Album: Summer Knights
Record label: Self- Released
It's the darker moments on "Summer Knights" that Bada$$ really proves how valuable he is
Much has been written and spouted about the return of the "Rap clique", a term that makes said species appear in rude health in 2013. Each Hip Hop crew to appear over the last two years has emanated a certain vibe and therefore encouraged a certain level of hype (the most renowned subject of this shaky hyperbolic game being Odd Future). And yet it seems the only group really deserving of the praise heaped atop them is Brooklyn's Pro Era, spearheaded by the prodigious Joey Bada$$.
Via his "1999" mixtape last year and the Pro Era posse recording earlier this year, Joey Bada$$ has been carving himself a legacy as one of the most revered new artists in Hip Hop. Although there's nothing as career and talent affirming as the likes of "Survival Tactics" or "World Domination" on his latest offering, "Summer Knights" is 17 tracks of a man reveling in his own legacy. And he is most certainly entitled to do so.
Right from the word go he wastes no time in proving how versatile an MC he is. He spits over the busy, glazey keyboard constructions of "Alowha", the ambidextrous drum and percussive samples and soulful saxophone melody of "Hilary Swank" and the ragga- incorporated summer bounce of "My Youth." As has been the case with all of Bada$$' previous projects, it's his intellectual braggadocious wordplay that reigns supreme here, but he's at his most prolific when he's rapping about the darker side of his emotions.
For example, on "The Death of YOLO" where he recounts a time he almost lost his life in a car crash. "Right on Time" finds him experiencing heart- warming romance, an oasis of certainty amidst the misogyny he's prone to on the rest of the tape. "We not only lovers but homies", he asserts, before a certain level of doubt clouds his mind; "Sometimes I feel threatened 'cause she knows all my weaknesses", but the idea of having that one special person holds true.
He sounds remorseful on "Sit N prey", unveiling even more vulnerability as he raps "Why do I live my life this way?" in the chorus, and then later "I see better days looking back" over a fusion of soft keyboard chords and an unnerving synth hum. Most emotionally potent of all though is "LongliveSteelo" and ode to the tragically deceased crew member Capital Steez. It's incredibly touching, as Bada$$ intones "you was the big brother I never ever had" over the gorgeous, plucked guitar chords.
In between the moments of lyrical righteousness on "Summer Knights", Joey Bada$$ indulges in the same kind of esoteric self- congratulation he's prone to, and it can become tiresome. However, there are a good handful of songs here that continue Bada$$' evident worth beyond any doubt.
Key Tracks: LongLiveSteelo, '95 til Infinity, Right on Time
For fans of: Nas, Wu Tang Clan