Artist: Joey Bada$$ featuring Smoke DZA & Big K.R.I.T.
Title: "Underground Airplay"
Producer: Navie D.Album: Underground Airplay (mixtape; presented by Ecko Unlimited) (2013)
I'm using this new series as an outlet to occasionally talk about songs I like that wouldn't ever come up on the blog naturally, just in case you two are wondering just what the hell I'm doing writing about "Underground Airplay". The short version is, I like it a lot. The long version follows below.
Blogger favorite Joey Bada$$, the kid who seems to bathe in 1990s-era hip hop, doesn't do it for me for the most part. The kid can spit, no question, and his ear for beats is in better working condition that those of his immediate peers, but for me, most of his music sounds a bit hollow, as though he's borrowed the overall sound of the era of hip hop I so obviously prefer, but not the aesthetic, and certainly not the passion and soul, and that makes it fairly easy to dismiss him and his Pro Era teammates.
There are exceptions to every rule, though, and not just the late Capital STEEZ, who wasn't bad, either. I tend to prefer Joey Bada$$ on posse cuts, where he is just one of many ingredients, as opposed to being the goddamn chef. Specifically, there are two that come to mind, and he just so happens to be killed by the same guest artist on both tracks. The first is A$AP Rocky's massive "1 Train". The second is the subject of today's post.
"Underground Airplay" so expertly mimics the late 1990s feel that I've been missing in my music, from its banging Navie D. beat (who is this guy? Anyone have any more production credits for him I can check out?) to the low-budget video filmed in a fucking tunnel. Joey crafted this track while serving as a brand ambassador or some shit for the clothing line Ecko Unlimited, and he was tasked with putting together a mixtape to promote the brand, because music sells clothes, obviously, but he was smart enough to make himself the headliner and the first artist on the track; even though he repeats a few of his bars at the end, he shows that, when focused, he can deliver good-to-great performances.
"Underground Airplay" ostensibly gives airtime to three rappers who thrive on the underground scene, and Smoke DZA and Big K.R.I.T. certainly fit that bill. DZA's confident-pothead-boastful flow clashes beautifully with the beat, as he drops gems effortlessly like Sonic the Hedgehog loses rings after getting hit. But this show (and "1 Train", in case you hadn't figured it out) belongs to Mississippi native K.R.I.T., who thrives on these East Coast bangers so much that it's a wonder that he doesn't occasionally mix up the sounds on his own shit.
All three rappers on here sound so perfect against the beat that it's impossible to not put this on your own playlist. Hell, this shit is so good that I have yet to listen to the mixtape in full. Just the opening stings of the beat are enough to get you amped up and start spitting bars with your friends outside of a project building, maybe or maybe not while standing next to some trash cans with flames shooting out of them, it's your call.
Side note: I'm still not writing a review of Joey's debut album B4.DA.$$, as I'm trying not to put more on my plate. But for those of you who must know: yes, I listened to the album, and no, I didn't like the majority of it. Joey sounds technically proficient, but a lot of the songs blend in to one another too easily, and that bonus track with Kiesza sucks. The only tracks I found myself really liking were the Statik Selektah-produced joints; even the Primo track didn't work in my ears. I think a little of Joey goes a long way, obviously; had he come up during the height of the Boot Camp Clik era, he would have slid into that roster perfectly, right? But maybe that's just me.
Do you agree or disagree with this selection? Discuss below.