Is Joey BADA$$, the ballyhooed 17-year-old Brooklyn MC, the ghost of “real hip-hop” past returned to take back the throne from impostors drunk on ho’s, weed, and greed?
Maybe. Maybe not. One song does not a savior make. One song, however, can raise the hopes of the faithful.
That song in Joey BADA$$’s case is “Survival Tactics” featuring Pro Era teammate Capital STEEZ, off the former’s soon-to-be released mixtape, 1999. Both rappers evoke an urban realism that feels primal, authentic, and now. Even if their “now” sounds like the mid-1990s, “Survival Tactics” rises above mere imitation.
“Survival Tactics” pops from the moment Joey BADA$$ announces he’s a “Martian with an army of Spartans” – an artful “don’t fuck with my crew” declaration. A jazzy arrangement borrowed from a track of the same name by hip-hop group Styles of Beyond provides a smooth canvas for BADA$$ to paint. And over the next 60 seconds he delivers an introductory window into his world, spitting about inner-city violence, earning money by any means, and fan worship.
Nothing BADA$$ says in his verse is new. However, the hunger in his voice and the effortless swagger with which he relays his street pictures stands out.
Capital STEEZ follows BADA$$ with a scorching verse that will undoubtedly get a lot of play for its diss of Internet hip-hop curiosity, Lil B the Based God, who has released every single word he’s ever said on MP3.
“They say hard work pays off/Well, tell the Based God don’t quit his day job,” Steez exclaims. No doubt Based God will respond with three mixtapes and possibly a symphony for whales.
Steez’s verse is interesting for the possibilities it raises. He is conscious – hence the education and Obama references in his verse – but also street-wise. The verse is a tad scatter-brained, but it’s obvious he has plenty to say. Steez, by the way, has a mixtape out called Amerikkkan Korruption.
While it’s too early to anoint Joey BADA$$ or Capital Steez as anything more than talented kids, “Survival Tactics” hints their talent could take them a long way – and I don’t mean back to the 90’s.