From ’95 until infinity, Brooklyn’s latest shining star in hip hop has whipped up a revolutionary storm by quickly gaining the attention of the hip hop community with one project released at the age of seventeen. Now a year later, that same artist who goes by the alias Joey Bada$$ returns with his sophomore mixtape fittingly titled Summer Knights, just in time for late-night summer jam sessions.
Right off the bat, boasting essentially the same sound that made his debut 1999 so popular, Bada$$ goes in over a half-boom bap, half-smooth-n-jazzy instrumental giving his audience a proper introduction with “Alowha.” After a few more tracks go by and a long duration of head nodding keeps the listener hungrier for more, it is evident that the young emcee, who is now eighteen, has certainly changed a bit.
Perhaps changed may be more of a negative connotation, however, it is more or less that the skilled lyricist has actually grown and matured more than anything. Whereas 1999 finds the rapper chill, quieter and more in the mind of a teenager, Summer Knights marks a serious transition to more calculated songwriting rather than braggadocious rapping. Also, a tinge of a resemblance to MF DOOM rears its head in some of Joey’s tracks.
Undoubtedly Joey Bada$$ has crafted a new style of (B)East coast hip hop, but the above-affirmed comparison shows that Bada$$ has moved on from being a teenager rapping on instrumentals to a lyricists formulating intricate bars and delivering varying flows and ultimately inciting an even greater sense of entertainment to all who listen.
Joey kept that down-to-earth charm that came across through listener’s speakers on 1999 for sure and it served him well as Summer Knights hints at notes of familiarity at the same time that it offers something even more invigorating and provocative. More thought-out bars, less monotone and more unique, engaging instrumentals all spice up this record more than his revered debut did. Not that his debut was bad at all because it was great, but there was a serious step taken in the right direction on this one.
The beats hop around from inner-city grunge (“Alowha” and “Sweet Dreams”) to warm and reverberant (“Satellite” and “Reign”). All in all, however, these beats fit well together and stick to a cohesive, overall idea.
The production credits on this album are all over the place, from Lee Bannon to Kirk Knight to Alchemist, yet Summer Knights sounds like one consistent strain, one train of thought, as previously mentioned. This notion of multiple-producers on one album crafting a relevant and almost eerily consistent sound is not new and it is without a doubt that of the several albums in hip hop’s history that can boast this feat, the one that stands above them all is Illmatic – Nas’ classic debut.
Comparing Summer Knights to Illmatic may get some elitists upset, but it is important to note the similarities. A very young, New York emcee single-handedly (with the exception of a few features) takes on a project utilizing production from an array of the genre’s biggest names in production at the time. Whether Joey’s project matches Nas’ debut is up for time to tell, but the happenstance that this mixtape will go down in hip hop history should not be inconceivable to those who truly listen.
Regardless of any comparisons, Joey Bada$$, a kid from the Big Apple started a movement in hip-hop alongside his Pro Era crew. Penning some of hip hop’s freshest lyrics in today’s time while simultaneously rocking a beat like few and far between have ever done, this gold-chested hip hop superhero kicks down our doors and lets us know that this is real. Giving everyone a dose of his exponential skill, Bada$$ scores yet again on his latest and greatest project, Summer Knights.