REVIEW: Joey Bada$$ – Summer Knights
by Andrew Boryga
In his second full-length mixtape (not counting Rejex since Joey himself admits the songs were hurriedly made at age 15 and 16), Bada$$’s returns following a year of critical acclaim, a slew of features with the biggest names in hip-hop, and legendary cosigns.
Summer Knights exhibits an older, raspier Joey Bada$$, experimenting with a variety of flows over backdrops provided by his band of Pro’s, Oddisee, Alchemist, MF Doom and Statik Selektah. It is a noticeable departure from his debut, 1999 –– cohesively stitched to sound like one long track –– yet exhales the lyrical wizardry, acute self-awareness and imagery fans have come to expect of Bada$$.
Tracks like “Hilary Swank” and “Reign” showcase a speedier delivery from Bada$$ over, hurried, up-tempo beats, making for a sound much different than the old-school 90’s backdrops and precise pocket flows on tracks like “Waves” and “Daily Routine” off 1999. This new flow has sparks of brilliance, but is nonetheless blatantly experimental, at times overwhelming Bada$$’s lyricism.
Whereas tracks such as “Sit N Prey”, “Sweet Dreams” and “Right on Time” display the 90’s boom bap rap that made Bada$$ popular among contemporary and old school hip-hop fans alike. It is in these tracks where Bada$$’s lyrical abilities shines as he is able to discuss the changes in his life with the maturity of one beyond the age of 18, as in “Right on Time”, providing a unique vantage point of his youth and conveniently sidestepping the glamorization many of his hip-hop peers fall victim to.
but whats your game love already know it
we some ordinary people but extraordinary poets
get lost in the Moet when I pour it
fuck it if we drowning in pain, cause we don’t really show it
Interestingly enough, the low points of the mixtape come when Joey allows his Pro’s to take up space. Where as the late Capital STEEZ and current member (yet unfelt on this mixtape) CJ Fly contributed greatly to 1999, Kirk Night, Chuck Strangers and Nyck Caution weigh the mixtape down at times. Though “Sorry Bonita” stands out as a strong group effort on the mixtape (Oddisee’s beat has a lot to do with it), one wonders just how long Bada$$ will continue to push the Pro Era movement and how much of a presence they’ll be on future projects.
All in all, Summer Knights, though different from 1999, does not disappoint and at the very least leaves fans in great anticipation Joey Bada$$’s first full-length studio album B4.Da.$$ supposedly dropping sometime this fall.