Joey Bada$$-Unorthodox (Video)

Now, it’s no secret I’m a massive Joey fan. However, as much as I love his raps (spoiler: it’s a lot), Ecko Ltd. appointing him their Creative Director at the age of 18 seems pretty bizarre to me. Of course, credit to him and I hope he succeeds, but from a business standpoint surely that’s an enormous risk by Ecko?

On to what matters. This DJ Premier-produced joint has quickly become a standout in Joey’s small but incredibly impressive back catalogue, with Premo’s simple and effective backdrop being the perfect canvas for the young MC to deliver his gritty, mature raps.

The video’s got a nice retro art style, adding sketched and painted effects to the everyday scenery of Joey’s life, such as near a subway entrance, and also painting contextual pictures to fit his lyricism throughout. It’s very visually stimulating and adds a remarkable amount of colour to a fairly ‘black and white’, unfussy hip-hop track, whilst doing so in the rough and imperfect manner that so accurately represents Joey Bada$$’ style. Great audio and a really enjoyable video to match.

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Joey Bada$$-20 Miles Freestyle

joey badass
For most rappers, putting a track out from when they were 16 years old would suggest a rather large distance on the throwback, and for it to be one of precocious but untrained talent. Given that Joey’s only 18 right now, this isn’t exactly moving back too far, and hence there’s plenty of work here on par with his recent work.

Grabbing one of my favourite hip-hop productions of all-time in Mos Def’s Umi Says, Joey (under his previous JayOhVee moniker) lays down a strong 3 minute performance to do both the beat and his burgeoning reputation justice. Rather than adopt the relaxed style Mos brings on the original, Joey’s flow is sharp, rapid and full of tongue-twisting sentence enders, with that pacey flow clearly demonstrating the talent he now exhibits on a bigger stage. The lyricism goes a little in and out, but for a freestyle it’s without any breakdowns or faults, and of course its one area Joey improves significantly with each release to this day. A great release, and must listen for Pro Era fans.

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Joey Bada$$-Wendy N Becky ft. Chance the Rapper

joey bada$$
Joey has declared this week #ProEraWeek, and opened last night with this collaborative effort produced by the underrated Thelonius Martin.

Here, Thelonius serves up a delightfully vintage production, throwing soft, smooth jazz instrumentation in with strong, pounding percussion for a simple yet fantastically effective production, giving the track a backdrop with a debonair and easygoing vibe. Joey’s hard touch and in-your-face style plays off that sound well, giving it a bit of intensity and combining effectively with the sharp edges of the drum work, and it’s another good performance from the young ttalent. Chance’s name seems to be coming up more and more in my life, and it seems he’s certainly one of the next young MCs to get a good footing in the hip-hop game, his contribution here being a smooth, confidently delivered verse that has a relaxed quality, and in contrast to Joey’s raps Chance opts to work more closely with the melodic section of the beat. A really enjoyable chunk of hip-hop, and a good way to kick off Pro Era week.

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Jared Evan and Statik Selektah-Boom Bap Blues

jared evan
About as descriptive an EP title as you could ask for in truth. Statik’s hip-hop stylings combine with Jared’s pop/R&B work for this crossover project, with plenty of big names in tow lending their support.

Is it me or does almost everyone who works with Statik want to put an EP out with the guy? It’s a huge compliment to him in truth, and credit where its due as he’s certainly becoming a go-to producer in circles beyond hip-hop. Here though, his rap influence is apparent as Joey Bada$$, Lil’ Fame, Termanology, Action Bronson, Hoodie Allen and Wais P make appearances (several of whom have worked with Stat before, of course), whilst Jared’s strong vocals and versatility will surely help offer a good balance to that. I’ve caught a couple of tracks from this to date and have been suitably impressed, with Jared’s once hugely-diverse sound seeming as though it’s been refined and improved a little more. Stream and download over at Jared’s website.

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Joey Bada$$-Don't Quit Your Day Job

joey badass
Most of you will know this by now, but here’s the backstory: Joey tweeted a Capital Steez lyric from Survival Tactics, “tell the Based God don’t quit his day job”, and Lil’ B took offense. He proceeded to release a ‘warning shot’ track targeted at Joey, who responded with this feud-ender mere hours later.

I can’t give enough credit to Lee Bannon for this production. He’s only gone and sampled what’s arguably my favourite R&B song of all-time in Janet Jackson’s That’s The Way Love Goes, and has let the quality of the sample do most of the work, aside from a little tempo increase and a heavier focus on the revamped percussion; they’re two delicate touches that take this beat away from its R&B roots, and rightfully more tailored for Joey’s use. The raps are short but as good as you’d expect from the gifted MC, combining his characteristically clever bars with some direct shots at Lil’ B, before closing with a few shoutouts. Regardless of how lame the ‘beef’ is, it’s nice to get new Joey, especially when backed by this sort of production.

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Smoke DZA-Gotham F*cking City ft. Joey Bada$$

On recieving Smoke’s K.O.N.Y. mixtape in October, this was the standout track. That’s not just because of the feature and Batman-related title either: the production is J Dilla’s hugely-underappreciated and utterly phenomenal Over the Breaks (sidenote: Dilla fans in London and Manchester, check out these Dilla-related events).

