OPINION: Joey Bada$$’ Succe$$ & Hip-Hop’s Future


Although A$AP Rocky and French Montana will grace the next XXL cover celebrating New York City’s rap revival, Joey Bada$$ is a name with just as much stake in that conversation.

Since dropping his debut solo-mixtape 1999 this past summer to critical acclaim, the 18 year-old Brooklyn representative has watched his buzz swell. Add to that a designing deal with Ecko’s Unlimited brand, studio sessions with legendary producers DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Q-Tip, a spatter of interviews with the biggest radio stations on the East Coast, and it’s safe to say the young MC is on the verge of cracking through the underground’s ceiling and into the ears of mainstream audiences very soon.

However, in interviews, mainstream success seems to be last thing on Joey’s mind. Recently, a rumored deal with Roc Nation swirling through blogs was emphatically dismissed in preference for small independent labels such as Cinematic Music Group, to which Joey and his band of Pro’s are currently inked.

Bada$$’s distinct and precise flow harkening to the grungy, street soaked, boots and hoody rap of the early 90’s and drawing comparisons to Nas, Big L and Jay-Z, has created a frenzy among hip-hop heads wistful of an era when wordplay, creativity and wit were once heralded over monotonous, repetitive hooks and refried references to women, cars, chains and clothing.

His recent verses on “1 Train”, “Underground Airplay”, and “Gotham Fucking City” suggest a range of vocabulary and level of maturity striking for someone who isn’t allowed a drink at the bar:

These niggas ain’t ready for a global shift in paradigm
Life’s a gamble need my own pair of dice this time
All I ask is for friends without parasitic minds
But that’s as seldom as Paris city crimes
They don’t wanna see me eat, they feeding of my vibe
Rations of pride depleting them inside when they sleep
See I don’t mind sharing mines cause the sun shines
Through my sheer white blinds, it’s all I really need sometimes.
–– Gotham Fucking City

What is most enticing about Bada$$ is his ability to attract both modern hip-hop fans and old school heads clamoring for a time machine. Which begs the question: when Joey Bada$$ does release a studio LP, how marketable will he be?

Will a larger mainstream audience be enticed by the lyrical caliber of Joey Bada$$? And if so, what will that look like? I don’t have the answers to these questions and I believe it is still much too early in Joey Bada$$’s career as he is still building a buzz similar to the way in which Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa came onto the scene, the latter of which has grown into a marketable crowd pleasing star.

However, the release of his next project, which is reportedly finished, could be a very good indicator of the path his career will take. The depth of songs, whether or not any radio edible tracks are peppered in, and the reception it receives from backpackers and mainstream fans alike will be very telling of where hip hop is headed if solid, lyrical talents shying from mainstream pressures have support to continue making quality hip hop.