“Who will take a stand and be our hero?” asked Joey Bada$$ on “For My People,” a track from his second album, “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$.” The hero may not be Bada$$, but at least he is inspiring the hero in us all.
On “Land of the Free” the album’s centerpiece, Bada$$ raps, “We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves.” The song is a critique of Trump and the “land of the free.” Bada$$ raps, “Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over.” The Brooklyn rapper said on Genius.com that “Land of the Free” was influenced by psychologist Umar Johnson, Malcom X and Marcus Garvey.
“Land of the Free” serves as an introduction to the themes of the album, which include oppression, racism, police brutality and criticism of Trump-era America. Besides addressing social ills, “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$” also includes themes of happiness, unity, Pan-Africanism and a brighter future.
The highlight song of the album is “Temptation,” which samples Zianna Oliphant, a nine-year-old girl who made a speech crying out against racism. Bada$$ raps with a sense of urgency and persistence, while the Kirk Knight beat is peaceful and meditative. “Temptation” confronts racism and discrimination in order to bring change. This song, and the album in general, is a call to act, to rebel, to unite and to bring peace and equality to the nation.
The album is good but misses great by a few feet. There are a few disappointments, yet, for the most part, Bada$$ delivers what his fans demand. However, the most surprising disappointment ironically is the J. Cole-featured “Legendary.” Cole, whose “4 Your Eyez Only” album recently went platinum, delivers a forgetful verse alongside Bada$$’s static verse on an insipid beat.
The most emblematic song of the album is “Amerikkkan Idol” because it is insightful and demanding and contains a piece of every theme of the album. The third verse on it may be Bada$$’s best verse on the album.
Through the years, Bada$$ has been speaking on social issues with lyrical prowess. His first mixtape, “1999,” introduced Bada$$ as one of this generation’s most talented artists. While “1999” was his best and most popular album, “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$” is his most important.
With this album, Bada$$ presents an album that can be seen as a combination of Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” and Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet.” Although “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$” is not on the same level of these classic hip-hop albums, it is important to note Bada$$’s message and passion. “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$” is an attempt to correct the problems in society, and it is successful in bringing attention to the issues while providing a quality sonic backdrop.
Rating: 4/5 stars
See Joey Bada$$ live at Rolling Loud May 5-7 at Bayfront Park in Miami.