America the Great, as some know it, has long established itself among the world for its most familiar, principled and righteous doctrine: land of the free, home of the brave.
But while one of the nation’s most disproportionately represented demographic would beg to differ with the former, Pro Era’s leader Joey Bada$$ has boldly manifested the latter through the bravery of his sophomore studio album, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$.
It’s apparent even before the first listen of the project, which is exploding with socio-political-narratives, that the Brooklyn-made MC refused to have any ideas minced or any words misconstrued — except for America herself. Unapologetically and unmistakably swapping out America’s “c” with “KKK,” better known as the nation’s most notorious white supremacist and hate group, was just a warning shot. Such a bold move also gave much more rhyme and reason to Joey’s affliction before the album’s release. It’s much more simple to denounce police brutality, venerate African ancestors and flip a f**k you to Donald Trump when the rest of the crowd is doing the same thing.
Confronting Black America’s vices like self-inflicted hate in the Black community and violence glorification, though? Well that could leave a bad taste in the mouths of hip-hop and America’s forefathers alike. Hell, even for Joey himself. But while it may have been unpleasant for some, it is in that same right a lyrically acquired taste. Taking only a slight turn left from his well-received debut album, B4.Da.$$, the 22-year-old is far more premeditated for his Black in America testimonials.
Whether he realizes it or not, Joey’s pen that led him through the 12 tracks of All-Amerikkan Bada$$ is the same one that has landed Black America on new terms in the only nation built by Blacks and functioned against Blacks. All-Amerikkan Bada$$ refuses to be complicit, complacent or close mouthed about what’s really going on. And under the presidency of a hate-mongering, blindingly white-privileged 70-year-old former reality television star, there’s just no better time to be so loud and so daring. After all, they don’t call him the Bada$$ for nothing.
America, allow Brooklyn’s Pro Era rap delegate to present to you just a few newly revised amendments for the All-Amerikkan Bada$$ Constitution of the United States of America.
“GOOD MORNING AMERIKKKA”
Opening the album on the calmest of notes, Joey begins with an intimate but intense conversation with the nation over a smooth soul number. The contrast of such heavy subject matter and the song’s soft-toned sound is the perfect formula to help Joey’s message-driven track resonate deeply in our thoughts as soon as we press play. And as he lightly tackles the topic of police brutality, mass incarceration and the tactical destruction of the Black community, he even makes sure to send an address to the oblivious — or at least those who pretend to be.
“Some of us woke while some stay snoozed,” Joey raps. “Zombies walkin’ around trippin' over issues / The knowledge is official but it's often misused.”
Joey’s no silent rap killer tiptoeing around a single issue this time around. He’s taking full advantage of his First Amendment right and making sure everyone around him does, too.
“FOR MY PEOPLE”
Joey’s cry for Black America is the grounding beneath the entire All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ creation, but “FOR MY PEOPLE” gets candid with the real-life inflictions that sanctions, tortures and deprives the Black community. As he enforced in the same interview where he one-upped his rap skills in comparison to Tupac’s, Joey proves in this single that he is, indeed, one of the sparked minds Pac believed would change the world. The Brooklyn native even seems to adopt an old school-infused instrumental reminiscent of Pac’s era beneath the track in coalition with some of the late West Coast legend’s frequented messages to Black America.
“Music is a form of expression / I'ma use mine just to teach you a lesson,” Joey spits. “Rule one: this microphone's a weapon / I'm shootin' out the actions manifested and my passion / Never restin', I'm surpassin' the expectancy of life in my direction/ Man the section 8 depressin' / Hard to be progressin' through recession and oppression/Not to mention that they had us cell blocked ever since an adolescent.”
Introduced and closed out by way of 9-year-old Zionna Oliphant’s heart-jerking speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, during a council meeting following the killing of Keith Lamont Scott by police, “TEMPTATION” operates with all emotional strings attached. Crooning out his agony through the track’s chorus, Joey calls upon the Lord, the mental imprisonment of the Black community and his own ills as a young, Black, 22-year-old male among a tarnished nation. It only makes sense that Joey would sandwich the unheard voice of the unheard around such moving lyricism, too: the children.
“Do not stop,” Oliphant says in the song’s outro. We are black people and we shouldn't have to feel like this. We shouldn't have to protest because you are treating us wrong. We do this because we need to and we have rights.”
“LAND OF THE FREE”
Our first preview to this injustice-resistant track landed on January 16, Martin Luther King Day. Pushing the full single out on his birthday, which also happened to be the day of Trump’s presidential inauguration, a release that was more calculated than coincidental, Joey left little to the imagination on what fans could expect from the album’s premise. Shouting out President Barack Obama and reminding Trump of his inability to fill his predecessor's shoes is just the least of it. Joey goes full-fledged rebel society mode, showing off his metaphorical talents in the process with bars like, “My destiny rerouted when I chose to follow my heart,” and “full house on my hands, the cards I was dealt / Three K's, two A's in AmeriKKKa / I'm just a Black spade spawn out the nebula.”
And indeed a rare Black spade he is.
In a testament of turning failure into fruition, Joey takes a small breather from his socio-political attack and focuses on the self — a much-needed intermission we could all use every now and then. Though he’s hell-bent on a strict message of ambition, the celebratory nature of the track and visual for “DEVASTATED” demonstrates his ability to balance a variety of vibes and messages with fluidity. He’s lyrically adept — yes, we know that. But Joey’s able to lecture his peers on the significance of perseverance without becoming much of a lecturer at all, but a “N***a, we made it!” party instead.
