Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$ (Album Review)

Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$ (Review)

"B4.DA.$$" is the debut studio album from Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$. The album features guest appearances from BJ The Chicago Kid, Chronixx, Maverick Sabre, Dymeond Lewis, Raury and others as well as production from Statik Selektah, DJ Premier, J Dilla, The Roots, Kirk Knight, Chuck Strangers and others. It is set to be released on January 20, 2015 via Cinematic Music Group / Pro Era.

1) Save The Children - The first song on the album finds Joey Bada$$ kicking some boastful bars over a jazzy Statik Selektah produced instrumental. The beat is dope, with what sounds like distorted horns, twinkling chimes and smooth drums, and Joey sounds real nice over it. I think his delivery, voice and flow have matured a bit since his last project, "Summer Knights". Anyways, dope way to start off the album. - 3.75/5

2) Greenbax - Skit.

3) Paper Trail$ - This is the only song on the album produced by the legendary DJ Premier and it doesn't disappoint. The beat sounds a little different than the typical Primo beat, with a drawn out sample and soft piano's over the head nodding drums, but Joey rips it while he raps about his endless quest to "collect the green" and about how money has changed him. I especially like his flip on "C.R.E.A.M." when he changes it up to "Cash Ruined Everything Around Me" while describing how money is the root of all evil. Nice. - 4/5

4) Piece of Mind - Freddie Joachim comes through with a real smooth instrumental on this song, sounding more like the jazzy "Save The Children" than the previous track. I'm really feelin' the soulful vibe on the production and the backing vocals on the chorus. Lyrically the song is nice as well, with Joey Bada$$ kicking some more personal rhymes about his life in the form of a letter to his friend in jail. Even the beat is giving me a kind of updated "One Love" vibe. Yeah, I like this. - 4.25/5

5) Big Dusty - This was one of the singles released in promotion of the album and it's real dope. The Kirk Knight beat is the darkest on the album so far, sounding like it came straight out of the 90's with an ominous sample looped up over gritty drums. As far as the rhymes go, they are just as strong as the production, with Joey changing up his voice to sound harder/hungrier and spitting some more boastful rhymes. - 4/5

6) Hazeus View - This song finds Joey spitting some more braggadocios rhymes over a Kirk Knight production centered around a beautiful piano loop and dusty boom-bap drums. The beat is fire and Joey rips it. Yet another really dope track. This album is shaping up to be really good. - 4.25/5

7) Like Me (featuring BJ The Chicago Kid) - Joey Bada$$ enlists The Roots and the late J Dilla for the production on this song and it turns out exactly as expected. The beat is soulful and smooth and is complimented nicely by the subtle backing vocals by BJ The Chicago Kid, who lends his voice throughout the track for emphasis instead of just belting out the chorus. Lyrically the song is just as good as the production, with Joey Bada$$ kicking some rhymes tackling social issues with the police and personal relationships as well as "just wanting to be free". - 3.75/5

8) Belly of the Beast (featuring Chronixx) - The beat on this song is produced by Hit-Boy and has a sort of dark, reggae vibe to it that is unique on the album so far. The production is kind of minimalistic, but both Joey and Chronixx sound good enough over it while rhyming about their past and coming up in the streets. It's not my favorite song on here, but its still really good. - 3.25/5

9) No. 99 - Now this is better. Statik Selektah returns to production duties on this song and delivers an energetic instrumental that has an old school hip-hop vibe to it. The beat is dark as hell though and Joey sounds great over it, speeding up his flow to keep up with the intense pace of the production while spitting some braggadocios street rhymes. - 4/5

10) Christ Conscious - Woah. This song is another one of the singles that was released in promotion of the album and it's absolute fire, with Joey Bada$$ ripping a hard ass Basquiat instrumental that sounds like it came straight out of the 90's. The production is dark, gritty and raw and Joey spits venom over it. This one is a banger and is easily one of my favorite songs on here. - 5/5

11) On and On (featuring Maverick Sabre and Dymeond Lewis) - The beat on this song, courtesy of Freddie Joachim, switches up the dark grittiness of the previous two songs for more soulful production full of soft pianos, light synths and lively drums. The production is dope, but it's made even better by the soulful vocals from Maverick Sabre that weave in and out over the instrumental. As far as the rhymes go, both Joey and fellow Pro Era member Dymeond Lewis ride the beat nicely while rhyming about their own deaths in the positive light of celebrating their lives instead of mourning their deaths. - 4/5

12) Escape 120′ (featuring Raury) - Well this is a little different. The production on this song, provided by Chuck Strangers, has a very unique feel on the album so far, with a gloomy, yet spacious, sample layered over drum-n-bass-ish drums. I must admit that the production took me by surprise on my first listen of the album, but it's grown on me a lot since. Lyrically the song is pretty good as well, with Joey Bada$$ and guest Raury kicking some personal rhymes about their lives and such, but the hook is iffy and drags the song down a little. Still, not bad. - 3/5

13) Black Beetles - Chuck Strangers makes up for the somewhat disappointing previous track and comes with a beautiful instrumental on this song that is one of my favorites on the entire album. Lyrically the song is a standout cut as well, with Joey Bada$$ getting real personal and rapping about all of his insecurities and about how "this ain't the world we thought it was when we as in pre-school". The melancholy feel of the production and rhymes make this a personal favorite. - 4.5/5

14) O.C.B. - Joey Bada$$ keeps with the more personal theme of the past few tracks and rhymes about being raised as an only child, how his mom was never home and his dad was gone so he turned to music. The rhymes are honest and the retrospective production, from Samiyam and The Soul Rebels, meshes nicely with the rhymes. - 4/5

15) Curry Chicken - The final song on the album (before the bonus tracks) is another one of my favorite songs on here, with Joey Bada$$ kicking some heartfelt raps about his relationship with his parents and about how you have to give before you can receive. The production, from Statik Selektah, is real soulful and beautiful and provides a great way to close out the album. - 4.5/5

*Bonus Songs*

16) Run Up On Ya (featuring Action Bronson and Elle Varner) - The first of the two bonus songs finds Joey linking up with Action Bronson as both emcees kick some rhymes about their "bad bitch" over a darker Statik Selektah production. I'm glad this song ended up as a bonus cut since I'm not really feelin' it as much as the tracks that made the album. - 3/5

17) Teach Me (featuring Kiesza) - Same goes for this track, which I don't think would have fit very well as a part of the album itself. The beat, by ASTR and Chuck Strangers, and rhymes have a more playful vibe than anything else on here and actually sound more geared for radio play than anything else. Joey is just having fun on here, however, as he compares life to dancing. It's not terrible, but there are better songs on the album. - 3/5

I'm going to rate the album

4 / 5

because it's really good. The production is stellar throughout, with many of the beats sounding lush and beautiful while others keep it gritty and raw. The scope of the album is pretty broad, with Joey mixing up instrumentals that sound like they came straight out of the 90's with more modern production. On one song you will hear a beat that sounds like it came straight out of the dungeons of hip-hop ("Christ Conscious") while the next song has soulful samples and an overall lighter feel ("On and On"). Surprisingly the contrast works beautifully and allows the album to have some variety while allowing Joey to maintain his "throwback" feel. Speaking of Joey, I think that he really stepped it up lyrically on this album as well. He has always been really dope in my opinion, but I think that he really found himself on here. He touches on a variety of topics throughout the album, from more personal rhymes about his fame and insecurities to just straight spitting darts on some tracks. Overall, another very solid release from Joey Bada$$.


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