Every once in a blue moon, an artist will come by in hip-hop that bridges the ever-dividing gap between the new and the old – someone who embodies the best of both, and someone that everyone can agree on. Joey Bada$$ and the Pro Era crew were just that when they first came out.
Employing a 90s-influenced style and a classic aesthetic that inspired a generation of artists in New York and beyond, Pro Era had the technical skill and “pure hip-hop” lyricism that one would expect from a 90s act, while they also possessed a sense for style, sound, and group comradery that resonated with current-day listeners. It was an incredible marriage of innovation and influence that came from a crew of artists talented and wise beyond their years, spearheaded by none other than Joey Bada$$: an artist now with several undeniable classics to his name, all the way from pure-as-it-gets hip-hop tracks to high-flying, radio-ready anthems.
Frankly, Joey Bada$$ has done it all, and his still-growing contributions to hip-hop – aesthetically, lyrically, sonically, and otherwise – are not to be underestimated. Not often do we get a talent of Joey’s caliber that fans of any age can get behind, and even less often do we get an artist dropping timeless material on such a consistent basis.
As fans of the Brooklyn legend, ourselves, the Lyrical Lemonade team put together our collective top 50 Joey Bada$$ tracks, all the way from the start until now. Enjoy the list below, and Joey – thank you. Hip-hop loves you.
50 • Sweet Dreams
Kicking off our list is a cut that was on the original version of Joey’s Summer Knights tape that was released in 2013: the silky smooth, ear-pleasing cut that is “Sweet Dreams.” From the very moment that the groovy instrumental starts playing, it’s nearly impossible not to start nodding your head along to the beat. Then, once a young Joey matches that with a few killer verses and an extremely catchy hook, it’s easy to fall in love with. One of my favorite things about music is how it can become something like a time capsule, and whenever you revisit a certain song or project, it can take you back to those times which is what this song here does to me.
Produced by Navie D
49 • Flow-ers
This song might be one of the oldest tracks that you will see featured on this list, as it was a part of Joey’s project Rejex that was released in September of 2012. But for many Joey fans, it holds a nostalgic place in their hearts not just because of the time period, but also because it was a straight-up delightful record. When you take an artist as skilled as Joey, regardless of how old he was at this time, and you put him over an instrumental by a hip-hop legend such as Madlib, only great things can happen. The Rejex project was intriguing to me, too, because it was primarily filled with songs that didn’t make the final version of Joey’s amazing 1999 mixtape. Even to this day, if you go back on Soundcloud and listen to this tape, you’ll see that there were many gems left on the cutting floor that were stashed on this tape.
Produced by Madlib
48 • Thugz Cry
It’s truly worth noting how deep Joey’s knowledge and love for music goes. Although it’s beyond clear just how much he knows about and respects the “golden era” of rap music from the 90’s, his musical awareness doesn’t end there. This is evident on his 2018 cut “Thugz Cry”, which pays homage to the late, great Prince by covering and sampling his hit song “When Doves Cry.”
Many artists might feel intimidated when faced with honoring someone who was so influential across all genres of music, but Joey has never been one to shy away from a challenge, rising to the occasion and truly doing the singer justice. Alongside a chopped-up sample from the original song, airy percussion and classic drums add a very welcomed and much-appreciated hip-hop touch to the track, while Joey also gets away from his hard-hitting, New York bars in this offering, opting for a more melodic delivery that would more than likely be respected by the late icon. In the chorus, he repeats how he just wants to be free, emphasizing this point in his verses by discussing how he only knows what it feels like to be kept on a chain, abused, and beaten down. Considering this was a song that didn’t quite make the final cut on All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ due to clearance issues, it definitely follows along with the same narratives within the project including racism, suffering, and ultimately just wanting to be liberated. This is a lesser-known track from the New York emcee considering it never really made its way into the media very much, but that doesn’t mean it should be forgotten. Joey definitely does Pince’s legacy justice with “Thugz Cry,” proving once again just how knowledgeable and powerful he truly is as an artist.
Produced by 1-900 • @NasteeLuvzYou
47 • Word Is Bond
Although all of Joey’s songs are pretty much always paying homage to the 90’s era of Hip-Hop, “Word is Bond” was done in such a masterful way that it could come upon a 90’s playlist and most people wouldn’t have a second thought about it. The beat, full of record scratches and retro-sounding piano keys, brings listeners back to another time. Joey then goes on to paint a picture with his lyrics, rhyming effortlessly yet impactfully. In fact, it seems like more words are spoken to add to the rhyme scheme than the non-rhyming words he spits, so it’s an ambush of lyrical genius. Once again, he was only 18 when he released this track, so the fact that he was so young but doing his thing as incredibly as he was, it was without a doubt in anyone’s mind that he was bound to do great things. He’s even humble about this fact too, stating in his final verse how 5 out of 7 rappers you might mention don’t have a flow that can compete with his own, knowing that the actual number is more like 99 out of 100 rappers don’t have the talents he possessed. Even back then, before he reached the levels of success he currently maintains, he was noticing how people wanted to take advantage of his blossoming financial situation as he was quickly realizing the struggle of not knowing who was genuine and who was using him for their own personal gains. This is yet another prime example of Joey’s prowess for greatness, and it was an addition to the already countless classics he had cooked up that led him to his spot high up in the music industry today.
