Review: Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$

All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, the latest project from New York rapper Joey Bada$$, is a densely-packed cautionary tale. Though Joey has always been wise beyond his years (see his excellent mixtape 1999), All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ reinforces this fact over again. Though conscious, political rap has existed for decades, and this project doesn’t do much to shift the subgenre in any new directions, it accomplishes what it’s shooting for. It is a rock solid record.

The production on All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ veers away from the sample-based, smooth and chill beats that highlighted his earlier work into the cleaner, more layered and modern type sound. There are essentially two sides to this record; the poppier, cleaner side, and the dirtier, angry side. The first half, including the big single “DEVASTATED” and the poignant, yet infectious track “TEMPTATION” doesn’t hook quite as hard as the later half of the record, but it works incredibly well as a complimentary lead-up.

The anger hinted at by the album’s title is channeled heavily in the second half, beginning with the loud and grim banger “ROCKABYE BABY” featuring Schoolboy Q, and continues unabated for several songs. “Ring the Alarm” is a ridiculously dense and tight banger, while “SUPER PREDATOR” is a visceral shot at political elitism.

Joey’s lyricism on this record, which is consistent throughout and touches on everything from evil politicians, the black experience, and current events culminates in the final track “AMERIKKKAN IDOL” which channels the late, great Capital Steez in its straight-forward, hard-hitting lyrics. The album concludes with a warning: “Amerikkka is force-feeding you lies down your throats with a silver spoon/ And eventually, we’ll all be doomed, real, real real, soon.” Unless we get our shit together, the outlook doesn’t look good, and Joey makes that very clear.

While All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ may not take very many risks stylistically, in the grand scheme of modern hip hop, Joey has never sounded better in his raps. The record is impressively solid and densely packed from beginning to end, and absolutely deserves your attention.

Throwback Review: The Microphones – The Glow Pt. 2

With the release of Phil Elvrum’s new Mount Eerie project A Crow Looked at Me officially releasing this week, I’m taking a look back at one of the projects of his original band, The Microphones. Released back in 2001, The Glow Pt. 2 is regarded as one of the best indie albums of the 2000s and one of the most beloved of its kind. To this day, the record’s brand of lo-fi noise folk remains both cutting and gorgeous.

The Glow Pt. 2 is a dense album, and is a piece of work that will disorient and potentially off-put casual listeners. Elvrum’s lyrics are often cryptic and forlorn, hidden amidst a sea of fuzz and noisy guitar. But these areas are where the album shines. Beauty through the grimness. The opener “I Want Wind to Blow” evokes the ethereal essence of the cascades on a dark and cloudy evening. The music is delicately composed. While lo-fi may seem easy or ugly to some, the way The Glow Pt. transitions between moods, emotions, and sounds, is nothing short of brilliant. In the realm of indie folk, you’re hard-pressed to find a more delicate, unique, somber and lovely album.