Initial Thoughts: “ALL-AMERIKKAN BADA$$”

“ALL-AMERIKKAN BADA$$” might only be three days fresh but in this era of digital streaming, three days is undoubtedly long enough for an album to go out of Spotify rotation.

As it turns out, “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$” did not have to compete with Kendrick Lamar’s new album release (a clash in which Joey definitely doesn’t come out on top). If you’re the conspiracy theorist type, you might even think that Kendrick’s announcement which drummed up media hype, think pieces and articles for his fellow rapper were intentional. Big if true. 

Most people seem pretty pleased about this album, as far as I can tell. That being said, the Stan level of Joey’s fans are pretty high. Not Drake high, but still pretty high. Joey is an artist that doesn’t have to push himself. He’s an artist that can coast on complacency, and still get by without evolving his sound. He could release “1999” 3 times and still have fans saying “WOW DIS IS REAL HIP HOP NOT LIKE DRAKE”.

Stylistically, “1999” and “B4.DA.$$” isn’t too far removed from “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$”. The same boom bap drums are kicking in all the albums, but “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$” definitely has a more polished sound. Some of the tracks on the album sound over-produced (looking at you, ‘DEVASTATED’), and are missing that 90’s grittiness that started out as Joey’s signature sound. The first half of the album is definitely more guilty of this than the second half.

So let’s analyse the album in its two halves.

Half One – A.K.A ‘Happy Joey’

Tracks:

  • ‘GOOD MORNING AMERIKKKA’
  • ‘FOR MY PEOPLE’
  • ‘XXXTEMPTATION’
  • ‘LAND OF THE FREE’
  • ‘DEVASTATED (GROSS)’

The album starts out with a positive, sunny vibe. ‘GOOD MORNING AMERIKKKA’ does a great job of introducing the album, and setting the tone of the first half of the album. It’s smooth production makes you feel like you’re getting up while the sun is peeking through the curtains, but the song’s lyrics also lay out the setting and major themes of the album (sort of like if you then opened the curtains and found out the world went to shit while you were sleeping).

The thing is, while ‘FOR MY PEOPLE’ and ‘LAND OF THE FREE’ are some of the best tracks in the album, the first half of the album has some serious pacing issues. The energy ramps up too slowly due to the songs all having this over-polished, radio vibe, and it’s just a bit repetitive in all honesty. The sound is at odds with the subject in these tracks, and results in a very slow burn.

When I first heard ‘LAND OF THE FREE’, I thought to myself, ‘If Joey has a whole album that sounds like this, he’s set.’ I was an idiot. This sound is great but only when used sparingly. I mean this in the sense that it would have made a great outro track or interlude. And don’t even get me started on ‘DEVASTATED’. I get it, it’s catchy, but it’s also boring and didn’t need to be included in the album. It sounds like Joey’s attempt at a radio track (which it very well might be). It sounds like the kind of music that plays in a Michael Bay movie as the main character faces the sun and the camera pans around them. You can miss me with that one.

Half Two – A.K.A ‘Joey with Conviction’

Tracks:

  • ‘Y U DON’T LOVE ME? (MISS AMERIKKKA)’
  • ‘ROCKABYE BABY’ (feat. ScHoolboy Q)
  • ‘RING THE BEST SONG ALARM’ (feat. Nyck Caution, Kirk Knight, Meechy Darko)
  • ‘SUPER PREDATOR’ (feat. Styles P)
  • ‘BABYLON’ (feat. Chronixx)
  • ‘LEGENDARY’ (feat. Double Platinum with No Features)
  • ‘AMERIKKKAN IDOL ‘

Okay, now we’re talking. ‘Y U DON’T LOVE ME? (MISS AMERIKKKA)’ signals a major tone shift. Musically, the track is far more minimalist and raw, especially coming straight from ‘DEVASTATED’, but it feels like when the production is peeled back, it allows Joey’s lyricism, his cadence and the way he rides the rhythm to shine brighter. The production in the first half of the album distracts the listener from the strength of Joey’s flow, while simultaneously making it sound stale.

