Joey Bada$$ – 1999

Joey Bada$$ – 1999

Joey Bada$$ – 1999
Self-released: 2012

The blueprint is a notorious hip-hop cliché, but when it comes to ‘90s New York it’s an incredibly useful one. For hundreds of artists who’ve made their attempt at rap success during the past twelve years, albums like IllmaticThe Infamous, and The Low End Theory serve as a starting point. Many artists have watched their commercial and creative careers flatten under their monstrous influence. Successful rappers and beatmakers mostly progress past their icons, but it’s always possible to trace a path back to one of these obelisks of rap wisdom, often on a song by song, line by line basis.

I mention the three monumental albums above specifically because the path between seventeen-year-old Brooklyner Joey Bada$$’s new mixtape and these albums is surprisingly short. Q-Tip, Prodigy, and Nas above all cast long shadows over 1999. A listen to the tape is a disorienting trip through your own rap memory. At any moment you can hear a slight variation of Nas’ shoutouts at the end of “The World is Yours”, a few bars of rapping in the cadence of the chorus on “Survival of the Fittest”, or a hazy breakdown in the vein of the interludes on “Excursions”. Joey rarely uses a rhyme, cadence, or bar that doesn’t have a companion spoken by a New York legend. He’s an impressive student of hip-hop for sure, but it’s some of the most derivative rapping I’ve come across in a long time. His nostalgic voice is certainly refreshing, but it’s merely a result of the tapes release date, not because it is at all new.

What’s worse is that his verses can often be a surprisingly shallow rendition of hazy ‘90s boom-bap. Joey Bada$$’s flow lacks the pointed lyrical force of any of the above Queens MCs. 1999 shows little of Q-Tip’s jubilance, Prodigy’s cold pain, or Nas’s wide, observational vision. The tape’s lyrical content is the one thing that places it squarely in 2012. Many of Joey’s lines consist of less-than-convincing sincerity, stream-of-consciousness braggadocio, and creepy sexploitation. There’s a Max B shoutout, a Lil B diss, and Complex name-drop. The track “Funky Ho’$” sounds like a vivid “Represent”-style cut until you realize that Joey has replaced Nas’ sharp truths with boasts about the various unexpected places he’s deflowered women without becoming a father. Nas talks about himself to give perspective to description. Joey does it seemingly as an end of its own. He is Drake at his least appealing with a Queensbridge vocabulary.

This is not to say that the music isn’t enjoyable. A pleasant ‘90s sound is hard to hate and 1999’s is formed by legends and inspired beatmakers. Production is this mixtape’s most consistent joy, forging some nice, minor variations in the DJ Premier mold. While the Lord Finesse beat is an interesting but ultimately silly Steve Miller band sample, MF Doom’s “World Domination” is a piano looped fireball of playtime fun in the vein of Jurassic Five’s “Concert Schoolyard” and Scarface’s “My Block”. Solid, subtle production allows the tape to maintain a rare cohesion by today’s standards.

Joey Bada$$ is doubtless a talented rapper as well, but he aims high, often favoring complexity over coherence and rupturing many a tracks’ smooth surfaces. He always begins songs strongly in focus with tight, deliberate rhymes. More than a few of tracks, however, devolve into mumbled mazes of overabundant syllables and internal rhyme by their endings.

1999 is best when Joey is yoked closest to his influences, shirking modern clichés for those of the ‘90s. The most crafted tracks like “Righteous Minds” and “Hardknock” come nearest, capturing some of the bittersweet haze and touching details of their precedents, often as a result of his rare, but relatively meticulous storytelling. Even so, if inspiring memories of ‘90s greats is all that his music can successfully accomplish, inevitable comparisons to the blueprints will indelibly label these new tracks as inferior. A seventeen-year-old who can rap with ease in a nearly twenty-year-old style should be valuable to us in 2012. Let’s hope that time will allow him to age past his idols.

2.5 out of 5


  1. thevoyce
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 11:07:00

    Great points but horrible review. Come man, “Drake with a Queenbridge Vocabulary”?!

  2. Andrew Martin
    Mar 21, 2013 @ 09:25:00


  3. Rupinder S
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 20:45:00

    This websites reviews honestly suck. I just found it today and won’t get back on. And I’m not just saying that to be retarded, I truly mean it.

  4. taskforce
    Jan 29, 2013 @ 17:50:00

    u hit tha shit right on the nose bruh…he’s just re-playin the loop

  5. Brandon Shockley
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 22:30:00

    This mixtape is incredible. Giving a 2.5 to this mixtape is utter pretentious snobbery because its not your style. This kid is what 17 or 18 and put out an album that in the 90’s would of put him up with legends like Jay-Z or any of the greats even Tribe. This is true hip hop lyrics from what he knows over beats that still show respect to the back bone of Hip-Hop the DJ. It holds its own even today because that formula is classic. Tell me you cant smell the fresh paint and Brooklyn train yards in this album. You guys run a great Blog….Seriously its probably the only music blog I visit other than nmp3 forums; but I think you guys forgot what the soul of Hip Hop was about.