Produced by Statik Selektah
46 • World Domination
Joey Bada$$ has a knack for taking classic Hip-Hop songs and making them his own. If you didn’t realize this by now, it should stand out as one of his biggest strengths which is impressive considering how many gifts the lyricist actually has. In his song “World Domination,” Joey pays homage to the legendary spitter MF Doom by using the instrumental from his song “Datura Stramonium.” This lighthearted beat is comprised of happy-go-lucky piano keys, boom-bap percussion, and a strong bassline. Considering the relaxed, upbeat nature within the foundation of this track, Joey took it as an opportunity to simply have fun while also seizing the moment and showing off his proficient lyrical abilities, as he does with every chance he gets. The hook features a pitched-up voice that asks who passed the microphone to Joey. This is before he tears the production to shreds with his lyrical prowess, bouncing around on the beat like a basketball in a pickup game. Not only is his rhyme scheme legendary and beyond impressive – he manages to squeeze in a multitude of rhymes within every line he spits. This isn’t simple poetry either, as he somehow rhymes words like “stramonium,” “Smithsonian,” and “fallopian” with one another, mixing in other inventive ways to pair his phrases without them sounding cheesy or jumbled together. Not too many artists I know of possessing the ability to couple words like this together let alone use them correctly in a sentence, so when Joey was able to do so in such an effortlessly smooth fashion, he was bound to turn heads. As if you haven’t heard it countless times already throughout this list, he was only 17 at the time of 1999’s release. This means that he was piecing together more intricate bars than certain rappers twice his age, proving that he was a force to be reckoned with. On “World Domination”, Joey was simply stating the prize his eye was on, and it certainly predicted the absolute dominance he was soon to have within the music industry.
Produced by MF DOOM
45 • Right On Time
It’s no secret that Joey Bada$$ has a tremendous ear for great production, he has since the beginning of his career and I feel as if the production he chooses has only continued to improve, but one of my favorite beats he has ever rapped on is easily “Right On Time” that was on the original Summer Knights project. This song feels like a representation of that ‘first love’ feeling; everything from the sample to the touching lyrics that Joey delivered on this track had that special energy to it. I got to give some love to Kirk Knight on this one for lacing Joey with this unbelievably great instrumental, although Joey took full advantage of what was put in front of him. Together, the two Pro Era leaders made a timeless record that will be continued to be played for years to come.
“We some ordinary people but extraordinary poets”
Produced by Kirk Knight
44 • Brooklyn’s Own
If you’ve read even portions of the rest of this list or know anything about Joey Bada$$ in general, it’s not a secret in the slightest that he takes influence and inspiration from the previous generation of Rap music. Considering Notorious B.I.G. hails from New York just like Joey, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he has a major influence on the young rapper’s career. On “Brooklyn’s Own”, Joey not only pays homage to one of the best to ever hold a mic and grace a stage, but he even released this track on the same day as the anniversary of the late legend’s death.
Although he wasn’t alive for long enough to truly remember the “Golden Age” of Rap himself, he has dedicated his life to educating himself about those who came before him and paved the way for his success. Biggie became so popular because he was making music unlike anyone else was or ever could, and Joey is placing himself in the same frame of mind. He believes that after all the studying and learning he has attained from these legendary figures in Rap, they are somewhat resurrected and brought back to life within him. He doesn’t want to copy or mimic them in the slightest, but he wants to do his part to make sure their legacies live on long after their deaths. Considering the fact that Joey has experienced similar things living in similar circumstances as these other artists, he feels a connection to them and their stories that is far stronger than most people can claim. His careful selection of words to tell a story within a song as well as his intricate cadences and flows are all an ode to those who did it best, and that’s something he takes seriously in his art. Although Joey’s not perfect and he himself knows this, he wants to do his part in cementing a legacy for not only himself but continuing to show love to those who came before him.
Produced by Statik Selektah
43 • Hardknock
Joey’s 1999 project is predominantly filled with soulful, feel-good records with the exception of a lone few, but one of the most menacing and eerie songs on the tracklist is “Hardknock,” which is landing here at number forty-three on our list. From the moment you hear this instrumental kick-off, it just feels like you’re walking down a dark alley by yourself late at night, and Joey matched this spooky type of feeling with some cutthroat lyrics that only amplified that feeling. The feature verse from fellow Pro Era member CJ Fly toward the middle of this one matches both the vibe of the beat and Joey’s contribution perfectly, as he paints a story about situations that he went through with his cousin and how he’s trying his hardest to get away from the streets, holding a paranoid feeling all the whole way through.
