- The return of Joey Bada$ has been a long time coming, with the Brooklyn MC taking a sabbatical of five years before releasing latest project 2000. A semi-sequel to his debut tape 1999, 2000 sees Joey return to the boom-bap style he has embraced since 2011, while still trying to push himself forward at the same time. In an attempt to be a wiser and older MC, Joey can’t help but emulate those who’ve come before him, for better or for worse.
Opening track The Baddest sees Joey proudly rep New York and the classic East Coast sound through clean verses where he ponders being the greatest of all time. Producers McClenney & Erick the Architect provide a nod to older East Coast production through a continuous and dreary piano line that builds to boom-bap drums by the second half. East Coast “legend” Diddy guest-contributes the same useless amount of adlib energy he has had since '94’s Ready to Die with a pointless intro dedicated to New York.
Make Me Feel is the closest Joey has come to making his older sound feel more modern through cleaner production and female backing singers. Statik Selektah’s production is tight with banging drums and shining keys that whirl around Joey’s rhymes. Joey proves he has put in the work and reaps the success with bars showing off his rising stocks and new, presidential watches, just like Joe Biden. The brag raps support the production and create an illusion of luxury which makes for an overall solid track.
I can’t explain my excitement at hearing Westside Gunn’s vibrant gunshot adlibs at the beginning of Brand New 911. Griselda’s influence in the New York scene during Joey’s absence shows, as the repetitive saxophones and backing drums of 911 sound closer to Gunn’s usual foray. Both rappers provide great verses with Joey taking a more straight-forward approach in describing his cars, while Gunn delivers his usual, fantastical, over-the-top self, with machine-gun fire to back.
Returning 1999 producer Kirk Knight delivers the colder production with slight jazz refrains and backing bass, the sound that defined Joey’s early career, back on Zipcodes. The track feels like New York in the winter: a frozen and never-ending concrete jungle with the slightest snatches of shine through the light-posts. While Joey’s performance isn’t exactly exciting -with hackneyed call-outs about being a great rapper and driving a rover- his flow rides the beat and delivers, competitively, a very solid throwback to his earlier self.
Throw Welcome Back in the garbage and leave it there to fester. It’s embarrassing seeing a Chris Brown feature in 2022 especially on a track that is nowhere near the subject matter or sound of the rest of the record. I don’t want to hear a sex song on a record like this. Beyond his scandals, Brown is just an ass musician and his autotune wailing drags down further, an already terrible song.
The second half of this record interests me less and less, sadly, including the J.I.D feature which is saying a lot. That is until Survivor’s Guilt which honestly might be Joey’s best track to date. A dedication to his late friend and mentor Capital Steez, who died at nineteen, just after Joey blew up, the track is hip-hop at its most poignant. Joey pours his heart out over gorgeous and subtle piano and drums, eerily close to Kendrick Lamar’s Sing About Me. The verses are impeccable and honest in the way that dedication hip-hop songs should be. If the rest of the record came close to the performance of this song, Joey would be looking at album of the year by far.
2000 is a solid project overall but Joey Bada$ still can’t rise above his influences to deliver an album that is more than pretty good. While clearly a talented MC, it feels to me as if Joey doesn’t have a whole lot to say, even after a five-year break. When the record is focused on achieving certain lyrical goals or production aesthetics, it is obvious that Joey can still deliver very worthwhile rap; I just wish there was more.
- James Chadwick.