  6. Your BO$$.
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 21:55:00

    2.5? You’re bugging. Anyway who does he sample in Hardknock?

  7. Your BO$$.
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 21:54:00

    2.5? You’re bugging. Anyway who does he sample in Hardknock?

  8. Andrew Martin
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 11:54:00

    Danny Brown is a million times more engaging than Joey. I like Joey, but he has some stuff to learn.

  9. godzillaman
    Jun 27, 2012 @ 11:42:00

    I agree. How can you dudes give Danny Brown these top reviews then? All he does is use sex joke after sex joke over sub par beats. And don’t get me wrong I dig Danny Brown alot. But I’m also digging Joey badass and the sound and style he’s bringing on this mixtape.

  10. Afan
    Jun 23, 2012 @ 19:24:00

    Weird. People hating on a kid trying to make 90s standard music. Why take it back to a standard when hip hop was good. Let’s just hear today’s standards. It’s so much better we have lupe fiasco making classic albums and Chris brown making classic hip hop oh and ASAP rocky is like the future. Get the fuck outta here. Action Bronson is rapping like he 90s and he don’t get hate. We need more cats rapping over boom bap beats or jazz rap etc that’s where you get the creativity from that’s where you get the skill on the mic. Fuck why do you think jay electronica get love. Cause he doing something new? No it’s because he’s recycling something old. Fucken new generation hip hop fans should go join al Qaida cause they are a bunch of terrorist destroying hip hop.

  11. Michael Jon Carter
    Jun 20, 2012 @ 16:36:00

    Even worse. It was nothing more than a 2.

  12. Andrew Martin
    Jun 20, 2012 @ 07:40:00

    Nah, he got a 3.5

  13. Michael Jon Carter
    Jun 20, 2012 @ 04:30:00

    Crappy score for a quality mixtape release. You sheep would probably give Currency 5/5 for that snore fest……smh

  14. JEDI
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 00:40:00

    So I respect the opinion–those are valid critiques–but I wasn’t as turned off by the complete dependence on 90s styles. I do hope that his next tape is more modern (this tape shines brightest on the more 2012-ish beats/rhymes), but I thought it was a dope revival of all these old tropes w/o sounding cliche. And I think he’s nice enough to pull off the “rappity-rap” at the expense of content, as he does at times. I will say, only a few songs lived up to the promise of “Waves” to me, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the tape, maybe 3.5/5. I’m usually hard on rappers trying to bring Boom Bap back, but I think Joey did a good job w/o it sounding tired. (And I do see a unique worldview in his rhymes, unlike you. But again, fair review.)

  15. Ashwin Ramesh
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 23:38:00

    Great Review….my thoughts exactly. Elevator music for 90’s hip-hop heads. But I can’t front the dude sounds like I wanted to sound like , making lame attempts at freestyling under the influence of illmatic, Reasonable Doubt and Ready to Die. Soon as the dude applies himself toward trying to do something more innovative he’s going to be a problem. That Styles of Beyond joint is bonkers….

  16. Frank_be
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 15:26:00

    you must not have read the review or listened to the album, because he’s not pushing anything forward. he has a style rooted in and derivative of 90s NY rappers over beats literally from the 90s, a couple of Dilla tracks and some originals. their is no cohesion to the tape, no experimenting, nor any “profound” statements made. its good rapping over good beats that becomes very tedious and monotonous by track 10.

  17. Fidorkio
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 13:02:00

    I dont get why he is being penalized for trying to push himself further than most do currently. Something tells me if he had just rapped about typical nonsense in a basic fashion, he would have gotten a higher score in this review.

  18. grondin82
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 10:41:00

    Yeah, that tape is one of my favorites of the year.
    If your down with this type of hip-hop, check my blog out.

  19. Andrew Martin
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 10:35:00

    I see what ya mean and agree on some points. I’d give a 3/5 probably.

    Also, have you heard Lute? http://potholesinmyblog.flywheelsites.com/lute-west1996-mixtape/

  20. grondin82
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 09:59:00

    I agree with about half of this. You are taking you’re comparisons too far though. Breaking down every thing this kid says and relating it to someone that came before him is not right. His inspirations are obvious but shouldn’t be holding the listener back.

    In terms of lyrical content, I agree that many times Joey is worried about making an interesting internal rhyme rather than sounding smooth but to be honest, I’d rather hear this than something simple that you can get from any other rapper out there. Bottom line is this kid is 17 and is bringing back a style that has not been seen for a decade and making it pretty damn cool.

    I am not saying this debut is 5 stars but the first 8 bars of Waves alone deserve more than 2.5 stars.

  21. Andrew Martin
    Jun 18, 2012 @ 08:37:00

    Man, you absolutely nailed it.

    I listened to this tape four times when it dropped and enjoyed it.

    And then all the awkward sex references and whatnot bled through, along with the lack of a narrative/anything truly to digest. I then got extremely bored and felt the same way you do.

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