Backed by booming percusson and snarling synths, DZA opens with a very likeable, Pusha T-esque verse, combining the thoughts of a ‘disaffected youth’ in with some aggression, and packaging the lyricism into a good flow that rides the beat well. Joey’s on next with a slick delivery of his own, throwing together some very clever lines in a performance that quite simply oozes confidence and quality, and he’s unquestionably a great fit for this dark and intense production.

The beat is allowed time to breathe towards the end, and that allows the video’s story to surface unopposed. The monochrome filter serves to enhance the production’s downbeat nature, whilst the video’s focus on the grittiness and inherent perils of street life are in turn boosted by the audio, building to a dramatic twist at the end that makes this worth watching. It’s a raw, realistic video and when backed by the excellent audio, it’s one you’ll watch several more times. Great audiovisual.

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Joey Bada$$-Unorthodox (prod. DJ Premier)

joey premier
A radio rip landed a couple of days ago, but the full version has thankfully surfaced-you put the legendary Premo alongside the best newcomer in the rap game and it’s essential to listen to it properly.

The production has the Premo hallmarks over it, with a surface simplicity that conceals a depth of production worth appreciating, from the soft keys haunting the background to the beautifully clean bass thuds, and of course those trademark Premier scratches. It’s the sort of throwback beat that Joey’s thrived on in the last year or so, and whilst its still difficult to believe how young Joey is, this is another mature performance to add to his growing collection. The raps are consistent and unrelenting in the verses, with Joey’s steady flow and lack of over-emphasis giving his words gravitas and seriousness, playing off the more reflective elements of the production well, whilst the hook is still a rapped one with no illusions, instead being filled with harsh realities and a somewhat bleak outlook. An excellent slice of hip-hop that the heads will be giving plenty of time.

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13 for '13

2013 v3(2)

Year after year, we change the format of the end-of-year OTU round-up (routine is boring), and this year I’ve opted for a forward-looking feature rather than reflecting on what was a rather disappointing year in the music world. Many are desperate to have their tastes for 2013 dictated to them by either the BBC Sound of 2013 or MTV’s Brand New for 2013, but the interesting thing is we’ve been championing some of the acts they’ve thrust upon you this past week for quite some time. The rest of them we probably don’t care about.

So, here’s a chance to get clued up with some genuine upcoming talents that I expect to release more fantastic material this year and break through that next barrier of success, whether it’s into mainstream consciousness or slightly wider underground appreciation. Note that I didn’t say commercial success. Whilst some will certainly find that and it is a facet of their potential growth this year, it’s far from essential, and each selection here deserves to be so on quality and potential more than anything. Regular reader or not, you’ll have heard of several of these selections before and be assured those acts are here on merit, not because a label asked us to do so; something the aforementioned 2013 ‘predictions’ from the mainstream outlets can’t honestly claim. Let’s go. → Continue Reading

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Pro Era-Peep the Aprocalypse (Mixtape)

Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era crew close what was a fantastic breakthrough year for them with this brand new collection of material. Whilst it’s always great to have new Joey, his running mates are hugely overlooked for their contribution to his various tracks, and the sporadic material some of them have been involved in has also been enjoyable work.

Joey recently scored another big feature with his appearance on A$AP Rocky’s posse cut 1 Train, and the Pro Era boys look to have kept their own feature list to a minimum here, instead offering the track space internally and giving them the most possible exposure. There are some notable guest producers though, including Statik Selektah, Lee Bannon and Brandun DeShay, whilst the entire thing is executive produced by Joey himself, and hopefully that means we get his distinctively 90s-inspired sound all over this. Free grab below.

Pro Era-Peep the Aprocalypse

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MeLo-X-Live From East Flatbush ft. Joey Bada$$ & CJ Fly

In recent weeks, I’ve realised that MeLo’s actually far more than a producer, and is an accomplished rapper in his own right. Little late to come to that realisation, but there we are. This is another example of his multi-talented capabilities, with his work as both a beatsmith and an MC being on show here.

The track genuinely does sound like a live, one-take performance, and that adds a fantastically organic quality to the entire song. The production is minimal, mostly a metronomous percussion and the odd hit of deep, soft synths, and that stripped-back style only serves to enhance the raw vibe of the track. MeLo opens with a solid verse, delivering a couple of likeable lines in a confident, consistent delivery that makes for easy listening, whilst Joey follows with another good all-round verse to add to his growing catalogue of mature, age-defying performances. CJ closes with a slightly different approach, opting for a single word repetition style that offers a nice touch of variety on the track, and he smartly winds that ‘gimmick’ back as the verse continues on. Chilled and easy listening, this is a mellow slice of hip-hop to satisfy any music head.

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Joey Bada$$-Enter the Void ft. Ab-Soul

Joey’s pushed Waves out as an official iTunes release, and if you go ahead and support Joey’s track you’ll get this brand new effort with TDE’s Ab-Soul too.

