Band To Watch

Artist To Watch: Joey Bada$$

Much has been made of the reanimation of New York’s present day rap scene, thanks to the style-encompassing, radio-friendly rap of Harlem’s A$AP Rocky, the gritty, precise flow of Brooklyn’s Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, the flash and sizzle of Harlem’s Azealia Banks, the straightforward hustle of the Bronx’s French Montana, as well as traditional-outsiders-now-sorta-insider-y lenses of people like El-P and Das Racist. While those people get thrown out front as the most visible icons of “the movement,” the ranks below are packed with distinctive up-and-comers, artists like Fort Greene’s thoughtful, light-hearted Kilo Kish, the zonked-out drug rap crew Flatbush Zombies, and knife-sharp, era-throwback lyricists like Flatbush’s own Joey Bada$$.

Much is made of Joey Bada$$’s age — he was born in 1995 — and he showcases all the hallmarks of a precocious teenager that’s very much still a teenager (in a recent interview with The Village Voice, the Edward R. Murrow High School-attending rapper told the interviewer that he had to get home to work on his Apollo 11 project. “It’s a piece of cake,” he said). Akin to other youngster crews like Odd Future or an ASAP Mob, Joey’s aligned himself with a like-minded group who call themselves Progressive Era, and yes, they have a Tumblr and (a crew mixtape). He skates, but he sort of sucks at it. He has no feel for the ’80s arcade version of Pac Man. And so on.

As we await Joey’s own debut solo mixtape, 1999, tracks like “Survival Tactics” and the DOOM-produced “World Domination” serve as fine introductions to Joey Bada$$, proving that the Illmatic-era Nas comparisons — at least from a cadence/confidence perspective — aren’t unfounded. His flow is loose, sincere, and funny. It’s hard to envision him not getting signed. But for the moment he’s more focused on graduating than making Graduation. Hit the links:

1999 is out soon.

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