Album Review: Joey Badass – 2000

The Brooklyn rapper reflects on his journey ten years on from the cult-classic 1999

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It’s either ironic or just bold confidence that Joey Badass’s biggest moment of commercial success (so far) came from a song that charted the looming frustration and hopelessness of his teenage years. “I used to feel so devastated / At times I felt we’d never make it”, he admitted on the the double-platinum ‘Devastated’, from his slick, politically-conscious 2017 sophomore ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ in 2017.

But five years later, it’s the cult-classic debut mixtape 1999 that the NYC rapper nods to on his eagerly awaited third studio album, 2000. Released a decade ago when Badass was just 17, 1999 dreamed up laid-back, retro hip hop beats with a vinyl-fluff nostalgia while he and his Pro Era collective’s talents cut through with an indisputable edge. Its cover showed two kids skateboarding away from view in a stylised, almost collage effect in heady hues of purple and orange.

On the cover of 2000, released today on Pro Era Records, the colour is dialled down but the stylistic reference is clear. This time, Badass squats outside a store with bling on show, like a snapshot of a star visiting the place he grew up in. For the most part that’s exactly what 2000 feels like.

Joey Bada$$ - Where I Belong (Official Video)

“I’m rare cut like a motherf***in’ pink diamond,” he lets rip energetically on the ethereal ‘Make Me Feel’, as if reflecting on the lessons of his own path. “This is somethin’ to remind ’em/ Hidden in the rough, where you find ’em/ Shine so bright that it just might blind ’em”.

It’s a little cheesy, but Badass’ rhymes have often captured the youthful enthusiasm for the art that at other times can deliver heartfelt blows. ‘Survivor’s Guild’ hands them out on every line, as he expresses the continued grief of the loss of founding Pro Era member Capital STEEZ and cousin Junior B: “Y’all ain’t know too much about him, so it’s up to me/ To share his legacy with the world/ It kills me to think he’ll never meet my baby girl”.

As you would imagine, sonically 2000 is more reminiscent of the 1999 mixtape, with the stoned jazz and analogue warmth of ‘Brand New 911’ or the crisp percussion of ‘Eulogy’ feeling right at home. Some of ALL-AMERIKKKAN‘s festival-ready production punch and gloss flows into its follow up too, most obviously on ‘Head High’, while tracks like ‘Cruise Control’ are probably the closest to today’s hip hop mainstream with its Drake-like smoothness and deep bass bounce. ‘Show Me’, a remix of Canadian dream-poppers Men I Trust feels a little out of place at first, but an amped up beat pulls you back into Badass’ universe.

Joey Bada$$ - Zipcodes (Official Video)

2000 probably shouldn’t be listened to as a partner to 1999 other than its neat anniversary connection. But for as much as he might admit to not pay much attention to the present (“Know my presence is a gift”), this record gives Badass a moment to reflect on the path from a hopeless 17-year-old to the “baddest motherf**ker in town“.

2000 is out now on Pro Era / Cinematic Music Group. Catch Joey Badass on his UK tour this December here.