This side of Joey sounds less passive, more aggressive. Less soft-spoken and more passionate. Less like he’s a by-stander observing the injustice happening around him from that window, and more like he’s the one in the streets, leading the protest. The features are outstanding, ScHoolboy Q delivers his best verse on this side of 2017, and Meechy Darko absolutely slaughters a track that sounds like it was created with his demonic rasp in mind. It’s a bit disappointing to see fellow Pro Era stalwarts Nyck and Kirk feature only once (not to mention on the same track), especially considering I was a big fan of Nyck’s “Disguise the Limit”. It would have been nice to see Joey give some more shine to them, but we’ll give Joey the benefit of the doubt and assume he thinks they don’t need it (hopefully because they have something on the way?).

The production is far more diverse on this half, and it really shows. From a very gritty West Coast beat on ‘ROCKABYE BABY’, to an almost horror-core ‘RING THE ALARM’, to  Carribean and Reggae influenced tracks like ‘SUPER PREDATOR’ and ‘BABYLON’ which play closer to Joey’s roots, Joey shows that he can flex on any beat. The variation creates energy, and in turn keeps you listening. ‘LEGENDARY’ is introspective, and Joey’s flow on this track reflects that. J. Cole’s flow is pretty much his “4 Your Eyez Only” flow but on a Joey track (i.e. solid, but nothing special) and is thus forgettable (like his latest album lmao fr tho).

Joey closes it out with ‘AMERIKKKAN IDOL’, a song that is both quiet and incredibly powerful simultaneously. This track feels like the polar opposite of ‘DEVASTATED’. No radio beat and sing-rapping, just rapid-fire lines speaking about America’s inner struggle between right and wrong. The reinvention of the ‘dead presidents’ line is refreshing, and his monologue at the end is hauntingly real. A great way to end the album.

Overall, this album is solid, but there are a couple of glaring issues. In all honesty I found “B4.DA.$$” to be more enjoyable, and I do believe this is because this album starts off so damn slow. I don’t want to hear 5 tracks that could basically be merged into one long song, before I hear something different. A friend of mine, with whom I discussed this album pointed out that I might’ve felt differently had I not already heard ‘LAND OF THE FREE’ and ‘DEVASTATED’ before hand, which might be true. I’ve also only had three days with his album, which definitely is a factor. I’m curious to see if anyone else felt the same way I did about this album.

The other issue is that I don’t believe the songs are hard-hitting enough in the way Joey approaches his subject matter. I didn’t bring this up much in my analysis because there’s technically nothing wrong with what he’s saying and how he’s saying it. And I do appreciate the consciousness in his bars, and the message behind them, don’t get me wrong.

I just didn’t walk away from this album with a new perspective on the issues Joey covered. Joey pointed out the injustice, but didn’t make any insightful comments. He painted a vivid picture, but at the end of the day, it’s 2-dimensional. Laid out for everyone to see, he left nothing to the imagination. There’s no sense of nuance or wonder in his scathing criticism of Amerikkka. There are no layers to peel back. I liked the concept of ‘MISS AMERIKKKA’, but it felt as if it was only mentioned in passing like an unexplored character.

When you think about what songs really represented the albums main talking points, ‘LAND OF THE FREE’ comes to mind, as does ‘FOR MY PEOPLE’ as an anthem of hope, and ‘AMERIKKKAN IDOL’ as an anthem of defiance. However, the rest of the tracks don’t quite resonate fully with the overarching themes of the album in a meaningful way. I’m definitely being overly-critical, especially in this day in age where it’s not even necessary to be comprehensible to be successful, but I expect more from Joey because I know he can deliver.

At the end of the day, “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$” is pre good. I am tentatively excited for more.

Best Tracks: “FOR MY PEOPLE”, “ROCKABYE BABY”, “RING THE ALARM”, “LAND OF THE FREE”

Worst Tracks: “DEVASTATED”, THE 5TH SONG IN THE ALBUM AND THAT TRACK THAT STARTS WITH D

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