Produced by Lewis Parker
42 • Teach Me
It’s understood that Joey can spit pure hip-hop type of raps all day long– it’s something he’s mastered and can do better than his competition — but I’d say that Joey has been unfairly boxed in by some critics in the past who try to say that’s all he can do, and I believe that any real Joey Bada$$ fan would agree with the fact that it’s an unfair and flat-out untrue statement. Joey is way more musically gifted than he might get credit for; he can create left-field records that sound nothing like what you might have grown accustomed to hearing from him in his younger days, and “Teach Me” featuring Kiesza is a great example of this. This song is an upbeat dance/party type of record that sounded so polished that I believe it should have gotten more radio spins than it did. It has that pop type of sound to it, as Joey got out of his comfort zone and created a great song – one of the fifty best in his career so far, if you ask me.
Produced by ASTR • Chuck Strangers
41 • Escape 120
In the midst of boom-bap heavy beats strewn about all over B4.DA.$$, Joey has a few moments where he switches the vibe up and takes another approach to keep things fresh and not overwhelming – “Escape 120” is one of those songs. The beat, courtesy of Chuck Strangers, puts forth a feeling that pairs with the song’s title quite nicely, as it creates a sound that seems as though Joey is in a hurry to go somewhere or escape something. It appears as if the thing he wants to get away from is the dark and gloomy days he has experienced, while he looks ahead at a bright future. He blames the fame he has reached for some of the poor decisions he’s made and is realizing that although he might be gaining certain things as he becomes more popular, he’s losing people that had been with him from the start. His priorities shifted to making money through his music to help provide for his loved ones, and with all the time he spent on his music, he was making less time for the people he originally wanted to provide for in the first place.
In his second verse, Joey uses metaphors to pretty much say he’s reached wit’s end and doesn’t know what he’s going to do. Raury takes the last verse, using many different indirect themes to get his point across. He talks about how if it wasn’t for the negative things that happened to him throughout his life, he might not have had the fire within him to fight and prove his naysayers wrong. He shares his story in a sort of segmented, broken-up cadence that’s different yet appealing, and he really does a great job of bridging Joey’s message with his own. At the end of the day, “Escape 120” is all about overcoming adversities and pointing out the fact that there will inevitably be dark days, but it’s how you respond to these days and learn from them that will ultimately help you grow as a person.
Produced by Chuck Strangers
40 • Pennyroyal
At some point in the last couple of years, I was watching a Joey Bada$$ interview around the time of the anniversary of the release date of 1999, and the interviewer asked Joey a great question: “What is your personal favorite song on that project?” The question made me pay closer attention to the conversation because I was genuinely interested to see what his answer was going to be — I was expecting him to say “Daily Routine,” “Snakes” or maybe “Killuminati.” However, Joey almost without hesitation said that his favorite track on his breakout mixtape was “Pennyroyal.” I suppose I was totally shocked by the answer, as this song has been a favorite of mine too, but for some reason, I wasn’t expecting that to be the answer. To me, this song captures that teenage angst when you go through your first breakup and some of the feelings that follow, but Joey used those negative feelings to create a dope record we are still bumping nearly a decade later.
“At the time it just captured my emotions, I was feeling heartbreak for the first time,
being in love for the first time & giving it this dark twisted spin. I always super revered that record” – Joey
39 • Fromdatomb$
If you didn’t already know, Joey was still in his mid-teenage years when he released 1999. This is a point that needs to be reinforced constantly because the lyricism he delivers is something that’s off the charts for anyone in the rap game, regardless of how old or experienced certain rappers might be. His beats are clearly inspired by previous generations of Rap — including record scratching, samples, and brass instruments — but his new-school approach brings the songs into a lane of their own.
At such a young age, especially considering the experiences he had accumulated from the streets of New York, Joey discusses certain topics with a world of intricacy and wisdom that goes unmatched, even today. In the first verse on “Fromdatomb$,” he calls out some of the artists who have influenced his sound and drops some of the unmatched wordplay that helped put him on the map. His rhyme schemes are catchy and intricate, and his aptitude for a more classic style of Hip-Hop is uncanny. Chuck Strangers takes the second verse where he discusses topics like trying to find where he fits in within the Rap game and resisting temptation, knowing that some of the more attractive things he encounters can hurt him in the long run.
Finally, in the last verse, Joey talks about his displeasure with school, spitting bars about how he doesn’t care about it anymore and just wants to focus on music because he knows it’s what he’s going to do for the rest of his life. Although not everyone shares the exact situation Joey spits about, “Fromdatomb$” does share topics that are relatable, helping to connect the young talent with his growing audience.
