With Hip Hop's rise to prominence defined by New York's once indomitable notoriety, enthusiasts have come to exaggerate the Golden Age's purity, viewing its time with rose-colored glasses. As today's standards by which rap from the five boroughs is judged are comparably complained about, the diehards clamor for an overall return to form rooted in the straightforward boom-bap stylings of yesteryear. Recently touted as one amongst a small but significant brood with the potential to bring back an arguably antiquated East Coast sound, Joey Bada$$ is releasing his debut 1999 in hopes of catalyzing balance within the greater culture.
Having only 17 years of life experience under his belt, Joey Bada$$ aims to channel the spirit of Hip Hop from his early childhood, a goal occasionally arriving at awkward results. 1999 is likely to suffer the same criticisms as work from A$AP Rocky and Big K.R.I.T. (heavily scrutinized for building their careers on the virtue of preexistent legendary formulas), as the Brooklynite's thematic conceptual effort seeks to strictly serve the agendas of old fashioned backpackers. While technically rapping with a wisdom beyond his years, his style is replete with awkward time signatures predating the internet ("Survival Tactics" being his online introduction, a song whose promise 1999 struggles to match), that would have fit better as a part of the now extinct famed Lyricist Lounge ciphers.
A collection of new creations mainly backed by already released beats, 1999 is perhaps best considered retrospective homage to the likes of MF Doom and Lord Finesse, (both of whom have featured production on the effort - with Doom on "World Domination" and Lord Finesse on "Funky Ho'$") with respect to Statik Selektah, whose modernized contribution "Don't Front" is a welcome departure from the bulk of the project. Other bright moments such as the eloquence of "Righteous Minds" breaking down the realities of street life are all but canceled out by the dull flow of "Snakes" and "Suspect," a nearly 12-minute plodding posse cut featuring Joey's Pro-Era crew.
Where Joey Bada$$ lures in elitists sure to find themselves elated by his show of respect for the past, he subjects himself to backlash as his creativity is a simultaneous gift and curse. Overall, 1999's careful tracing of long established blueprints gives rise to debate on whether the newcomer presents a worthwhile reminder of Hip Hop's so-called glory days or if he risks placing himself in a nostalgic box despite his trajectory having just recently begun.
DX Consensus: "EP-worthy"