Joey Bada$$Summer Knights (Mixtape Review)  DX Consensus: “Free Album” (the highest possible praise for a mixtape)

In March, XXL magazine released their annual Freshman Class, recognizing the hottest new artists in Hip Hop. One emcee on the list was Joey Bada$$ out of Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. A fast-rising “Beast Coast” star, he dropped his debut mixtape 1999 in June 2012 to rave reviews, and on July 1, he treated his fans to Summer Knights, his third free project in just over a year.

Joey is only 18 years old, but he sounds smarter and more provocative than many of his peers. His lyrics and beat selection are reminiscent of DOOM, and true to his Flatbush roots, he embodies a genuine Golden-Era style. He actually touched on both of these notions in a 2012 interview with HipHopDX, stating, among other things, “I want to bring the golden-age back [to Hip Hop]”, and it shows within his music. But his tracks also benefit from a touch of contemporary flare. Ultimately, Joey is looking to carry the torch from the Golden Era through the 2010 decade.

One of Joey’s most noticeable traits is his wit; he displays an impressive maturity for the young man that he is. On “Reign” he ponders aloud, “But what can I say, everything happens for a reason / Time will tell ‘cause even Fall lasts for a season / So keep on believing, you live and learn, die and you teach / Another piece of the pie and it’s finally sweet…” His lyrics emphasize a palpable wisdom that far surpasses the average 18-year-old. But also, like Jay-Z, Biggie and his other notable Brooklyn predecessors, Joey raps under the veil of the intelligent hustler. That is, for every rhyme about weed or the police, he balances out the verse with a dash of introspect.

Inevitably, his foresight and lyrical acrobatics enable him to remain hopelessly endearing. On “Sit N’ Prey,” he shouts out his deceased, Pro Era comrade Capital STEEZ with the line: “STEEZ taught me how to store it in my ball shorts / So when we stop by the D we never get caught.” Intelligent, basketball-inspired wordplay, coupled with a spacy, Trip Hop beat makes this track worthwhile. And well constructed verses, like this one, enable Joey to separate himself from many of today’s burgeoning Hip Hop acts.

As previously stated, his stylistic authenticity and good conscience channel Hip Hop from the 1990s, exemplified on numerous tracks like “Sweet Dreams” and “Word Is Bond.” He urges fans to think literally about the phrase “You Only Live Once” on his commendable track “Death Of YOLO.” It takes real moxie to challenge a star like Drake, but Joey is only legitimized by the fact that the last track on the mixtape, “Unorthodox” is produced by none other than the legendary DJ Premier.

Summer Knights is an excellent follow-up its predecessors 1999 and Rejex. Joey Bada$$ is fast becoming a force in Hip Hop, and on this outing, he has succeeded in making another great mixtape while outdoing previous efforts.

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