How can you miss an era you didn't live in yourself? This question is answered, with almost offending maturity, by New York rapper Joey Bada$$, just 17 years old, but with a musical taste and knowledge many other, perhaps more experienced artists would die for. “1999” is a symbolic title, with a deep connotation. In love with the golden age of the genre (1989-1995), the young MC plays with the idea of rewriting the past, as if he were going back on this record to that important year in hip-hop history, 1999 (the turn of the century, the change of sound, the change of trends, the disappearance of a whole era), in order to avoid the inevitable and start his career there where the powers of the old school battled with electronic rap to decide the future course of hip-hop. This is nostalgic hip-hop, because it longs for the past and laments the present, but with a positive and courageous attitude, aware of its compromise with that same present and the freshness of its sound.
Joey Bada$$ uses beats from the sonic libraries of MF Doom, Lord Finesse, J Dilla, and Statik Selektah, to create his particular declaration of intent on this free mixtape, which, again, is better and more credible than many official albums out there. He vindicates boom bap - but the most melancholic, jazzy and laid-back brand of the genre – whilst managing to keep his sound modern and relevant; “1999” never sounds outdated or old, not even revivalist. As far as retro-smelling releases go, this is one of those that invoke that era the most vividly and seriously; keeping in mind that when A Tribe Called Quest were ruling the scene, its maker wasn't even born, the merit is even bigger. Maybe that's where the secret of his formula lies: because he hasn't actually experienced the golden age first-hand, his revision is less mimetic and sentimental.
But besides an admirable nose for great beats and a thorough knowledge of the 90s in spite of his youth, the most attractive thing about Joey Bada$$ is the talent oozing from his rhymes. This is one ingenious and credible rapper, recovering words, tics and lyrical tricks from the 90s to take them to his realm. In an explosion of self-confidence, security and responsibility, the young MC executes his work with the cheek and freshness of a boy from his generation. And so, while most of his peers are rapping about parties, money they haven't got, dealers they didn't kill and guns they haven't fired, our hero focuses on “resurrecting boom bap from the tombs”, and that's quite a feat.
Download the mixtape here.