B4.DA.$$ - Joey Bada$$
Joey Bada$$'s first studio album had high expectations after Joey's instant classic, 1999 released in 2012. B4.DA.$$, which I thought was pronounced Badass for a while until I learned it was actually Before Da Money, came out in 2015 and debuted at number five on the billboard two hundred albums chart, selling fifty four thousand copies in the first week. With Joey Bada$$ being one of the best artist's in the last decade, and definitely one of the most skilled lyricists, we are patiently waiting for his third studio album, with his last LP being in 2017. In the meantime let's revisit Before Da Money.
The intro track, Save The Children has a fairly spacey instrumental but Joey sounds a lot more laid back then we've known him to be. Of course, and this goes for the whole album as well, Joey's pen game is excellent. The following Greenbax (Introlude) is just a funny interlude where a young boy talks about wanting to live a good, luxurious life by selling candy. The instrumental on Paper Trail$ has a nice vocal sample and a strong drum pattern. Joey's flow is fun and a lot more lively than that of Save The Children and raps about how money motivates everyone and, "Cash ruins everything around him".
Piece of Mind instrumental is more upbeat and perky, with some xylophone keys in the background. Joey matches the vibe with a more lighthearted delivery and he delivers a very well sung chorus. Big Dusty is a change in pace as the beat is more consequential and heavy, and Joey's delivery is viscous. His bars are great as expected and the chorus is a phenomenon of its own as it gets a little annoying but is subsequently catchy. Joey returns to his roots with a classic Brooklyn boom bap beat on Hazeus Views. Joey is once again hungry in his delivery with some fantastic wordplay, as well as dropping one of the best choruses on the album. It's fun and passionate and Joey's flow switch on the latter half of the song keeps it fresh and exciting.
On Like Me Joey returns to a more lowkey sound with a contrasting strong flow with a moody and pitched down delivery that we don't hear from him enough. His lyrics are a lot more deep on this track but he still brings his signature, top shelf wordplay. BJ The Chicago Kid blesses us with some angelic background vocals to Joey's rapping as well. The instrumental on Belly of the Beast is grand and intense, and Joey is a lot more amped up and crisp in his delivery, with top notch bars again. The hook could be a bit repetitive but Joey's verses are enough to keep the track extremely entertaining and Chronixx's contributions are solid as well. A great track with its only real flaw being that it feels like it's constantly building to something but it never climaxes.
No. 99 has a beat that's high energy with the classic boom bap touch and Joey is right at home there. His flows are intense and the high energy and the concert sounding refrain are reminiscent of Wu-Tang's early work, to make a fun and electric track. Christ Conscious is a surge of energy in the track list with Joey at his most dangerous with his fast flow and impactful and exaggerated delivery. The instrumental of On & On features a smooth guitar and upbeat rhythm, with Joey being in a more laid back mode but still flowing with passion. He drops some lyrical gems and delivers a solid chorus while being more introspective on this cut, a nice switch up from his more determined tracks on the former half of the album.
Escape 120 features high tempo progressive drums and Joey matches the energy perfectly with his swift flows and a surprisingly even better chorus and a standout lyrical performance as expected. He raps about how he's been trying to improve his mental health, but he just wants to run away from his problems instead. Raury's verse could be done without, as it's not bad but just sounds off beat and out of place. Joey's flow on Black Beatles is exceptional and the instrumental is more piano based. This is another moment of vulnerability, rapping about how success is different that he imagined and how it affects him, as well as some amazing social commentary. The instrumental on O.C.B. is lighthearted and luxurious but Joey contrasts it with his aggressive delivery and passionate flows. Joey raps about his only child blues, and is very introspective as he raps about finding a love for Hip-Hop and writing.
Statik Selektah lays down a lavish instrumental on Curry Chicken where Joey once again reflects on his childhood. There's nothing particularly special about this track but it's very smooth. Statik once again provides the perfect atmosphere for Joey's driven flow and delivery. Elle Varner gives a great chorus that makes me wish she was on the LP more. Joey's second verse is fantastic and Action Bronson delivers an amazing verse as well. Teach Me is a passionate and exuberant closer to the album. Kiesza's hook is so heart felt and powerful and it definitely makes the song. The way the beat builds and the emphatic horns compliment Joey's fast paced flow perfectly to make a thrill ride of a track.
Before Da Money was a great debut studio album for Joey, but does not hold a candle to the former 1999. This album is the least essential Joey album as it lacks any major personality and feels underproduced at times. Those however are the only real flaws as Joey once again proves himself to be one of the greatest lyricists to ever do it and his wordplay is still on another level. Joey keeps it interesting by changing his deliveries and tones for most songs, not all of them hit too hard but it's great to see Joey switching it up. B4.DA.$$ is an amazing body of work but also Joey's weakest project to date.