Mixtape Autopsy: Joey Bada$$-Summer Knights
The fact that the Pro Era general’s new mixtape Summer Knights is unsuccessful is a known fact in the hip hop world. All the excited fingers that hit the download button on 1999 hit it again for Summer Knights. Shortly after listening to the half engaged native tongue projecting jazz horn beats and hum drum lyrics it’s taken its place as the very worst entry in the 2013 mixtape cemetery because it never feels like it existed in the first place. Summer Knights doesn’t die a violent death upon listening it fades away like a defeated video game character.
I’ve read reviews on Summer Knights where the author predicts a downhill slide from this point on for Joey, even though he’s yet to reach the legal drinking age. One bad mixtape does NOT kill a career or even mortally wound it.
The problem with Joey was outlined to me after 1999 dropped (and specifically after the great Joey guest verses that followed) by FME contributor D.L. To sum it up: he’s better and capable of more than most people give him credit for. The revivalists want him to waive the flag for a time long past and the new school kids think he’s pretentious for loving music older than he is. Everyone has expectations they place on Joey which keeps him locked into dusty Chuck Strangers and Kirk Knight beats like Alowha and Reign. Look at Hilary $wank for god’s sake, its produced by one of the most exciting NY producers (Lee Bannon) who blesses Smoke Dza with dinosaur stomping excitement….so what does he give Joey? The answer is pleasant elevator music. Insert jazz horn, insert Joey Bad verses you won’t remember.
If you listen to this project and hear an MC that is losing his depth and style I think you’re wrong. You are hearing an MC that is bored, plain and simple. This is the Method Man disease. He got so bored with the RZA production coming his way that his best verses were all features (Meth confirmed this in interviews) this is why he came back alive on his group album with Redman when he got Eric Sermon production. Because Joey knows what people expect and feels the need to deliver it he essentially gives us the same songs over and over. 1999 sounds like the Pro Era compilation from earlier this year, sounds like this and how long can he stay engaged and challenged doing that? As an artist you want to meet challenges and succeed, he’s trapped himself in a place with no challenges or successes.
Look at the list of producers, listen for glimmers of hope. I can give you two. Statik Selektah infuses some immediacy into Word is Bond by speeding up the piano keys, its still laid back but it bumps and it pushes Joey close to where we all want him. Trap Door is also an important song because Alchemist is the king of making subdued beautiful interesting East Coast gutter rap. Trap Door and Word is Bond might be the only two tracks on Summer Knights worth coming back too and while neither have the quotable Joey Bada$$ we know and love but he’s noticeably better. My recommendation is simple; he needs a full project away from MF Doom, Kirk Knight, and Chuck Strangers beats. Pull in Statik Selektah, Alchemist, but also pull in someone weird…surprise your audience and yourself. It’s the only way we’re all going to stay awake through the next project.
stream or download Summer Knights below: