Really, Pro Era de jure headman Joey Badass’s sophomore album, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, is pretty good, quite solid, despite a few recurring flaws so not everything from the mainstream is wack after all. Coming two years after his B4.DA.$$ debut, A.A.B.A. finds Joey taking much more of a political stance now. American ways are the subjects for the most part and critical is very much the tone. Still Joey shows strength, wisdom and optimism to just about make up for what the project lacks or leaves out. If he and his crew point out the problems with the U.S. of A, it’s because they want a better one, not because they want to extinguish it.
Joey is the great motivator in tracks like “For My People,” singles “Land of the Free” and “Devastated,” and “Legendary” (feat. J. Cole) shining forth with raps on changing ourselves for the better, striving, overcoming a dangerous challenging environment and remaining positive. It’s only right to make that clear right off the bat. As far as his nation-protestations are concerned, Joey does some good but also some one-sided arguing. His best unveilings include such revelations as that penitentiary and record label owners are sort of like one and the same and that the media tell “lies” (take the latter with a small grain of salt). Jo’s wording could have been expanded and framed better in that last case but he’s largely right.
The biggest issue in his political schtick here though is the government bashing without mentioning those integral things known as corporations and capitalism. For Joey it’s like the ladder up stops at the corrupt government level. Actually, there is a level above it that is much wealthier working ferociously to control anything and everything below it. Five of the twelve tracks bring up something wrong with the government but almost none analyze the overarching capitalist economy.
Otherwise, only one or two less major points might be misconstrued. Joey goes after Obama (once) and Trump (twice), not surprising, and yes there is a purpose for gov heads but remember there is also a school of thought that thinks only the deficient need leaders (the answer is inside) and also, shouldn’t we spend more time upholding good instead of beating down the bad? Why give Obama, especially Trump more of a sense of importance by calling them out at all at this stage in the game? The other thing is Joey says “f— white supremacy” in last cut “Amerikkkan Idol” when it should be: f— any form or idea of one race supremacy completely, period.
The sincere, system-conscious Joey Badass has more or less succeeded overall though. He’s invited fine new guests for this round, including a few of his Pro Era boys, and he’s right at home over groovy soul and jazz, rock/pop and hard piano and drums at various turns in the production. Further growth as a rhyme lyricist/wordsmith could be desired of Joey (based off an infrequently-occurring, basic flow-pattern or two) but with this album the skilled one does satisfy expectations well. Compared to Bada$$ album one, AABA is a firm step forward and Joey does good by regularly hitting on meaningful subject matter.
3 out of 5 stars