Review: Joey BadA$$ – Summer Knights

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We’re going to do two reviews a week here, one of a new album (less than a year old) and one of an older album. We also thought it’d be cool if our reviews took the form of a discussion, with humor and personality, rather than a dry essay. Our first new album review is of Joey BadA$$’s new mixtape, Summer Knights. Click “continue reading” to check it out.

Joey BadA$$ is a young rapper from Brooklyn, New York, who is the de facto leader of the Pro Era crew. He and his fellow Pro Era dudes have a very distinct style: They choose 90s-sounding boom bap beats, and rap in a similar style to artists of that time. Joey made serious waves last year with his mixtape 1999, which catapulted him to the vanguard of critically-acclaimed young rappers. Summer Knights is his sophomore outing, after extensive touring, a Pro Era mixtape, the suicide of his friend and collaborator Capital STEEZ, and guest appearances on many other rappers’ projects. Needless to say, it comes from a different headspace. Read our review of it here.

Zen:

Yo, why did you pick the mixtape?

Oscar:

I picked it because I think Joey BadA$$ and the whole Pro Era thing is one of the cooler movements happening in rap music right now, and since I liked 1999 a lot, I was curious to see whether they could match the effort a second time.

Zen:

Fair enough, and I agree whole-heartedly. It’s always great to see young kids, especially from BK, getting some respect.

Oscar:

Yeah word. I think really all they need to do is become more diverse with beat choice and consistency of rapping, because at their best they’re amazing but at their worst they’re boring.

Zen:

Yeah. I love the 90’s like anyone, but every now and then I want something other than plinky pianos.

Oscar:

And vibes, always goddamn vibes. OK, so what was your general opinion of the album?

Zen:

Mixed bag. The moments I fucked with, I thoroughly fucked with and found myself energetically bobbing my head and getting strange looks on the subway.

Oscar:

I totally agree.

Zen:

The rest of the time, like you said, I caught myself wanting to skip to the next track. Also, he needs a crew who can spit better. But I feel this way about most rappers. What were your feelings?

Oscar:

I agree, but honestly, the loss of Capital STEEZ was a huge blow to them, because he was really the only one who could hang with Joey lyrically.

Zen:

I fucked with Steez. The rest of the guys, with no hate intended, I’m not blown away by. They remind me of the friends I have who say they rap and record their shit on their iPhone. What were your overall thoughts?

Oscar:

Yeah most of the time I agree but sometimes they have dope verses. I think really my main problem was that 17 tracks is entirely too long for an album/mixtape.

Zen:

I agree, especially for something like this where everything sounds so alike.

Oscar:

They could have easily dropped their 5 worst songs and it would have been a much stronger project.

Zen:

Good point.

Oscar:

OK so on that note, what were your bottom 3 songs on the project, and why? 

Zen:

The one that leaps to my mind is “Right On Time.” The trend of rappers attempting a “love” song on everything they drop must stop. Just be honest and talk about the hoes. Honesty is always good.

Oscar:

Good reason, but then it’s tricky to walk the line between that and Yeezus-level misogyny.

Zen:

Yeah, that’s completely true. But I think that it’s almost worse to be pretending that you’re all about love and shit when really you’re just trying to bag some girl. My other two were “Amethyst Rockstar,” and the intro of “Hilary Swank.” I am not a fan of the use of Swank. Side bar — motherfuckers in general need to stop attempting new words for “Swag” that involve similar sounds: Swelly… $wank…

Oscar:

Yeah “$wank” is not a dope thing. I disagree about “Amethyst Rockstar” though, I really liked the Saul Williams intro, and I thought people spit better on that than a lot of other songs.

Zen:

My only beef with “Amethyst Rockstar” was the hook. I agree on the spitting. Which is actually how I feel about a few of the tracks. Dope rapping but really dull hook. With that said, lyrical content I find much more important, but still. Your bottom 3?

Oscar:

My bottom 3 was “Alowha,” “Right on Time,” and “Reign.” I agree with you about right on time, I don’t like rapper love songs when they sound insincere, but one of my biggest issues with 1999 was the excess of songs about hoes.

