Joey Bada$$’s ALL AMERICAN BADA$$ Album Review

by: Jordan Montero

Joey Bada$$’s sophomore album, ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$, finds its grounding through the portrayal of the artist’s thoughts and feelings towards the black community’s position in the modern American landscape. He reported that the record would be a powerful force in furthering the mentality of freedom and equality amongst his listeners. With the help of DJ Khalil, 1-900, and Pro Era mainstays Kirk Knight, Chuck Strangers, and Statik Selektah, Joey Bada$$ follows up his 2015 debut with a solid summer playlist of sorts bearing tracks with notable intention and sincerity within the smooth, Brooklyn-based rhymes.

The first half of the album plays like a soundtrack for constant, sunset-lit drives; reminiscent of his 2012 hit “Waves”. While we’re all used to likening Joey’s style and beat preferences to that of 1990s rappers, he does not freight from delivering his lines over more contemporary sounding beats. Smooth, catchy, upbeat tunes and hooks lather the tracks providing immediate ear-candy for the listener. At some points, the wording of the hooks and phrases seem slightly generic. Nonetheless, It’s easy listening, keeping things exciting with the occasional swift beat change or extrapolation on an earlier motif. It’s a noticeable departure from the old-school sounds we heard on 1999, as the artist is now subscribing to the common 808s and quick hi-hats of today. But all Joey Bada$$ ever needed was a beat, and with that, the rapper shows off some of the most focused rhymes we’ve heard from him. Each song usually carries with it two verses: one for Joey to express himself as every other humbled rapper would, recalling his struggle times or impoverished memories, and the second: to manifest his thoughts on topics such as police brutality, systemic and historic oppression, and how black people can be a strong force with the right intentions. The coexistence between serious, heavy words and feel good, catchy beats can sometimes become confusing, but it doesn’t force our necks to remain still. Songs like “DEVASTATED” and “Y U DON’T LOVE ME (MISS AMERIKKKA)” make moving your body with at least a tiny nod on beat irresistible.

With the second half of the album, a transition from modern sounding 808s to jazzier, boom bap drum kicks takes place– and it’s very welcome. It seems that Joey is in his complete element flowing along beats of this variety, making me believe that Statik Selektah is the truth (the Selektah produced track, “SUPER PREDATOR” is a definite high point in the album in terms of production quality and lyrical substance). In the land of the second half, the production also gets a tad darker and more sinister, perhaps a rendition of America’s history. Joey keeps his rhyme habits half for the sake of slick flows and half for the sake of his noble message, just as he did before. There are times throughout the album where he’ll play with different cadences and rhythmic flows, but he doesn’t like straying too far from the even beat counts. This absolutely does not mean his flow is lacking though, take note. It’s also worth noting how he likes to ad-lib; with them, he creates some distance between him and his contemporaries, opting for harmonic, higher-pitched matching instead of the explosions of sound you might hear elsewhere. Joey Bada$$ doesn’t demonstrate any things that other rappers can’t do on the record, but still, his effort is admirable and his execution is considerably strong. However, the conclusion of the album didn’t feel enough like the end. I found myself waiting for one last moment of resolution; but alas, there was none.

This album won’t be number one on anyone’s top rap albums of the year, but was still a very solid sophomore installment. He tiptoes between contemporary and ‘90s style with impressive dexterity. He always has exciting bars, and this time brings an overall positive, insightful, and sincere message with his raps. The execution and sounds are strong, but lacks the unique draw of a classic. A solid 8.2/10 for ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$.

Mount Eerie Review – Nic Castillon


Mount Eerie, the solo project of songwriter Phil Elverum, performed to a hushed crowd at a rare seated show in the WOW Hall on Tuesday, April 4th. This show followed the release of his eighth LP written under the Mount Eerie moniker entitled A Crow Looked At Me. The album details the pain and emptiness surrounding the passing of his wife, Geneviève Castrée, in July of 2016 to pancreatic cancer. At this show, the audience was let into the deeply personal experience of Elverum’s grieving process while he performed the songs off of this most recent album.

The show began with a performance from Lori Goldston, a classically trained cellist whose work includes collaborations with the bands Earth and Nirvana, with her most recognizable work most likely being her appearance on Nirvana’s acclaimed live album MTV Unplugged in New York. She took the stage quietly as the audience clapped. She then gave a subtle nod to the crowd and sat down to play. Her set consisted of drone-like cello playing through a small amplifier, filled with long drawn out notes. The audience was transfixed and time seemed to pass almost unnoticed. Soon Goldston set down her bow, without a break in the music, and began to pluck the strings of her cello with her fingers. During this time she created intricate chords, striking multiple strings at once, and shifted into a quieter and more songful sound as she plucked out various melodies. She finished off the first part of her performance by transitioning smoothly into a gentle whistle, and eventually trailing off into the first and only musical break in her set. The audience clapped once again. In the latter half of her set, Goldston returned to using her bow and created a subtle distorted sound by running her cello through a pedal board. It was a powerful performance, but at no moment was it overbearing.

Phil Elverum took the stage shortly after, bringing with him just an acoustic guitar and his water bottle. The stage was sparse, with just two monitors, a microphone, and a chopped down tree lying on its side which helped to fill the space. He greeted and thanked the audience and started off his set with a new song, one that didn’t appear on the album. It was a longer song, and the lyrics stringed together memories from Elverum’s childhood, his first experience with death, as well as a story about a pregnancy scare from his early twenties, among other things. A portion of the song described a Jack Kerouac documentary Elverum had seen, in which Kerouac’s daughter gave a candid depiction of her father. He then made a point about Kerouac’s poor parenting skills and left enough room between lyrics to get out the joke, “Deadbeat dad. Get it?” As everyone caught on to the wordplay, there was unexpected laughter which dispelled some of the tension in a crowd full of people who had prepared for a night of painfully honest songs about death.

“Real Death” was the next song on the setlist, which is found on the new album as the firs track. “Death is real,” he sang, “Someone’s there and then they’re not, and it’s not for singing about. It’s not for making into art.” It was hard to hear these lyrics coming from a man who is obviously still struggling with and processing the loss of someone he greatly loved. He continued to sing, “All fails. My knees fail, my brain fails, words fail.” Nearly every line hit hard. Throughout the show, the imagery in Elverum’s lyrics were brutally effective, and it became hard to reconcile their artfulness with the heartbreaking events they were describing. He allowed the audience into an experience with him, one that nobody wishes to experience firsthand.

 “Do the people around me want to keep hearing about my dead wife?” he sang during the song “My Chasm.” It was a weird moment to hear him sing those lyrics during a show, thinking about how everyone there had gone out of their way to buy a ticket and attend. About three quarters of the way through his performance, he spoke in between songs saying, “This is fucked up, right?”There was a sympathetic laugh from the audience. “It is, but I’ve got more of it,” he said, and he continued on with the show.

Of course, Phil Elverum’s experience does not seem fair. It also hardly seems right for us to have such an intimate view into his life during this horrible time. In the end, these songs are for him and his wife. This show was part of a long and personal grieving process, a process that continued to take place after I returned to my car and drove home, and one that will continue long after this tour finishes as well. I respect his vulnerability. My heart goes out to Phil Elverum, and I am thankful for being able to witness a performance I know will stick with me for a long time.