Written By: Sam Wilson
In a year when we can expect an influx of politically-charged albums, Joey Bada$$ has released ‘ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$’ – an album full of debate about racism, freedom and politics in the United States. Even from the album title itself, Joey Bada$$ sets the scene for the tracks, with ‘KKK’ replacing the typical C in America, alluding to the Klu Klux Klan, the infamous hate group that have historically supported the mistreatment of African Americans.
The album kicks off with ‘GOOD MORNING AMERIKKKA’, a short track coming in at just 1 minute 38 seconds, with no chorus, just an intro, a verse and an outro. The track sets up the rest of the album, with Joey Bada$$ setting up the motifs of racism and freedom which persist through the 49-minute-long album. He interestingly makes a reference to Geronimo Pratt, the Black Panther Party leader who was wrongfully framed of murder in 1972 by the FBI because of his connections with the party. Joey Bada$$ is comparing himself to Pratt, with the idea that America will act to turn against him once he starts fighting the norms of the system.
The second and third tracks on the album, ‘FOR MY PEOPLE’ and ‘TEMPTATION’ adopt a funk-like melody in a similar way to some of the tracks on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’. ‘FOR MY PEOPLE’ deals with the idea that there is a lack of voice for Black issues in America, with Joey questioning “Who will take a stand and be our hero?” whilst ‘TEMPTATION’ focuses on racism in the USA. The track samples a speech from nine-year-old Zianna Oliphant, a girl who spoke in the wake of the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in 2016. Her words echo throughout the album, “I feel like that we are treated differently than other people” is a message that Joey Bada$$ attempts to put into his rap in ‘TEMPTATION’ especially, with him crying out about how sick and tired he is of having to witness racism. Joey slows down his rapping towards the end of the song to suggest a desperation, pleading to God for help.
‘LAND OF THE FREE’ is a song which was initially teased on Martin Luther King Day and released as a single on the 20th January, which was both Joey’s birthday and the date of Donald Trump’s inauguration. This is no coincidence as the song purposefully deals with the topic of Donald Trump as president, with Joey rapping ‘And Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over’. What is most notable about this song and many of the others on the album is the blend between funk-driven melodic tunes and the hard-hitting socially provocative lyrics that Joey is dropping over them. Again, comparable to Kendrick’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’.
Another one of the album’s powerful tracks is ‘ROCKABYE BABY’ featuring ScHoolboy Q, which is a reflection on the past of both rappers. They talk about their lives before the rap industry, covering issues such as drug dealing and gang crime. Yet the track follows suit with the rest of the album, debating the wage gap between white and black people.
The final track on the album is ‘AMERIKKKAN IDOL’, which is essentially a calling out of the American Government. Joey alludes to words from Nas’ 1994 ‘The World Is Yours’ with his line “I’m out for dead presidents to represent me” – similarly to Nas, Joey doesn’t feel like he is represented by the superiors in his country and is speaking out against it, like he has done on previous tracks such as ‘LAND OF THE FREE’ and ‘ROCKABYE BABY’, with the rapper denouncing Donald Trump on both tracks.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Joey Bada$$ has delivered one of the most influential and politically charged albums of 2017 so far, dealing with topics that affect real people in America and standing up against the controversial regime in charge of the USA. The album blends tuneful melodies and hard hitting bars to successfully get its message across.