Produced by Chuck Strangers
38 • No. 99
Something that many rappers in the current industry enjoy doing is giving themselves a second persona of sorts. Sometimes this is to share stories from a new perspective, to keep things fresh, or just for the sake of doing so. Joey’s alternate persona is named Badmon — a wildly violent character with a schizophrenic personality, more than ready to explode at any given second. He swears significantly more than Joey does, he’s blunt and says whatever comes to his mind, and the rasp in his voice comes along with strong hostility in his lyrics The beat on Badmon’s anthem, “No. 99,” is fast-paced, suggesting a ready-to-go attitude as if Badmon is going to take action at any moment, and it brings an on-edge feeling that is unlike any other song previously mentioned. As a result of all of this, the record is certainly an intense one, but a high-energy curveball in Joey’s career that clearly connected with fans.
Produced By Statik Selektah
37 • Death Of YOLO
“Death Of YOLO” might be one of the most underrated songs Joey has ever released, in my opinion. It’s a deep cut in his catalog that the average fan may not know off the top, so I wanted to make sure I highlighted the track here in this article. The instrumental on this one is the type that can capture your attention within the first few seconds — much love to producer Bruce Leekix for making this song possible — but what Joey went on to do with the addicting hook and fantastic verses is nothing to look over. This track also has a stellar feature from New York legend Smoke DZA, handing the spotlight over to a strong figure in the city who has always been known to shine a light on rising artists in the area. Joey was certainly no exception, and you can see that they have great chemistry on this song in the way their verses complement one another without losing track of the feeling at hand. Together, Joey and DZA made a memorable record that will continue to be blasted in speakers worldwide.
Produced by Bruce Leekix
36 • Funky Ho’$
There are plenty of different highlights on Joey’s classic 1999 project, but one that stands out is the witty and light-hearted offering, “Funky Ho’$.” The playfulness of this record is what helps make it great to me, as you can tell that Joey wasn’t necessarily meaning every bar literally or with the utmost seriousness, but rather, was having fun with it and kicking some dope rhymes in the process that made many fans like myself enjoy the track. Joey found the perfect pocket on this beat and rode it for well over four minutes straight, delivering a tongue-in-cheek song about some of the women in his life at the time and how he would avoid getting caught up with them. It may not be Joey’s most lyrical or introspective type of record, but it’s a feel-good jam that when you speak on Joey’s material up to this point, you have to mention!
Produced by Lord Finesse
35 • Ring The Alarm
Although the vast majority of All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ is full of empowering tracks that call out social injustices across the country, “Ring the Alarm” takes a break from these themes to discuss other injustices that Joey has noticed. The particular qualm he and the features on the song discuss is the flat-out lack of skill in the Rap industry in the current day and age.
The features include Meechy Darko from the Flatbush Zombies, as well as Pro Era’s Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight. Each artist basically flexes their elevated artistic styles while talking about how no one else seems to be able to compare or even come close to touching their talents, which is pretty evident once everything is all said and done. Joey talks about how he couldn’t be affected by any sort of beef due to the fact that no one can touch his abilities, so he has absolutely no reason to worry or let someone else’s subpar efforts get to him. He also continues on to say how he is real like every single word he spits as opposed to so many other rappers who fake flex or talk about things they would never actually do themselves. When Darko comes in for the bridge, his raspy, deep voice beckons for people to try and test him or the rest of his Beast Coast brothers because they won’t stand a chance.
Finally, Nyck Caution, with assistance from Kirk Knight talks about how they wanted to become something in the music industry more than anything, but now that they have risen to successful heights, they are really going to keep their feet on the gas and aren’t letting up for anyone. They’re allowing humble beginnings to fuel their fire, never wanting to return to sleeping on dirty mattresses on the floor or anything even similar to those experiences. This track is calling out anyone and everyone in the Rap game, challenging them to even try to come close to defying their respective lyrical expertise, all while knowing no one will rise to the challenge.
Produced by Kirk Knight • 1-900
34 • Like Water
Okay, so I kind of cheated considering that this is a Pro Era song more so than a Joey song, but it’s simply too good to completely ignore. The introspective and touching record, “Like Water,” is a memorable track for me and many other Pro Era fans not only because it’s a beautifully crafted record, but especially because it’s an ode to their fallen comrade, King Capital Steez. The track kicks off with one of one my personal favorite verses that Capital Steez has ever kicked, before Joey picks up where he left off and complements that with a stellar contribution, only to let CJ Fly put the cherry on top with a memorable verse of his own. Without a doubt, this is a classic record and one that showcases three Pro Era members in some of their finest moments.
Produced by Statik Selektah
33 • My Jeep
Summer Knights was an outstanding project for more reasons than one. Not only was it a follow up to Joey’s breakout mixtape 1999 that proved he was here for the long haul and his debut wasn’t just a fluke, but it gave him a lot more experience working with other artists and helping to elevate their rhymes to the next level. Now I’m not saying that these other artists weren’t talented because it’s beyond evident that they were on elevated levels compared to many other rappers at the time, but they had to come to play and truly step their game up in order to not get left in the dust by the sheer talent that Joey possesses. This led to some fantastic guest verses from some of New York’s very own, and it even pushed Joey to experiment with new flows and deliveries in order to expand his artistic repertoire.