“Y U DON’T LOVE ME? (MISS AMERIKKKA)"
In his first (successful) attempt at personifying America, Joey brings her to life for a lamentable love story that’s literally summed up to one plain question: why you don’t love me? This question becomes Joey’s parable of America the Great, the beloved nation that promises to love and treat “all men created equal.” Joey is earnest in his questioning, but holds firmly to his dignity as he recounts all that he and the Black community has done for the ungrateful “Miss Amerikkka.” Running down every stereotype that Black America has been pigeonholed into and alluding to movements like Black Lives Matter, Joey probes America on its oppression of its Black citizens in the media, in the legal system, in privilege and in class — all in eight questions:
“Tell me why you don’t love me / Why you always misjudge me? / Why you always put so many things above me? / Why you lead me to believe that I’m ugly? / Why you never trust me? / Why you treat me like I don’t matter? / Why you always kicking my ladder? / Why you never hearing my side to the story? / Never look me in my eyes, say sorry?”
“ROCKABYE BABY” feat. ScHoolboy Q
In one of the album’s grittiest and bass-heavy tracks, TDE’s ScHoolboy Q drops in for a gangsta rap relief from the politically-driven project. Joey, who’s a vicious spitter himself when given the right beat, attunes his verse and chorus flawlessly with his West Coast counterpart on the single. Embodying Black America’s middle finger to Donald Trump, he’s careful not to glorify his former street life. Instead, he commemorates the fact that he and his other fellow street hustlers are surviving despite each bomb of destruction America drops on them.
“Peace to my Slimes, and peace to my Crips/ Neighborhood police and they always on the shift / Protect my Bloods, look out for my cuz,” Joey raps. “And if you got the guts, scream, ‘F**k Donald Trump’ / We don't give a f**k, never had one to give / Never will forget, probably never will forgive / Uh, I guess that’s just how it is / And they still won't let the Black man live.”
“RING THE ALARM” featuring Meechy Darko, Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight
In a lyrical clip targeted this time for his rap adversaries, Joey enlist two of his Pro Era running mates, Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight, and fellow Brooklyn flagbearer Meechy Darko. The quartet each take turns slugging bullets of bars into their hip-hop competition to reinstate the real. Championed as one of the only millennial artists with the ability to channel hip-hop’s golden age through sound and flow, Joey has not forgotten that he is his generation’s rap savior. His Pro Era collective only supplements that, as Nyck and Kirk’s assists confirm the urgent need for like-minded, like-lyrical artists to unify and preserve the legacy of hip-hop in America.
“Resurrection of real, let's bring it back / It ain't even about the bars, they bumpin' whatever slaps now / All I hear is that ad-lib rappin' on my SoundCloud / Sick of the trash out, this is the crackdown.”
“SUPER PREDATOR” featuring Styles P
Owning and earning his golden age of hip-hop crown even further, Joey swoops in LOX emcee and legend Styles P. The song’s title might sound awfully familiar thanks to Democratic presidential candidate and Trump foe Hillary Clinton. Repurposing the term for the sake of the track, Joey is the spokesperson for America’s criminalized youth who are viewed through lenses of violence and corruptness instead of the vital heart of the nation that they truly are. Feeding off of the lyrical energy of his politically activated songmate Styles and the traces of his New York rap-founding LOX rap clique, Joey is softly relentless in his lyricism, yet dangerously frank.
“It's clear, I'm heir to the throne, I've been the best in my zone / Internationally known, forever Brooklyn's own,” he spits. "I mean, come on, but here's for the presidents, the congressmen, the senators / Who got us all slavin' while they reapin' all the benefits / Got the world thinkin' that it's true 'bout what they said of us / AmeriKKKa's worst nightmare, the super predator.”
"BABYLON” featuring Chronixxx
Flavored with an island taste of reggae, brought to us in part by Jamaican artist Chronixxx, Joey employs his “Badmon” persona on the track. The ever-present anguish of Black bloodshed at the hands of white injustice is hotly poured over six-minutes of bold, tenacious bars paralleling the biblical, ancient Mesopotamian city of Babylon, a symbol of oppression, to Joey’s “Amerikkka.” Definitively airing out his resentment for the murders of unarmed Black citizens at the hands of not only individual police officers, but the entire system of American policing as a whole, Joey becomes brazenly purposeful for “BABYLON.”
“Fifty years later, still see my brothers choked to death / R.I.P. to Eric Garner, only right I show respect,” he acknowledges on the second verse. “Nowadays they hangin' us by a different tree / Branches of the government, I can name all three: Judicial, legislative and executive.”
“LEGENDARY” featuring J. Cole
Joining the protest against “Amerikkka” with Roc Nation’s revered conscious rap mouthpiece J. Cole, Joey infuses a message of hope for his fellow Black brothers and sisters for the joint single. The most refreshing trait of this collaboration is the fact that it materialized from Cole’s “False Prophets” freestyle, where he tapped Joey’s “Waves” instrumental with a nod from the Pro Era leader. Prophesying faith and resilience in the face of America’s oppression, Joey and the Dreamville chief of state epitomize the importance of power in numbers on the single.
As the final track of the album, Joey is intent in a lengthy monologue that rounds up the entire album in six minutes. With poignant directives not only to the people of America, but also the responsibilities of each of its communities, no one is safe in “AMERIKKKAN IDOL.” The 22-year-old lyricist shoots down the idea of “Black-on-Black crime,” and commands the Gs to shift their minds to a much larger, much more threatening enemy at stake: the nation’s conspiracy to dismantle Black America once and for all.
“As Black men, I think our gangs need to do a better job at protectin' us / The people, our communities and not assistin' in destroyin' them brutally / It's time to even the score / 'Cause who do we call when the police break the law?,” Joey affirms. “We are so quick to pick up a gun and kill one another / But not quick enough to pick it up and protect each other.”
(Photo: Pro Era Records / Cinematic Music Group)