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Sold Out Shows and Esteemed Selections: 5 Essential Joey Bada$$ Tracks

Last month, Joey Bada$$ brought his stature as a timeless rapper to sold-out shows in Australia. In celebration, we delve back into five moments that have made him the hip-hop mainstay he is today.

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5 years separated Joey Bada$$’ third studio album, 2000, from his critically acclaimed sophomore effort ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$. It’s a gargantuan gap that lends itself to the looming presence of irrelevance as new rappers make their way to the forefront rapidly every year that goes by. Fans were hungry, attempting to feast on whatever Joey provided, whether that was his acting in shows like Mr Robot, quick loosies, or some standout verses on Beast Coast’s 2019 album Escape From New York. And while 2000 was pure proof that he hadn’t lost his step, you couldn’t help but be concerned that Joey wouldn’t receive the flowers he deserved.

As he stepped onto the stage at Metropolis in Fremantle, kicking off the first stop of his Australian tour, all those worries were laid to rest.

Joey spent the next week flying across the country, selling out venues like The Forum in Melbourne. Pundits were treated to a setlist that encompassed his whole journey in the rap game thus far, from the highlights of his first mixtape 1999 to his latest work on 2000. It was a testament to his longevity, as crowds chanted in unison, speaking to the importance people place on his art. When a packed audience gathers in that way, it’s hard to continue talking about Joey BadA$$ like a best-kept secret, because the community he’s built exists within rarified air.

In celebration of Joey’s victory lap down under, we’re revisiting 5 essential songs from his catalogue that speak to the special nature of his artistry today.

1. Survival Tactics

‘Survival Tactics’ is rightfully considered a classic in the history of Joey Bada$$, and that was evident when you heard crowds across the country rap this back to the New York artist. Dropping in 2011, it harkened back to the 90s, with a grimy boom-bap beat that borrowed from the Styles of Beyond song of the same name, and showcased a teenage Joey casually performing a masterclass in intricate lyricism and flows. The late, great Capital STEEZ is also featured, going bar-for-bar along Joey with his food-for-thought approach, truly signifying Pro Era as propellers of a New York renaissance.

2. Big Dusty

When you achieve the hype Joey Bada$$ did in the underground, the idea of a studio album is attached to a lot of hype. Expectations were high in 2014 as Joey began to roll out his debut B4.DA.$$, as fans collectively wondered if an increase in namesake would result in the dilution of the music. Joey instantly quelled all these anxieties with the album’s first single ‘Big Dusty’.

This track contains everything you want from a Joey Bada$$ song, in a way that felt bigger than before. The Kirk Night production featured heavy bass and drum patterns oozing grittiness as if every kick was chiselled from the concrete walkways of Brooklyn. An eerie piano looped, sounding as if it came straight from the vault of Mobb Deep. This track seamlessly leads you into a world of stank face, as Joey comes in, emphasising the New York rasp of his cadence, adding sharpness to his style that rivals even the most deadly liquid swords. ‘Big Dusty’ is authentic, painting the picture of a swagger-heavy rapper spitting from a stoop. But opposed to the grassroots goodness of Joey’s mixtape era, this track barraged with a budget.

3. Devastated

‘Devastated’ felt like a detour for Joey Bada$$, showing a new side of his versatility and becoming a standout on his sophomore album ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$. The song finds Joey reminiscing on his struggles pre-fame, wondering if he would ever realise the ambitions of taking rap to the next level. He explores this as a contemporary rap mainstay, so gratitude gleams through his melodies as he flexes his singing bag on the hook. The beat was bright and trap-inspired, trading drum breaks for bellowing 808s. ‘Devastated’ became the first Joey Bada$$ song to achieve an RIAA Platinum certification, signifying him not only as a lyricism darling but a bonafide hitmaker.

4. Show Me (Like a Version)

While recently touring Australia, Joey Bada$$ stopped by Triple J with a live performance of his 2000 track ‘Show Me’ for Like A Version. Upon the first listen, you know that this will be a reimagining you continue to revisit.

This version trades in the sample-based soul of the song’s Statik Selektah beat for live instrumentation, enriching the atmosphere with jangly guitars, bass grooves, and jazzy drum fills. Melbourne’s KYE commands this dreamy soundscape as she fills the vocal refrain role in place of the song’s Men I Trust sample, adding her passionate warbles to the feeling of euphoria. Joey, as expected, is smoother than ever as the frontman of this impromptu band, seamlessly switching between feint melodies and ear-catching raps. While the studio version of ‘Show Me’ still stands as a strong highlight in Joey’s discography, there’s no denying this live iteration hits a little differently.

5. Brand New 911

If Joey Bada$$’ journey was a movie, ‘Brand New 911’ is his ‘WIndow Shopper’ moment. Like 50 Cent handing a bag of money to a car dealer in Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Joey is driving his latest purchase off the lot. Both moments signify a celebration of success and the tumultuous times it took to get to where they are.

This song encapsulates a feeling of unabashed joy. The vintage boom-bap of the production feels like a sonic representation of windows-down driving, blasting your favourite tunes and truly feeling yourself. Joey boasts his luxury with swagger-rich confidence, knowing that the indulgent moment he’s experiencing is the fruit of his labour. Westside Gunn serves as the hype man, dropping a slick verse on the latter end and bringing the grandeur of this track to new heights. This track holds importance within 2000’s tracklist, as it serves as self-assurance between Joey’s introspective explorations. In an album that finds its maturity in vulnerability, ‘Brand New 911’ is the reminder that even through adversity, Joey Bada$$ is still that dude.

Follow Joey Bada$$ here for more, and stream his latest album ‘2000’ here.

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