On “My Jeep,” the Chuck Strangers hook is simple, sweet, and even somewhat comical considering the fact that he clearly isn’t usually a singer but sort of hums his way through. In the beginning of the first verse, Joey has a sort of stop-and-go cadence that is unlike the spitfire bars he normally speaks but picks up the pace as he progresses. Issa Gold from the Underachievers is next up, supplying the track with smooth bars that represent the New York he’s familiar with, even if it’s not exactly the flashy or glamorous topics that people might’ve expected. Finally, Meechy Darko of the Flatbush Zombies closes out the track with possibly one of his best verses ever, letting loose a barrage of metaphors that relate to the myriad of drugs, women, and luxuries that are uncommon for a normal person but pretty much the status quo for the Zombies. This track is basically an ode to the Beast Coast collective that some of the New York Rappers brought to life and the fact that they want to focus more on bars than aesthetics, which is clear as day when you really key in on the lyricism they created.
Produced by Lee Bannon
32 • Killuminati
This is the second straight track featuring Capital Steez on 1999, and the back-to-back hits pair quite nicely. While “Survival Tactics” gets a bit more aggressive as they strive to survive in the New York environment, “Killuminati” sets a smoother tone with a more jazz-inspired beat, allowing the two emcees to look more at their immediate crew rather than the external forces surrounding them. Joey is talking about how he sees his Pro Era collective rising through the ranks and becoming bigger than anyone could’ve ever imagined. It’s endearing to look back at these aspirations because when the project came out, he had no idea where it would eventually lead him, but those hopes and goals he was setting were exceeded in the years following. While his word-play is in full effect, he continues on to talk about the massive audiences he hopes his music can reach, with aspirations of his innovative flows spanning all across the globe. He also discusses the fact that he knows his lyricism is the biggest part of his music that fans appreciate and look forward to, so he believes that’s what he needs to key in on and perfect in order to continue growing a loyal following. This forecast of his path to success clearly worked, and at the age of 17, it’s insane to see how he had his strategies mapped out so perfectly, sticking with them every step of the way which led him to the impressive position in the industry he possesses today.
Produced by Knxwledge
31 • Hazeus View
There’s no denying the versatility and complexity that Joey brings to his music, boasting countless different styles and formats through which he spits his masterful bars. Usually, his aggression brings out a sort of tenacity that adds authenticity and courage to his words, but that can also be done in a myriad of other styles. “Hazeus View” is a perfect example of this considering it’s not as intense or insistent as some of his other tracks, but still tells a tale of his life and includes incredibly well-spoken visuals that he brings to life through his lyrics.
Within this record, Joey seems to look at his past and the idols he looks up to, comparing them to himself in certain respects. He’s looking at a higher power but he’s just not entirely sure what that power is, and he’s starting to realize that he himself might be considered a higher power to others. He is realizing that he has this influence over those who idolize him, and he’s kind of unsure what to do about it. He wants to remain calm and not lead people astray, but he’s not exactly sure how to do that when he himself doesn’t know what he believes in or who he should trust enough to follow. This is a tale of the inner struggles Joey was dealing with at the time, and I’m sure it’s something he still struggles with even to this day. It’s a song that humanizes him, bringing him back down to Earth as if to say that he’s a normal person who battles with certain things just like everyone else.
Produced by Kirk Knight
30 • Y U Don’t Love Me
The first time I ran through the tracklist of All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, there were plenty of standout moments that I heard, but the initial track that stuck out to me was “Y U Don’t Love Me?” I believe a part of the reason why I enjoyed this song so much was the way that Joey pieced it together — it reminded me of some classic hip-hop records like Common’s “I Used To Love H.E.R.” or “Homecoming” by Kanye West. I know how some could look at that sentence and wonder what I mean by that, but it was his approach and how he crafted his verses together. Joey set up the song just speaking outwardly about why someone or something doesn’t love him, talking about the trials and tribulations that he’s put through by this thing. To the common ear, it sounds like he’s speaking on a personal relationship of his. However, it isn’t until about the two-minute mark of the song where he finally lets it be known he’s talking about the country we live in, America. This song left me fascinated the first time that I heard it and it’s had that same effect on me ever since.
Produced by 1-900 • Pleasant
29 • Like Me
Joey Bada$$ and BJ The Chicago Kid is the definition of the “collaboration that I never knew I needed” topic that you hear people talk about sometimes. rightfully so, from the moment I heard this song, I was obsessed. It all started with just how smooth and polished that the instrumental sounds — it’s easily one of the best beats Joey has ever rapped on, and once you take a glance at the producers (listed below) who made this one, it will make more sense as to why it’s so good. If you’re having a long day or a tough week, or even if you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum having a good day, this is the perfect song throw on maximum volume in your headphones to just drift away.
Produced by J Dilla • The Roots • 1-900
28 • Unorthodox
When it comes to the “Golden Era” of Hip Hop, it’s widely known that DJ Premier is one of the greatest producers to ever do it. Working with some of the most legendary artists ever, he became a legend on his own, and for good reason. Considering the fact that Joey is pretty much the only artist who pays respect and recreates a sound that a lot of older Hip Hop heads believed was lost, it was only a matter of time before the fabled producer took notice. Although some artists, especially at such a young age, might feel intimidated or fold under the pressure of working with such a mainstay in the Rap community, Joey proved once again that he isn’t just another rapper on “Unorthodox”. He rose to the occasion, creating a song that could have been released two decades prior and no one would even recognize a difference.
Premier created a classic instrumental full of the signature record scratches and chopped up samples that might make other artists in this generation feel uncomfortable or out of place, but it’s a sound that makes Joey feel right at home. It’s clear from the moment he starts spitting his bars that he wants to recognize the stars that have come before him, and although he’s not trying to show anyone up or outshine these previous icons, he wants to be respected just as they were. His flow is absolutely insane, rhyming more words in a few lines than some rappers do in entire songs. His voice never quivers, his confidence is on full display, and he’s as smooth as it gets as he spits consistent and unbroken bars full of double and triple entendres.
Some rappers might take their entire careers to bring a song this intricate and masterful to life, but Joey seemed to do it in his sleep, not breaking a sweat or overthinking anything as he spit his bars. This is a song that you should show any older fan of Hip Hop who says that Rap died and everyone in Rap’s current state is trash because you know there’s people all over who proclaim this. “Unorthodox” is sure to have them second-guessing their previous thoughts and they’re definitely going to jump on the Joey Bada$$ bandwagon.
Produced by DJ Premier
27 • Legendary Ft. J. Cole
It’s beyond evident that Joey is a very spiritual person. The one thing about this, however, is he never really specifically mentions God often, but rather looks up to a higher and more powerful being, sometimes even painting himself as this person from time to time for others to look up to. “Legendary” is a jazzy offering, switching up the vibe that is brought to life through the difficult yet relevant topics of discussion throughout. While Joey is known for sealing his own fate and creating his own destiny, he takes a different approach and looks at a higher power that created this life he lives for him, as well as the fact he was just lucky and his prayers were answered. He does dip his toe back into topics like inequalities and the traps that African Americans, unfortunately, fall into, but he goes on to mention how he noticed this and it’s a big reason why he decided to reach out and speak for those people who felt like they didn’t have a voice.
This song is also the first collaboration between Joey and J. Cole, although Cole did sample “Waves” on his song “False Prophets”. The two artists have mutual respect for one another and see the world in pretty much the same light, so this adds to their chemistry and messages. Cole talks about how he is ready for anything that comes his way and although things might be out of his control, he just has to pray for the best, knowing things will work out in the end. He also talks about how he might look somewhat ridiculous to outsiders looking in as he prays, but his faith is strong and he’s not going to let these opinions break him down. As the song progresses, both artists question themselves and the moves they’re making as they’re lured into appealing yet unsavory temptations. “Legendary” is an introspective look at some of the many choices one can make as well as the faith that they must maintain throughout those tough decisions, bringing a fantastic song to life which is expected of two of the best lyricists in the game.
Produced by Statik Selektah
26 • Don’t Front
There were so many highs on 1999, and honestly, you can damn near list them in any order that you’d prefer and you can’t really argue with it because they’re all so sensational. That said, coming in at #26 on our list is Joey’s fantastic record titled “Don’t Front.” The dynamic that Joey Bada$$ and CJ Fly have when they hop on a track together is astonishing, to say the least — there aren’t too many artist duos that you can match up with these two Pro Era front runners, as they have great chemistry and bounce off of each other with ease when rhyming together. This point can be found in countless amounts of their past work together, but almost none are better than this track here, showcasing the two rhyming back and forth as if they’re seasoned veterans who’ve been in tune for decades when realistically, they were still just teenagers. This one is a classic within Joey’s catalog in my opinion, and hopefully, you agree!
Produced by Statik Selektah
25 • Wendy N’ Becky
I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when “Wendy N Becky” by Joey Bada$$ and Chance The Rapper dropped. It was a chilly night way back in 2013 when I was still in high school and I had just finished doing some homework. I checked the internet and stumbled across this record, leading me to listen to it once before I found myself sitting in my bedroom listening to this song on repeat all night long. The funny part is, here I am nearly seven years later and I still love this song just as much as I did when it was released — it never lost its replay value which really says something. The absolutely beautiful production from Thelonius Martin was the driving point of this song for me, and the dynamic that Joey and Chance shared on this track was impressive to say the least, as they each kicked off a great verse mainly centered around women, but with underlying bars about their respective cities woven into the track. Maybe we will get to see Joey and Chance work again some-time in the 2020s, but even if we don’t, I am satisfied that we received this amazing track from them when we did.
