About halfway through listening to Joey Bada$$’ new mixtape Summer Knights I had to do a double take and check the clock on my computer. No, not to look at the countdown until July 4th, but to see what year we are in. Summer Knights is such a throwback. It reminds me if the Wu-Tang Clan were formed now and were tasked with releasing a mixtape. The mixtape is a breath of fresh from a lot I’ve been hearing these day. Besides Kendrick Lamar, I’ve been pretty dissatisfied with what constitutes “underground hip-hop.”
Five years ago, the opposite was true. I was so DAMN excited about what I was hearing. You had Wale spitting rhymes over Justice, making meta fictive mixtapes thematically in tune with Seinfeld. You had Kid Cudi, who when I first heard his song, “The Prayer,” from A Kid Called Cudi, I was genuinely awed by what I was hearing. I had to send the song to all my friends. I was hearing something different, something I had never heard before, a perfect blend of R&B and hip-hop. And then you had B.o.B, with his two personas that added up to a new age Andre 3000.
This class of “blog rappers” took what they had grown up with early 00’s hip-hop and rejected it, but in making their debut albums accepted what they had come to reject. Wale suffered from no real commercial or critical success. He did just release a new album, but he’s part of Rick Ross’ terrible Maybach Music Group. Kid Cudi took his mysterious nature and committed to it too much. He’s always threatening to retire, always talking side projects with random rappers and has not had anything commercially viable since “Day N Night.” B.o.B’s first album was terrible. He has had some interesting songs since then, but it seems like his record label has made his curtail his dual persona.
Joey Bada$$ is 19-years old and although you might find his name a bit silly, he can’t be more serious. The beats remind so much of what Wu-Tang Clan uses and Bada$$’s lyrics are at the same time illuminating and just plain creepy. I have to admit that I had not really listened to a lot of his music before this, but I can say he is trying to stay true to classic hip-hop. On “Sweet Dreams” he repeats, “stuck in the 90s,” and I can’t tell if he’s either calling the hip-hop “stuck” in a time period, or if he himself is “stuck” in the asthetics of the 90s. Either way, I can’t wait for his debut.
Here are five songs you should hear off Summer Knights.
1. Hilary $wank
2. Death of YOLO (feat. Smoke DZA)
3. Word is Bond
5. Sorry Bonita