Joey Bada$$ – B4.Da.$$ Album Review || The Ether Report

Joey Bada$$B4.Da.$$—the long awaited debut from the 20 year old Brooklyn MC—looked to answer a few questions. Could he capitalize on the buzz generated by his earlier mixtapes?

It’s been nearly three years since Joey dropped his critically acclaimed 1999, but so much has happened between then and now—most notably the passing of the group’s soul Capital STEEZ. Significantly, the many artists he was grouped with while coming up have released multiple projects; Action Bronson, A$AP Mob, Kendrick Lamar. And then there’s the infamous “almost” Roc Nation deal, but that’s another story. Now that the official LP has been released, the weight is off Joey’s shoulders and the only job left is ours as the listeners.

“Christ Conscious” is an ambiguous record where Joey strips himself of all niceties and simply goes in in traditional fashion. The beat is the grimy 90’s vibe that he’s traditionally known for. If I had to compare it to something, this one reminds me of an Infamous era—Mobb Deep meets a Legal Drug Money Mr. Cheeks. It’s short in length, but its charm comes in with the fact that Joey sounds best when he gets aggressive. His delivery grabs you, but it doesn’t stop there as he drops slick lines such as…

Ike with the mic, which nigga tryna turn up?
– Joey Bada$$, Christ Conscious

Joey furthers this point on other tracks like “Hazeus View” and the dissonant “Big Dusty,” which serves as another highlight on the album. Joey’s underrated lyrical abilities are at display with fits of wordplay that are some of the best we’ve ever heard from him.

Could this really be the year that I feast, capisce?
Nothing defeats the beast, I speak my piece
Know niggas in the streets that heat seek for me
Release and squeeze
Might put a Halloween between your spleen
Retreat or trickle down to your last pound of green
Know what I mean?
This shit is like taking candy from the babies
Under these rappers is just a bunch of Now and Laters
They too sweet, plus they lease their Mercedes
Can’t be second greatest, I’m the best and def your favorite
My flow in-depth nigga, I got my wave up
It’s either get your tidal waved, or you could be my neighbor
– Joey Bada$$, Big Dusty

When in his zone, Joey is a true magician with the pen and we can hold this type of verse up with much of what the best out are doing today.

Now I call those songs standouts, but one gripe I have here is that nothing really sticks about this album. It’s a showcase which proves his potential, as did his mixtapes, but nothing that blows you away. There isn’t much growth.

Keeping in mind that he’s only 20 years old, this project doesn’t really show progression. The 90’s influence is the same, his rapping hasn’t gone neither up or down, and the songwriting doesn’t show much improvement. The few risks he takes fall short. He sounds uncomfortable on “Escape 120” next to an alternative ready artist Raury. Then there’s the inexcusable “Teach Me, which even as a bonus should have been left off of this album.

Most artists who’ve taken the jump from “ball of potential” to a full fledged force have proved to be versatile, but Bada$$ doesn’t seem to be willing to take that step. That said, the album is titled B4.Da.$$ so it may be him soiling his name in these grounds before venturing out to a mass audience.

Overall, this is a solid project. You’re not going to get your head exploded, but you will nod in enjoyment as a showing of respect for what this 20 year old is doing right now. The beats are grungy and you may want to listen closely to pick up on everything said here, so let it spin and simply enjoy this one and you’ll be fine.

*Ether Report Card – 7.7 (out of 10)