Produced by Thelonius Martin
24 • Big Dusty
Nostalgia is one of the major appeals of Joey’s musical style. He creates songs with old-school beats that bring listeners back to a different time, and what some Hip-Hop fans might call the “golden era” of Rap music. What’s even more impressive is the fact that although he draws influence from some of the biggest names in the genre from back then, he never tries to mimic their lyricism or bite their style, creating a legacy of his own. “Big Dusty” is a hardcore track that truly shows Joey’s New York grit, something that a lot of talents hailing from that part of the country fail to portray like artists used to. His repetition of lyrics pairs well with the boom-bap beat and his wordplay is on full display as he dances on the instrumental effortlessly. The somewhat eerie instruments within the production play up a sort of mysterious sound like he’s walking through the streets at night and is up to no good.
As he beckons for people to check his style throughout the chorus, Joey is trying to bring light to the fact that no one else is making music like him in this day and age. He wants people to take note of this and look to him as an influence, but he wants them to do so in their own way and not completely copy him. Although it’s the case in most of his songs, you can’t find a single line throughout this track where there isn’t a double entendre, wordplay, or intricacy to the lyrics, making it a work of art, to say the least.
Produced by Kirk Knight
23 • My Yout
If you’re even slightly familiar with Joey Bada$$, you know that his Jamaican and St. Lucian roots are ever-so-close to his heart. He holds these origins very dear within himself, paying homage to the heritage that has played a major part in the person he’s become. A part of this culture is weed, and that’s not something they try and keep secret. It’s looked at as a healing component and a spiritual additive rather than a drug, and Reggae artists have made this abundantly clear throughout the decades.
On “My Yout,” Joey brings all these themes together to give a bit more insight into the person he is and the way he was raised. With all the rough things going on in the world, he calms himself down on this reggae-inspired track off of Summer Knights. He uses tons of metaphors to describe the weed he is smoking as well as the gratitude he holds on to for the blessings he has been given in his life. Even with some of the adversities he faced, he manages to pull positives and lessons that have made him into a better person all around. Maverick Sabre, a renowned reggae artist, delivers the hook which is beyond positive. He sings about persevering through hardships, rising above adversities, and not letting these things bring you down. He also says how he never let those things slow him down, and he just wants to look at the positives to give himself a better life. In Joey’s second verse, he remains levelheaded but also discusses the life he lives in a firmer fashion, talking about the choices he can make between peace and violence as well as similar choices that can be decided on throughout his life.
Overall, “My Yout” is a light-hearted record that gives a peaceful outlook on a rather unforgiving world.
Produced by Chuck Strangers
22 • King’s Dead Ft. XXXTentacion
This is one of the more unique songs on this list by far because it’s one of the very few that didn’t come strictly from Joey’s always evolving brain. Instead, it’s a remix of one of the most popular songs in existence from a couple of years ago and it features the late XXXtentacion, who is an unlikely counterpart to the New York talent, but a friendship blossomed despite their different styles of music. Additionally, Joey’s chorus might be one of the more underwhelming portions of music he has ever released but that’s not on him. Being a remix of sorts, he was utilizing the same cadence as the original song which was slightly underwhelming in the first place if you ask me, so this isn’t a fault of his own.
Even so, he was able to get some humble flexes in about topics like being the youngest on the Forbes list, making a few million in weeks, and the effortlessness that just naturally goes into his music. He then goes on an absolute tear, spitting lyrics so quickly that it’s unfathomable how anyone, in general, can speak that quickly. Throughout his verse, he talks even more about the abundance of money he has accumulated, coming after weaker rappers who need to learn their lessons, and the luxuries he can afford now that he has put in his due diligence. X then comes in to match his spitfire verse, displaying his trademark “Look at Me!” flow along with some different voices and styles that are as appealing as ever. Their chemistry on this track is unexpected but as strong as possible, and there were even talks of a collaborative project in the works at the time of this song’s release.
Although those rumors have been pretty quiet since the untimely death of the Florida star, I’m maintaining hope that it might very well see the light of day at some point. Although this is more of a song that Joey flexes on rather than discussing some more common themes for him, his lyrical prowess is at an all-time high making this a song that couldn’t possibly be left off this list.
Produced by Teddy Walton • Mike WiLL Made-It
21 • Rockabye Baby
It should be pretty clear by now what the inspiration and reason for creating All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ was. Joey clearly sees and experiences the racial and social injustices happening within the country we reside in, and he knows he has a platform to speak out and make a change on them, so that’s exactly what he did with this album.
