by Okay Karan
This past week, Brooklyn-rapper Joey Bada$$ released his sophomore album, “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$.” Upon the release of the album, Joey explained that the music is “like hella vegetables, it’s hella good for you, and it’s almost my hesitance with it: the fact that it is so good for you”. A couple of weeks ago, the juggernaut of our musical generation – Drake – dropped his new project, “More Life.” I enjoyed it, danced to it, jumped around to it. I liked the island vibes, the trap sounds, and the UK-rap influences; it was a solid project. But with all that being said, it is inevitable that the status quo of our music consumption today is reflected in the popular music.
It made me think of musical shows like American Idol and the Eurovision Song Contest. Because these shows play to such a diverse and vast audience with various musical tastes, contestants need to appeal to as many people as possible in the fastest way possible to gain votes. Given the way we consume music today, artists have been pushed to adopt the same kind of tactics. Today’s access to unlimited amounts of artists and sounds has led to so many projects dropping in a short amount of time. Artists simply can’t afford to remove themselves from the limelight anymore because there is so much music ready to replace what is current.
An artist like Drake is the perfect example of someone who has deciphered and understood how we consume music in 2017, therefore his placement at the top of the music industry today is no shock; it is well deserved. Drake knows exactly how to create songs that will give instant enjoyment and get stuck in the head of the listener by following the same tactics that the aforementioned song contestants use. There’s nothing wrong with this, ultimately we all enjoy these songs. But the fast-pace, instant enjoyment that our generation craves ultimately takes away from an elementary aspect of music, and Hip-Hop in particular: The message.
With all that being said, let’s come back to Joey Bada$$, who referred to his latest single, “Devastated”, as organic candy “because the message is still good for you.” “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$” is a very political album, but regardless of one’s political preferences, it’s nice to hear an artist advocate for something they truly care about. It’s nice to hear music created to convey a message that the artist feels is important for the future of its listeners. It undeniably gives the music a much different role than that of the chart-topping songs. The music isn’t created to reach out to as many people as possible. It is created to fully affect the people that are listening, regardless of the number.
The second track off the album, “For My People”, stands as arguably the best Joey Bada$$ song of his career in terms of mixing popular appeal sonically, without compromising the social commentary in the lyrics. Joey starts off the song by saying he always wanted to have super powers, it serves as an intro to the message of the song where Joey professes his wish to take a stand and become a hero for his people. In the chorus he sings, “This for my people, tryna stay alive and just stay peaceful / So hard to survive a world so lethal / Who will take a stand and be our hero, of my people, yeah? / This for my people”. Joey then continues to explore various socio-political themes but comes to the conclusion that his voice as an artist is his superpower, and that he, through these powers, can be a leader and hero of his people.
Most popular artists today create music that conveys a feeling, whether it be positive, negative, uplifting, or discouraging. Either way, the main purpose of the song is generally in the feeling it conveys and not what is literally being said in the lyrics. This is not the case with Joey Bada$$. His methods follow the less popular ways that put more emphasis on lyrical content than sonic content. I honestly don’t support this method. In music, I always feel that the sound has to be put first, with that being said I also enjoy great lyrics because I feel they can elevate the significance, impact, and longevity of a project.
When Kendrick Lamar dropped his modern classic, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,” a concept album where every song adds to the overarching message of the album, it took me just about a year and a half to fully grasp all the messages of the album. That is precisely why I advise music listeners to take a look into these types of projects. Every song won’t sound good at first. In fact, most songs might not sound great, but they will grow on you. The sounds, the message, the performance of the artist, and the song as a whole will grow, as will the album.
What do we say about fast food? It’s really good, it’s cheap, and most people like it. Nobody truly loves fast food, though. It’s not good for your body, it doesn’t really provide any nutrients, and you get hungry again not long after. I like to eat fast food, too. But Joey Bada$$, he’s like hella vegetables. So if you ever think about leaving the fast food for something a little healthier, listen to “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$.” Trust me, it’s good for you.