Joey Bada$$, being from Brooklyn, New York City, has always embodied what New York rap is, but his new album All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ really goes back to his roots of politically charged hip-hop. He’s a founding member of the hip-hop collective Pro Era, based in Brooklyn. With his last full album being released in 2015, his fans have been anticipating a new album, and All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ does not disappoint.
Of course, simply from the title and album cover, it’s clear Joey is highlighting the institutional racism seen at all levels of American society. The last time rap fans heard an album that had this highly energized and politically charged message was with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015. Needless to say, in today’s political climate, his message is more prevalent and necessary to hear than ever. He takes on a different tone than most other “woke” rappers though, in being rather blunt and calling directly to listeners.
From the very first song on the album, “For My People,” he sets a dark but powerful and hopeful tone for the album. With lyrics in the chorus, “tryna stay alive and peaceful, so hard to survive in a world so lethal” set to a jazzy, melodic, beat, he immediately pulls listeners in with the message of peace. The song flows into the next track “Temptation,” he calls on people to make sacrifices and commitment to make the changes they want to see happen. It also has a church-chorus at the end and fades out with the voice of a child that is absolutely haunting, powerful, and pulls the message together even further.
In the next few tracks, he takes on some self-criticism, and discusses prisons, religion, and struggles of black people in America. He also features with ScHoolboy Q, Chronixx, and J. Cole, and more, adding variety in the sound of the album. Additionally, despite how clearly anti-Donald Trump the album is (he names him specifically in a few instances), it’s also clear the album is not about him specifically, but about the entire political system and sociopolitical climate in America today. The song “Super Predator” likely being a reference to Hillary Clinton’s famous speech calling young black people “superpredators,” the song addresses the history of criminalization and politicization of black people in America. In the last song on the album, “Amerikkkan Idol,” he warns listeners to be cautious, not to form opinions based on what we hear, and to stand up and rebel.
The album stands out for how nuanced and multi-faceted it is. It has the perfect balance of slower tracks discussing powerful political messages, and inspiring, upbeat jams. It is also nuanced in the emotions he invokes. He doesn’t simply incite anger in his messages, but also invokes sadness, remorse, resilience, and hope. He manages to make the album very personal while also relating many of his lyrics to all listeners. Overall, the album is scorching with relevant political commentary and powerful anthems for resistance and revolution. Bringing back the sounds of New York rap and being the bold rapper he’s known for being, Joey Bada$$ nailed it with All-Amerikkkan Bada$$.