It isn’t often that Dr. Dre handpicks an artist to mentor, coach, and mold into his next superstar. After NWA, he did it with Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg; then Eminem and 50 Cent. The format seems to be that when he finds his new generation of talent, he releases a solo album with the help of those artists and then supports them as they build their own discography. When Dr. Dre put out Compton three years ago and Anderson .Paak was the most featured artist on it, a lot of people took note. We sure did. .Paak’s next album Malibu was the first project we reviewed on The What and we’ve kept a close eye on him ever since.
Joey Bada$$ has emerged as one of the the strongest voices in the current generation of hip hop. His seminal 1999 mixtape is a throwback to the golden-era of New York boom bap, channeled by the promising young rapper and his tight-knit Pro Era crew. While the other members showed some promise, after the death of Capital Steez it was clear that Joey would emerge as the most influential and successful out of the Pro Era camp.
His commercial debut, B4.DA.$$ capitalized on his hype and departed from his gritty throwback aesthetic, adopting elements of modern trap to create a new New York sound that hit just as hard as his early material while incorporating elements of southern rhythms and west coast production gloss. Joey’s flow and vocal performance also matured as he starting singing more and rapping more aggressively. It was proof that he is determined to create his own sound and not to drown in his influences. With this next album, I was curious to see if he would continue to carve out the lane he created for himself or to continue to mature and grow by developing new styles and approaches to his music.
Read more The Breakdown, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ by Joey Bada$$
Micah: I have been waiting for this album for a long time. Acid Rap came out three years ago, and Surf felt more like a Social Experiment album featuring Chance than the other way around. I’ve been missing that positive, bouncy, gospel-tinged raps from the fiercely independent Chance the Rapper. Since he got on the map, Chance has reinvested his momentum back into the musicians that helped him create his music, the city he lived in, and his sonic foundation.
Micah: Out of nowhere, Kendrick Lamar dropped a collection of tracks that fell to the cutting room floor while work was being done on To Pimp a Butterfly. Allegedly Lebron James had something to do with motivating Top Dawg to put this out. If that is the case, then I cannot thank Lebron enough. Kendrick is arguably the best rapper doing it right now and anything he releases deserves a listen. Let’s go.
Henry: The fact that this collection of outtakes plays better than most rappers feature LPs speaks to Kendrick’s talents as a musician, but even more to his talents as an editor. Making the decision to cut these admittedly good songs from the final album in the interests of creating a tighter, more narratively cohesive piece is impressive, and indicates a level of intentionality that is seems to get overlooked all too often.
Micah: BJ The Chicago Kid has been on my radar for a while now, and I have been eagerly awaiting this release. It’s not often that you seen a modern artist releasing under the Motown label and collaborating with the likes of Kendrick, Anderson .Paak and Bilal. I don’t know what it is about 2016, but everybody is feeling the gospel spirit, and I’m so into it. Please keep it coming.
Henry: Agreed. I love just about every feature I’ve ever heard BJ do, and I liked Pineapple Now and Laters quite a bit. In My Mind seems like more of a throwback, perhaps inspired by the recent work of some of the collaborators you mentioned. Let’s get into the album.
Micah: There’s a lot being said about this album and the marketing surrounding it. Let’s just focus on the music.
Henry: I agree, although part of Ye’s aesthetic is, I think, that he demands us to consider his entire persona as a sort of addendum to his music, which is somewhere between a theme and a marketing strategy that has become more pronounced with each successive album. I’ll also say that I’ve liked each successive album less than the last one, until now. But enough generalizing. let’s get into it.