Zen:

I agree with you about disagreeing with me. But in my defense, I’m not actually encouraging more songs about hoes. I just didn’t feel that Right On Time felt sincere.

Oscar:

“Alowha” I just thought was subpar in general, it’s a stereotypical Joey beat with stereotypical Joey bars. I think that even working within the neo-90s sound he should try and explore different sub-styles, and try and push its boundaries. Also “yo yo yo yo hit em high hit em low” was unbearable for me. My bad thats in “Alowha.” Wait no I was talking about “Alowha” anyway. Ok. Settled. And “Reign” I thought the beat was fine but ultimately it was boring.

Zen:

But seriously, yes that’s what I meant about the hooks. Same with Reign. “when it rains it pours” like really? Are you sure? I’m not sure I’ve ever been told that before.

Oscar:

OK so what about top 3?

Zen:

In no order: 1. The rest of “Hillary $wank” which does not involve the intro. But of course that was before all the vibes got to me.

2. “Unorthodox.” To me, that’s Joey at his prime. Over a beat straight from the 90’s spitting fire. 3. “47 Goonz.” Besides having decent bars, that beat stuttering bass line is incredibly dope. Yours?

Oscar:

1. “Word is Bond.” Best beat on the album I think, and Joey spits some really good shit on there. To me that was the beat that broke out of the neo-90s feel the most.

Zen:

Yeah, that’s a great song. But the beat kind of melted into the sea of never ending piano theme. 

Oscar:

2. “Amethyst Rockstar.” I love the intro, I like the beat a lot, and I think people spit differently on that song from the rest of the album. It might just be because the tempo is faster, but it struck me. And 3 is either “Unorthodox” or “Death of YOLO.” “Unorthodox” is the better song lyrically definitely,

Zen:

Yeah. 

Oscar:

but “Death of YOLO” was a lot more fun than any of the other stuff I think, and hearing Joey on a fun beat isn’t something that happens every day.

Zen:

Him and Thom Yorke might want to meet and discuss happier soundscapes.

Oscar:

And I even liked Smoke DZA on it, I usually don’t like him that much.

Zen:

Plus, Death of YOLO is clearly an amazing title.

Oscar:

Yeah. favorite hook on the album also i think.

Zen:

Ok, what were your favorite musical/lyrical moments?

Oscar:

Musical I think was either the beat on “Word is Bond,” for reasons I’ve already said, or the Jamaican dude on “My Yout.” I don’t know why I liked him so much but I did. Sidebar, I googled him and he’s white, surprise.

Zen:

It’s been a trend for me to enjoy Jamaican dudes shouting on rap songs.

Oscar:

Lyrical was I think either “best rapper alive, hear that line used less often” from “Unorthodox,” or “yo houston we got a problem copy 4 or 5 hotties to the lobby” from “Word is Bond.”

Zen:

I completely agree on your first pick and the second is great.

Oscar:

OK so what were your moments?

Zen:

My favorite musical moment was the stuttering bass on “47 Goonz.” It reminded me of a track that slaughterhouse would kill and I think if Joey keeps hustling he could definitely play at their level.

Oscar:

That’s fair.

Zen:

Lyrically, I don’t remember the exact line, but it was him referencing a Nas line. And to me, that kind of embodies what Joey is all about: paying homage to the “golden age of rap” while keeping it present in today.

Oscar:

Yeah I totally agree. So finally, what score out of 10 would you give it?

Zen:

6 1/2

Oscar:

Another lyrical moment was “this aint quidditch but you know the snitch get caught.” Why 6.5?

Zen:

Because while my gut wants to push it to 7, I honestly think that one of the worst things that can happen to a listener is to become bored. But the quidditch line might push to a higher ranking.

Oscar:

I agree. I’d give it a 7. I would say 7.5 but 17 tracks is just way too long

Zen:

Fair. Especially for a mixtape.

Oscar:

Yeah, especially only his second mixtape. Also he’s like 18, so there’s hope. 

Zen:

Yeah, although my score might have been a bit harsh, I really hope he keeps grinding.

Thanks for reading! Come back next week for our reviews of Jamie Lidell’s Jamie Lidell and Television’s Marquee Moon.

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