Brooklyn native rapper Joey Bada$$ released his second studio album ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ on April 7, 2017. It is a step towards a new direction from his debut album B4.DA.$$. He is no longer that kid inspired just by the culture of ‘90s hip hop, but a revolutionary using his art to challenge the system.
On the album Joey Bada$$ raps about police brutality, systematic oppression, and our current political climate in the United States today. In this review, I will be doing an in-depth analysis of songs throughout the album, and conclude with my final thoughts.
"GOOD MORNING AMERIKKKA"
"Now, what's freedom to you?" In the first lines Joey raps about the injustices that black Americans face everyday. The opening track sets up the overall themes in this album: racism, suffering, freedom, politics, and joy. The track can be viewed as a greeting to "Amerikkka."
"FOR MY PEOPLE"
"FOR MY PEOPLE" goes into depth about the day-to-day struggles for people of color, such as police brutality, and racism. Joey even alludes to the school-to-prison pipeline, which in the United States is a metaphor for the rates in which students of color have a higher chance in the juvenile justice system.
Joey samples a speech done by Zianna Oliphant, a 9-year-old girl from Charlotte, N.C. who spoke to the city council after the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. The color of ones skin should not determine their worth, but unfortunately we live in a society that does. However the purpose of this song relates to its title "TEMPTATION." Our temptations get in the way of our responsibilities, especially when it comes to making a positive change in the world. Joey seems to have an internal conflict throughout the entirety of the song and talks about the easy ways out, and reckless lifestyles that he is faced with.
"LAND OF THE FREE"
This political track focuses heavily on the mass incarceration in America. The Thirteenth Amendment, which freed the slaves and prohibited slavery, but did not take into account punishment for crime. Historically speaking, black males have been a target for the criminal justice system ever since slavery was abolished. It acts as a legal way to enslave people. In the documentary 13th, it talks about how "25 percent of the people in the world who are incarcerated are incarcerated in the U.S., which has only 5 percent of the population." Joey also speaks about how the systems of society such as religion, and education that are centered around Eurocentric history.
Joey recalls the struggles and devastation he faced before the fame. The overall message is with you can overcome any obstacles in life.
"Y U DON'T LOVE ME? (MISS AMERIKKKA)"
On this track, Joey speaks upon W.E.B. Du Bois' concept of double consciousness. Double consciousness is developed around the idea of “twoness," the black body as it sees itself and the black body as perceived by others. The result of double consciousness causes ontological fracturing, and a kind of violence as one does not have true self-consciousness. Joey refers to America as a female in order to convey the message that she doesn't treat him right. Joey might also be alluding to the lack of diversity in mainstream America using the pageant world as an example.
"ROCKABYE BABY" (feat. ScHoolboy Q)
The overall theme of his track is reflection. The artist not only reflect on their past, but their place and mark in society. As many of us know "Rockabye Baby" is a popular children's nursery rhyme. The significance of the title is in relation to the next line "shotta boy, shotta boy, crazy." The term "shotta boy" is Jamaican slang for thug, which blacks in America are portrayed as in he media and other outlets. Joey was racially profiled at a show in Australia a few years back. The guard stated that there was a misunderstanding, and mistakenly thought he didn't have authorization to be on stage. Phonologically reduced, Joey's black body was returned to him as a monster (which many people refer to thugs as such). Q's verse tackles the wage gap between blacks and whites in America. The line "They gave us guns but won't hire us, nigga? So we killin' senseless" can be in regards to two things. The first in relation to the cocaine pipeline where the "ghettos" were flooded with cocaine and firearms by the government. On the other hand, it can be in regards of the difficulty convicted felons are faced when trying to find work, but the cycle of the system washes them back into crime because the only means of an income is doing anything necessary.
"RING THE ALARM" (feat. Kyk Caution, Kirk Knight, & Meechy Darko)
This track is more so about the industry of hip hop. Joey along with his featured guest share a discontent with the current rap game. Joey is not the first to express these feelings, artist such as J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar have been calling out artist in the game lately. It seems that anyone can be a rapper with a sick beat and a dope writer, but then we are faced with a dilemma. Are we truly respecting the art of hip hop and all it stands for?
"SUPER PREDATOR" (feat. Styles P)
Joey titles the track after the infamous term “super-predator” first used by political scientist John J. DiIulio, Jr. in an article for The Weekly Standard in 1995. DiIulio used the term in order to explain the rising crime rates in cities, claiming the youth had "no respect for human life or future." The term resurfaced during the 2016 presidential election because people criticized Hillary Clinton's 1996 political speech, which she used the term in order to describe youth in gangs.
"BABYLON" (feat. Chronixx)
The names of the song Babylon, refers to the ancient Mesopotamian city, which is used in terms of the Holy Bible. This plays into the significance of the reggae sound because Rastas refer to their oppressors as Babylon. Often the term is used to describe the government and law enforcement. In the song Joey pays homage to Eric Garner, who was killed by NYPD officers after being held in a choke hold. In the first verse Joey refers to another act of police brutality such as the case of Joseph Mann who was shot 16 times by Sacramento police officers out of "self defense."
In this line Joey tackles George Yancy's call and response concept. Eric Garner's call was that he couldn't breath and the reply was "Fuck your breath," that ultimately lead to his death. Joey also uses imagery in order to make the point that the government is figuratively lynching black people from the judicial, legislative, and executive branches.
"LEGENDARY" (feat. J. Cole)
The school-to-prison pipeline concept is revisited on "LEGENDARY," the black body comes into the world unsutured but then society constructs an identity for it. Joey also makes the same connection in 13th that the idea of mass incarceration is connected to slavery. As for J. Cole, he revisits a theme he's mentions quite often, happiness and wealth.
On the final track of ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$, Joey calls out the American government, and their aims to exterminate black people. The chorus is something I want to touch on, especially because of our former president. When the topic of racism is brought up, I often hear things such as "we had a black president." Even though we have had a black president, he was still attached to an establishment wrapped up in power.
First and foremost, I believe that Joey Bada$$ is the revolutionary that is much needed in today's society. I'd even go as far to compare him to artist such as Tupac, and Nas. Overall, this album embodies both the light and darkness of oppression. Albums such as this bring mass consciousness to the issues at hand and could be used as a tool to build solidarity. If you have yet to listen to this album I strongly urge that you do. I would also recommend watching the documentary 13th by director Ava DuVernay.