“It’s been a minute, since they seen a style with no gimmicks,” Joey Bada$$ opens on “Summer Knights,” the lead track from his highly anticipated debut mixtape 1999. Unless you find exuding an effortlessly cool flow over dusty beats gimmicky, you’ll agree. The Brooklyn 17-year-old — who’s still in high school — has risen quickly through the inner ranks of New York City hip hop over the last several months. He’s received cosigns from movie makers like Creative Control and Va$htie, publications like Vice and Complex, and has consistently made hip hop blogs salivate at his potential (the fever started in February with the video for “Survival Tactics”). But he largely seems unaware, or at least incredibly humble about the attention. In a recent interview with Interview, he comes across completely unconscious of the hype and hope surrounding his young career. (His favorite visual artist is a girl in his class who is a “really good painter.”)
In the end, though, his naïveté might be his savior in a scene consumed by buzz and lofty expectations. Unlike the slightly older A$AP Rocky, whose debut mixtape was chock full of beats from affiliated producers like Ty Beats, Clams Casino and SpaceGhostPurrp, Joey only has a handful of beats from his go-to producer Chuck Strangers. About half of the instrumentals are seductive, jazzy selections from the libraries of J Dilla, MF Doom and Lord Finesse, all covered fearlessly by Bada$$ and Pro Era compatriots T’nah and Kirk Knight. Ultimately, 1999 is a nostalgic trip to hip hop’s “golden” years, a time when Joey was just learning to speak — but as long as he stays grounded, there will be no need to rely on gimmicks down the road.
Stream Joey Bada$$’ debut mixtape 1999 below via DatPiff.