Joey Bada$$ All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ Pro Era / Cinematic Music Group
It’s been five years since a 17-year-old Joey Bada$$ lit up the US hip-hop scene with Survival Tactics. The track introduced the world to his unashamedly throwback aesthetic – that drew countless comparisons to 90s New York rap royalty like Nas and Big L – and told an incendiary, us-versus-them tale of street existence under the shadow of the ruling elite.
It’s also been five years since Capital STEEZ, a fellow Pro Era founder who appeared alongside Bada$$ on Survival Tactics, tragically took his own life. Both the memory of STEEZ and the themes of social injustice are very much present in Bada$$’s second LP All-Amerikkkan Bada$$. The spelling of the title nods to STEEZ’s debut solo mixtape, AmeriKKKan Korruption, and of course the white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan – which has found a depressing new relevance in the context of US presidential election. Needless to say, the winner of that election is called out here, as Bada$$’s political discontent proves to be much more than a symptom of adolescent rebellion. “Music is a form of expression/ I’ma use mine just to teach you a lesson,” he raps on lead single For My People.
However, in a world so saturated with news media, it’s difficult to say something new or even cutting about the current political climate in the US, and those hoping to hear the fierce and fired up sense of anger that fuelled Survival Tactics will be left a little disappointed. For the most part All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ is Joey Bada$$’s smoothest, most-laidback sounding record to date. But now, Bada$$ is able to reflect street injustices into the wider social and political sphere – in the Eric Garner reference on Babylon, for instance – better than ever before. Perhaps the mellowness is a sign of maturity.