospect, he should have stood pat with the EP. Summer Knights has Bada$$ alternating flows, showing off everything from a rugged growl to slippery, agile stickhandling of syllables, with the beats ranging from old school boom bap to almost cloud rap-like arrangements.
One of the most surprising mixtapes of 2012 was made by a Flatbush teenager named Jo-Vaughn Scott a.k.a. Joey Bada$$, an Edward R. Murrow High School student who channeled Native Tongues-style rap music with a deceptively sharp edge while heading up the intriguing Pro Era collective. Simply put, the kid could rap.
It’s almost unfathomable that Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ is only 18 years old. He leads the multi-faceted Pro Era crew, tours across the globe, and his debut mixtape, last year’s 1999, was a slice of ’90s era hip-hop heyday some rappers couldn’t replicate in five mixtapes. With just his second official mixtape, Summer Knights, Bada$$ continues his maturation at a profound rate, delivering one damn fine effort that’ll be bumped this season and beyond.
It begins with the bloodlust jeers of a ringside boxing crowd. A stadium announcer’s voice orders them to “make some noise for the champion”, before disappearing into the kush-cloud chill and brassy J Dilla loops of opener ‘Alowha’. The word “champion” overstates Bada$$’s current rap game footing, but he certainly came out fighting on his breakout tape, last year’s ‘1999’.
Brooklyn's own Joey Bada$$ emerged as a Flatbush folk-hero since stomping onto the scene last year, and his latest mixtape maintains the nostalgic boom-bap that defines his Beast Coast brand. But Nineties NY hip-hop was about oversized personalities and intricate stories, and Joey lacks both. "Cats used to yawn on his raps, now look at him, shit ain't been the same since them niggas started booking him" Joey boasts on "Sit N Prey," and it's half true – the shows are getting bigger, but his flows still limp across sleepy loops patched together by his Pro Era chums and classicists like Alchemist and Statik Selectah.
On the start of Summer Knights, Joey Bada$$ lets us know he’s the “reigning champ, hailing from Flatbush, Brooklyn…” This grandiose, yet soulful introduction leads you to believe that there will be similarities from his highly regarded project, 2012’s 1999. As it plays through, Summer Knights is completely different. He takes you to basement nostalgia because the tone and vibe are much darker.
Hip-hop heads who are still peddling that trapped-in-the-‘90s, boom-bap era of rap, have long wondered when and where the genre began to stray from its origins of sheer lyricism devoid of publicity stunts and gimmicks—a detraction in today’s hip-hop world. It’s a question that also stumps Brooklyn-based emcee, Joey Bada$$ on his balmy new mixtape, Summer Knights, where naturally there are more rhymes than frills. “When did rap turn into a fashion show?” the 18-year-old up-and-comer bemuses on “Amethyst Rockstar,” an intoxicating, punchy track produced by underground cult favorite MF DOOM, whose influence extends beyond the riot-thrusts rhymes Joey artfully unbridles with Kirk Knight, his Pro Era comrade and producer whose hard-hitting bars almost steals the spotlight.