A great co-sign for the rapidly-rising Joey Bada$$, and one that should up the buzz ahead of the Pro Era crew’s upcoming mixtape. The production slides right in alongside the work on 1999, being suitably vintage with a little twist of mysteriousness, as slowed-down percussion layerss up with drifty yet slightly scratchy synths and an ever so slightly creepy vocal sample. The raps from both are enjoyable and well-suited to the production, as Ab opens with a verse laced with a couple of those thought-provoking rhymes, before Joey jumps in with a performance that feels right at home next to the TDE heavy-hitter. Another positive addition to Joey’s burgeoning reputation, and you can grab this on iTunes US now (hopefully we’ll see a UK release soon).

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Joey Bada$$-Fromdatomb$ ft. Chuck Strangers (Video)

Fromdatomb$ is the last video I wanted to drop off “1999″ because I felt like this closed out the tape perfectly. I’m locked in the studio putting in that twerk on this new PRO ERA tape set to drop December 21st.

Easily one of our favourite upcomers in the industry, Joey’s stock continues to rise after releasing his fantastic 1999 mixtape, and of course the bonus pack Rejex.

With 1999 being such a strong body of work, it’s difficult to praise individual tracks, and hence calling this a favourite wouldn’t necessarily be the truth. Instead, it’s one of many excellent efforts that showcase just why hip-hop heads have taken this teenager in with open arms and is a good choice to demonstrate just why that’s taken place. The production boasts a hometown vocal sample, deliciously throwback percussion with plenty of verve, and bright keys that tie everything together in a positive package, whilst Joey and Chuck’s raps demonstrate a maturity beyond their years without losing any of their youthful exuberance. The video’s entirely filmed locally, giving the music a raw, street edge and allowing Joey to show off a strong on-screen presence, whilst the slight blur and fade adds a further old school style. There’s little to dislike here, and I can’t wait to see what the ProEra boys drop off on 21st December.

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BET Hip-Hop Awards 2012: The Cyphers

As per every year, the only thing we check the BET Awards for is these excellent ciphers, and this year is no different.

The 2012 edition brings you some utterly superb lineups, with the clip up here being a personal highlight as it features several of my favourite upcomers-A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Childish Gambino and Angel Haze, alongside newcomer Driicky Graham. The rest of the ciphers feature the likes of T.I., B.o.B., Talib Kweli, Jean Grae, DMX, Eve, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Kurupt, DJ Quik, Xzibit, Mac Miller, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, Hopsin and more.

Plenty of promise, click on below to check out all of the ciphers. Who do you reckon had the standout performance? Big fan of Joey Bada$$ with the cipher up here, and my winners for the rest are below.

→ Continue Reading

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Smoke DZA-K.O.N.Y. (Mixtape)

I don’t give this guy nearly the attention he deserves in my iTunes. He’s dropped off several projects in recent years which the hip-hop community seems to have met with relative approval, and yet I’ve not fully committed myself to listening to any of them yet.

This will change now. It appears that not only do hip-hop fans appreciate this guy, but his peers do too as the features on this tape make for salivating reading: Joey Bada$$, Ab-Soul, Big K.R.I.T., Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Twelvy and many more. For a mixtape that mostly came out of nowhere, that’s quite the list he’s assembled and I’m sure most of those don’t lend their names lightly. If, like me, you’ve neglected DZA’s work, there’s pretty much no excuse now and I’ve got complete confidence that he’ll deliver the goods here. Free grab and/or stream below.

Smoke DZA-K.O.N.Y.

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Joey Bada$$-Rejex (Mixtape)

1999 rejex is a compilation of tracks that didn’t make it to my debut mixtape 1999 (obviously). I decided to put this project together because I have a lot of unreleased material that I didn’t want to keep from the ears of my fans and supporters. I also have a couple of tracks on here I did when I was 15 years old (“little rachel”, “indubitable”, and “silent knight”) and I want to show people the progress I’ve made in a couple of years. I look at rejex as my more experimental side compared to ’99.

Every person I’ve introduced Joey’s music to has been blown away by his quality (of course, most have spread the word without crediting us). From the 90′s-inspired productions to the mic skills beyond his years, he’s rapidly gaining fans and this project is a reward for those championing his name. 14 more tracks to add to the growing Joey Bada$$ catalogue (and Pro Era, who contributed greatly to 1999), and they’re all for free below.

Joey Bada$$-Rejex

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Joey Bada$$-1999 Mixtape

Huge late pass on this one, so I apologise for that. I’d heard his name thrown around in hip-hop circles a while back, and having given most of this mixtape a massively overdue listen last night, I can certainly understand the buzz surrounding Joey.

The key is that there’s a real old school vibe about his style. Full of bass/percussion-heavy productions, Joey isn’t someone you can accuse of hiding behind beats (unlike many of the current crop), and instead ensures he’s got the spotlight fully turned on him with punchy beats that emphasise his abilities rather than the producer’s. Equally, his Pro Era team that help him out throughout the tape seem to be a like-minded bunch, with the raps from Joey and the team being a good mix of youthful and street-focused, matching the production style. You can’t help but feel there’s a little bit of a young Nas in Joey, and the heads need to be grabbing this tape.

Joey Bada$$-1999

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