Oftentimes, I find myself inquiring about the different perceptions of similar things/situations a person can have. For instance, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of hip-hop is defined "as a subculture especially of inner-city youths who are typically devotees of rap music." Where as in the Urban Dictionary the same term is defined as "a social-political movement created in the late 70's, a culture to give people who grew up in the ghetto a voice, songs in hip hop are spoken from personal experience. "
Now I am in no way concluding that either source is politically correct or scholarly enough to be the final answer in terms of defining this genre of music. However, it is no secret that to black people everywhere, hip-hop serves as much more than simply "a subculture." Referring to Hip-Hop as anything other than "the creation of CULTURE itself" would simply be a disservice the movement.
Since its conception, hip-hop has acted as a voice for the voiceless, a means of expression to those who felt victimized by systems of oppression and inequality. Pioneers such as Sugarhill Gang, Run DMC, and NWA have been acknowledged for their part in the evolution, and although it may not have been their intention to speak on behalf of an entire group of people, it was their transcription of real life stories that influenced a generation and changed the way black culture was viewed forever; an approach taken by many leaders before us who used their speech as a way to communicate what it was that black America wanted in this country.
Fast forward over 40 years and notice how the music industry has evolved into a much larger business that has created a much more influential force. The music industry has transformed into a high-profit money game that has over time caused a lack of authenticity from its artists while catering more towards the most demanded type of sound versus the impact of the actual lyrics. However, it's usually the lyrics of a song that creates a connection to listeners.
As a true fan of hip-hop, having to accept the reality of embracing watered down meaningless music is difficult, however understanding the idea that to the mass majority the facts are sometimes secondary to the feelings, and the way you convey feeling is through stories. Just when I was beginning to reach the point of hopelessness in the industry, I listened to Joey Badass latest project All AmeriKKKan Bad Ass.
The 22- year-old rap star is far from a rookie in the music industry, nor has he ever portrayed to be anything other than a lyrical beast with an outspoken opinion on cultural issues, political manipulation and the realities of black people within this country. Although Joey’s approach to music has always focused on increasing consciousness, this latest album reinforces those conversations that have been avoided for years or loudly vocalized but have fallen on deaf ears.
You see, as millennials, we have a very unique point of view on life. We see past the bullshit that comes out the mouths of those who are powerful and money hungry, while also having a very impactful tool to express our opinions and work to bring about change — the internet. Nowadays, the opinion of an individual or simply a moment captured on video can explode worldwide in a matter of minutes. Thereby making this a very touchy time to do or say anything that you would one day regret. Every moment, every tweet, every Google internet search is being monitored and archived.
By understanding this, it should be evident as to why the impact of Joey Baddass latest project will soon be referred to as one of the most powerful projects of our generation in hip hop. Not only is Joey fearlessly hitting on issues of race and brutality, he is also passionately expressing his criticism toward modern society and ways to improve the circumstances of future generations.
His album entitled “All Amerikkkan Bada$$” with emphasis on "KKK" represents the history and presences of the white supremacist terrorist group KuKluxKlan in this country. The image chosen represents what an American badass would look like. The visual impact is a perfect example of how pictures can speak 1000 words. Ever since the digital takeover of music, the importance of cover book artwork no longer weighs as heavily as it once did. I imagine the selection of the thumbnail photo to be like choosing a new profile picture. Your choice is what will determine if anybody would be interested enough to proceed further and follow you. I’m sure that artists undergo the same amount of pressure when selecting the cover of their album. This controversial album cover pictures Joey hanging out the window of an old school car which appears to be slightly torched and rusted. Joey has both of his middle fingers up with face of disgust. Swaying in the still breeze behind Joey attached to the antenna of the car is what is intended to represent the American Flag, except when you take a closer look, the fabric of the flag is comprised of red and blue cloth with represents the Crip and Blood gang flag colors. Although very subtle, still a very important strategy behind the message behind this project.
Joey doesn’t pretend to have any holdback about what he releases, opening the album with a track called "Good morning AmeriKKKa", named after the nations most popular morning show, Joey uses this as an attempt to realistically broadcast his truth and interpretation of what America is. Not the happy free place that it is generally portrayed, more like the violent and hypocritical country we as black people have understood it to be.
“ America my masseuse massaging my back, tryna act like she ain't gon do me like Pratt, Geronimo took a leap and lay flat.”
What makes this intro so significant is the number of jewels that Joey sprinkles throughout the song. If you aren’t aware, Geronimo Pratt was a former high-ranked member of the Black Panther party who was wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years for a kidnapping charged that was later revealed to be the work of FBI Conintelpro. What Joey has begun to do is reignite the flame that once burned through the souls of black people in terms of demanding equality and justice.
Ironically enough, Joey includes a plethora of historically significant heroes throughout this project, all seamlessly representing an era of our history that forcefully fought for the protection and unification of blacks everywhere. A time where focusing on educating and enlightening yourself on your right and laws was the most threatening weapon to possess. The last time this type of enlightenment took over, our country went to extreme measures to completely alienate and imprison those who showed any signs of rebellion and self-sufficiency. What Joey is doing is reigniting the legacy of greats such as Fred Hampton and Huey Newton.
On the very last song of the album, Joey concludes with what could be considered a special speech, a message to the public, a body of work where he takes on the responsibility of being the voice for the people through his music, resorting back to the roots of how and why hip-hop how was created. In his monologue, he includes words of encouragement by providing solutions as to what he feels are the next steps in terms of uniting an entire race of people.
It's refreshing to hear such a raw sense of consciousness breathing once more through music, in the midst of all the pop/pointless music that makes the industry millions but lacks intellectual substance. Joey’s tone in All Amerikkkan Badass is an aggressive one, yet a necessary tone accurately depicting the severity of the times we are now living. Joey's conscious approach to keeping hip-hop alive through realistic story telling has relinquished an optimistic outlook about the future of music and its impact on its listeners.
If you weren't a Joey Badass fan before, I would suggest checking out this album and see if your opinion of the young star is changed forever.
"It's time to wake up and do our own research, instead of basing opinions off of what we've heard." - Joey Badass
- B. Classic