Like Kendrick Lamar has been doing for Compton, Joey Bada$$ (at only 17) is bringing that Brooklyn sound back to the forefront of hip hop. His latest mixtape, Summer Knights is the proclamation and it straight hits the ear like an album from the '90s — when the culture was still young and hungry (not thirsty) and when there was more balance between the MC and the beat.
Check it. Joey immediately harkens back to when the art was more important than the brand, demonstrating his lyrical proficiency right out of the gate on the opening track "Alowha." "With not a damn thing on my mind but this rhyme, in a matter of time to make this whole s--t align," he spits. "Like a planned out / Nothin' in life gets hand out / just stand out / ever since I hit the pot my vision panned out / Pressure boil 'til I'm fanned out."
He adds his island twist to the reggae infused "My Youth," produced by Chuck Strangers, who had a significant hand in much of Summer Knights; and on "Sweet Dreams" it sounds like he's riding a lost track from the Lost Boyz.
Indelible DJ Statik Selektah contributes one of the tape's other high notes with "Word Is Bond," which has a sound reminiscent of DJ Premier. And then Premo himself blesses Summer Knights with "Unorthodox," which has already garnered a buzz on hip hop radio stations all across the country.
Oddisee also gives the mixtape one of its gems with the ATCQ-like "Sorry Bonita." Lee Bannon serves as another one of the album's unexpected stars, getting behind the boards on darker tracks like "47 Goonz" and "'95 Til Infinity," where Joey shows off his uncanny ability to switch styles mid-verse and go on a Wu tirade. And then he proves why "it takes two n---as to tango," channeling MF on the DOOM produced "Amethyst Rockstar."
No doubt, there isn't a weak song on Summer Knights. And like Jay did with MCHG — without a radio song — the tape will still go down as one of the year's classics simply due to Joey's limitless and malleable lyrical stylings and those seamless transitions from track to track that give the mixtape a cinematic feel (also, the same way Kendrick was able to do with good kid, m.A.A.d city). This is definitely one of Brooklyn's finest.
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(Photo: Cinematic Music Group)