With an ear for beats, intricate rhyming and nostalgic vibes, over the past few years Cinematic Music Group's Joey Bada$$ has repaved a rap route that has been seemingly abandoned for over two decades. Ironically, it's the music from those two decades that has propelled the 20-year-old Brooklyn native into fame, and after several projects and features, his debut album, B4.Da.$$, has finally surfaced.
Despite its completion in September 2014, B4.Da.$$, pronounced Before Da Money, reflects a carefully crafted plan, and one that ultimately boasts the mantra of "survival of the fittest." Longtime collaborator and DJ Statik Selektah opens up the album with the gritty yet soulful single "Save The Children," which acts as a dynamic bridge between the soulfulness of Joey's 1999 and his musical maturity since Summer Knights, two elements to be noted throughout the 17-track project. Joey carries forth with the DJ Premier co-written and produced "Paper Trail$," which embodies all the elements of boom-bap rap, from its pounding bass to its slick delivery, that we've come to expect from the Pro Era artist.
Throughout the album, Joey pays homage to several influential artists: Notorious B.I.G. on the Action Bronson- and Elle Varner-featuring "Run Up On Ya"; Das EFX on the aggressively delivered "Christ Conscious"; and even the Soulquarians on the Roots- and J Dilla-spirited "Like Me." However, we also get to know him as his own person on songs like "Piece of Mine," "Hazeus View" and "Curry Chicken," an ode to his mother and his cultural roots. Changing the pace of the album, Joey calls on rising ATL artist Raury to assist him on the uptempo "Escape," a standout cut that mimics OutKast in both production and delivery. Joey revisits this structure on the aforementioned "Run Up On Ya" successfully, but he sounds forced on the Kiesza-assisted "Teach Me How," which also bizarrely closes out the boom-bap rap album.
Despite a few kinks and unnecessary tracks, B4.Da.$$ is a great album that revisits classic '90s boom-bap signifiers: the production, the delivery and cadences. Immersed in the Golden Era soundscape, what could have come off as gimmicky is infused with intricate lyrics and an updated sound. B4.Da.$$ evokes a sense of sincerity and talent that'll continue to mature from the cradle to the grave. (Cinematic Music Group/Pro Era)