Joey Badass spares no truths in his explication of the current situation in the United States of America. Police brutality, racism, and transcendence are the pervading themes of the album.
Damn. Music is some crazy shit. It’s not really like anything else. The way you can vibe to music, how it makes you bounce, is unparraleled. You don’t see a beautiful painting and want to move in accordance with it. You don’t read a book and have the words stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
This for my people… trying to stay alive and just stay peaceful… so hard to survive this world so lethal… who will take a stand and be our hero?
Music is the greatest form of expression we know. It is our strongest expression of the soul, of emotion. You can hear what the artist means, by their tone, and more importantly, their actual lyrics. It is so powerful because it can share the human condition. We are all humans, and we all experience similar events. There is only one spectrum of feelings, and we all share it. We all have access to the same emotions and events, and power.
Why is music so important? It brings one person into the mind of another.
I become someone else for a moment, I can see the world from someone else’s perspective. Me, a privileged, pretty gay white kid, is in the shoes of a young black kid, and I can see a glimpse of the world from his perspective. (The best form of being someone else is in Kendrick Lamar’s The Heart pt. 2, if you want to see what it’s like to be a prostitute).
(Sidenote: Speaking of Kendrick Lamar, his newly released album Damn. is monumental, but that article will have to wait until after I finish dissecting All Amerikkkan Badass.)
The Artist’s Dilemma
Do you make art because you want to get rich? Or because you want to share a feeling? Or just because you love to create? Undoubtedly, every artist has to eat, so there is at least one thing on their mind: make money. But, “Creativity don’t always tend to mix with business endeavors”- Ab-Soul.
For this new album, Joey veered off his traditional path. He opted for more pop, radio-friendly beats (see TEMPTATION and DEVASTATED), but they are by no means bad songs. TEMPTATION finds Joey claiming “I really can’t take it no more,” and revealing his insecurity towards himself when trying to live righteous, while giving into his vices, and seeking help from the Lord.
In the past, he has almost exclusively rapped over 90’s inspired boom-bap beats, which can be seen as staying true to the culture, or digging oneself into a hole. The world is bigger than boom-bap, and as Joey stated in an interview with Hot 97, his goal is to inspire and infect the minds of as many people as possible, and that requires branching out.
The ultimate tightropes that every artist walks are: the balance between making money and staying true to their art, and entertaining and educating. Today’s focus on aesthetics minimizes the incentive for actually spreading a positive message, but the truth will always prevail. People say the golden age of rap was the ’90s, but they’re wrong. They’re stuck looking at the illusion of the greener grass on the other side. Today, April 18th 2017, is the greatest moment in rap ever. Tomorrow will be better, and this cycle will continue into forever. Joey and Kendrick just dropped some of the best rap music ever created, and all that has been still is. The past doesn’t die, it lays the foundation for the future.
This project is more commercial and aimed at a bigger audience than Joey’s old music. There is a sacrifice of some of his core following, for there will always be people that get salty when they don’t hear 1999 pt.2, but it is a necessary and commendable action. He is able to spread his message, introduce the traditional rap listener to a new style of music, and reach a bigger audience.
The other tightrope lies in education and entertainment. Nobody likes to be preached to, but people want their favorite artists to share some type of vision. This is the listener’s paradox, for we don’t want someone to tell us how to live, but we want them to stand up for something. Bottom line, people listen to music because it is dope. With this album, Joey stays true to making good music (entertainment), but in a deeper sense he shares his view of the world and offers insight into how to create a Progressive Era (education).
Why Listen to the album?
1. He says what many people feel about the state of the World
To tell the truth I’m disgusted, I fear for the lives of my sisters my brothers, lets make a plan, they ain’t protectin and servin more like damagin and hurtin
2. The music is incredible, beautiful, uplifting and will make you feel good
There’s something about hearing, seeing or feeling someone being really good at whatever they do that is invigorating. When we watched Obama speak, we were captivated by his ability to express himself, find the right words to say, and felt that we could do anything.
He is the cream of the crop, with a skill and flow like Ray Allens jump shot. The 11th track and J. Cole featured LEGENDARY makes you feel like you’re getting a massage on a cloud while attending a life-changing conference on social justice.
When Joey Bada$$ raps, it is inspiring. It’s that divine, higher power, from someone who’s been “dripping in indigo since a child.” He focuses on problems throughout the nation, but with stimulating and reviving production, he leaves the listener with a sense of potential and purpose.
3. He explains how to proceed in a world of oppression
“I’ve always wanted to have superpowers, you know,” Joey speaks as the second track FOR MY PEOPLE fades into the foreground. A 1957 Superman sample cycles through. On the following track, TEMPTAION, we hear the heart-wrenching words of a 9 year old girl, Zianna Oliphant, speaking on racial injustices in Baltimore after a 46 year old man was killed by police. “We shouldn’t have to protest because y’all are treating us wrong… color doesn’t mean anything to me.”
In the current state of racial injustices and citizen division… it can seem like rebellion, uprising and violence are the only ways to create change. This country was built on racism and an artificial social hierarchy. Our current state is a product of history, and thankfully, right now there is a growing shift in consciousness. Maybe this social division is completely distraught, horrible, pointless, and unfounded.
So what do we do? Rally in the streets? Kill police officers and politicians?
They want us to rebel, so it makes it easier to put us in jail… Be cautious of how you go about, it’s all part of the government’s plan they’ve been plottin, beggin for this to happen so they can kill us off using uprising and rebellion as an excuse in a timely fashion
Music is a form of expression, this microphones a weapon
Take the pain and paint a picture
Don’t just believe in me have some faith in yourself
Express yourself in a nonviolent manner. Think about what you do and the reprecussions before you do it. Fight peacefully, for the salvation of everyone. Don’t be corrupted by people with phony hair and loud voices. And if you got the guts scream FUCK DONALD TRUMP!
The 12-track album of untraditional rap beats, real instrumentation, high production quality, and picture perfect features from Schoolboy Q, Meechy Darko, Nyck Caution, Kirk Knight, Styles P, Chronixxx, and J. Cole, matched with exquisite production from DJ Khalil, 1-900, Kirk Knight, Statik Selektah, Powers Pleasant, Chuck Strangers and Like make this one of the greatest albums I’ve ever heard.
To be honest, though, there is a major difference between reading lyrics, reading about an album, and hearing it. Joey Badass has become one of the greatest rappers at purveying his sentiment through his tone. If you have yet to hear it, do yourself a favor and big up yourself through the Young Intellectual Don, Joey Bada$$.
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