On “Rockabye Baby”, he recruited Schoolboy Q who is one of the more relaxed yet surprisingly outspoken lyricists in the industry. Although they’re different ages and come from different coasts — Joey from the East and Q from the West — they lived surprisingly adjacent lives. Both have been affiliated with gangs, drugs, and other similar things, so they felt it was only right to discuss how these things somewhat shaped them as the people they are today. Not only this, but they both see the clear issues with society and the government, especially as these issues affect African Americans. The passion and displeasure they have in their voices can be heard loud and clear, playing up the displeasure they speak of in their lyrics. Joey begins his verse slightly calmer but beyond smooth before pleading for a revolution, attempting to garner a group to truly make a difference. Schoolboy starts out his verse slightly offbeat, seemingly just speaking into the microphone as the percussion in the beat cuts out, mentioning various themes related to gang activities. About halfway through, the drums cut back in and Q is right on pace, talking about the leaps and bounds African Americans have made with all the chips stacked against them, and the fact that there’s still so much more that needs to happen to reach actual equality.
This song shines a light on the injustices that riddle America and the fact that artists from opposite sides of the country share the exact same thoughts on the topic goes to show just how real and relevant this problem is.
Produced by Chuck Stranger • 1-900 • Jake Bowman
20 • Hilary $Wank
For most artists, it takes years upon years to perfect their craft. Whether it’s experimenting with different sounds, flows, and subject matter until they figure out the right formula that works perfectly or just practicing until it comes effortlessly to them, it can take quite some time for certain rappers to perfect their craft. Very few are born with a natural talent that just oozes from them, being evident in their music from the get-go.
Joey is one of these artists, which is clear from his early projects all the way until this very day. He has killed verse after verse and made hits since he was a teenager, and his style hasn’t really changed much because it hasn’t had to. It’s also very apparent that he has always had this skill because at the beginning of his music video for “Hilary $wank”, a novice young Bada$$ can be seen freestyling in a masterful way over a simple beat-box pattern created by one of his friends. Even back then, when he couldn’t have been more than 13 of 14 years old, he possessed a talent that doesn’t come around often.
As for the rest of the aforementioned song, Joey was trying to find his way through the world of Hip-Hop as he had been gaining traction with his incredible music. Over a looped sample with jazzy trumpets and light bells of some sort, Joey did his thing. He believed that he deserved more respect and recognition, justifiably, but people weren’t giving him this at the time. He wasn’t stressing about it, however, because he knew his stock was rising and his price was only going to skyrocket from there. He also honors his mom who was such a big part of his life, shouting her out and plainly stating just how much he loves her for everything she has done for him. At the end of the day, Joey reflects on the fact that people were going to talk about him in positive and negative ways, and although he wasn’t going to let that affect him, he always knew what he wanted, and he was more than hungry enough to get there.
Produced by Lee Bannon
19 • Suspect (Third Eye Shit)
In my opinion, one of the greatest moments in Pro Era history was when they all collaborated on the last record of Joey’s 1999 project, they gave us a cipher type of record which they titled “Suspect.” This record was a special one because ten of the Pro Era members got their chance to shine on this record, and looking back, you can say that they got their chance to shine on one of the most classic mixtapes of the best twenty years. There aren’t many twelve-minute songs that you can just let ride from the start to the finish, especially when there are nearly a dozen different artists spitting on top of it, but this one is clearly an anomaly. A large part of this credit has to go to Chuck Strangers who cooked up this superior instrumental – it’s so smooth and steady that it seems like any artist can give a memorable verse on it, and here, ten Pro Era members did just that. I could speak about each and every one of these verses, but that would take me entirely too long. However, a few of my personal favorites on this song have always been the opening verse from Capital Steez, T’nah Apex’s contribution, and the closing verse from Joey.
Verses from Capital Steez, CJ Fly, Chuck Strangers, Dyemond Lewis, Nyck Caution, Kirk Knight, Rokamouth, T’nah Apex, Dessy Kinds & Joey Bada$$
Produced by Chuck Strangers
18 • Amerikkkan Idol
As Joey grew his career, he quickly took note of the fact that he had a platform to not only discuss the inner workings and battles he was struggling with, but larger topics that ring true to everyone. One of these topics is politics — something that everyone has an opinion on, no matter how big or small — and it’s something that everyone wants to talk about no matter their views. Joey knew he had a platform to spread a message about the current climate of politics from the president to other social constructs, and he wasn’t about to let his voice be silenced considering it would most likely be heard louder and clearer than someone without his notoriety.
Throughout the entirety of All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, he tackles many of these in the most complex ways in order to bring light to them and make sure people are aware of the struggles that he has faced throughout his entire life and how he continues to face them even in his current situation. Just because he has money and fame doesn’t mean he doesn’t see the evils that affect the country, and he sums this all up in his album-closing song, “Amerikkkan Idol”. He condemns the American government, stating facts about how they have a stranglehold on every terrible thing that happens to people, specifically African American people, and they do nothing to make a change to these events that are unfolding right before their eyes. He states that this is part of the reason that people resort to violent acts rather than trying to find peace with a common ground, and how this is the makings of a plan the government has to wipe out a whole group of people. Joey denounces this frame of mind, however, stating how the government can never control him or anyone else for that matter if they don’t allow it. He is beckoning to people to do their own searching and inform themselves on these matters rather than just going off of the information they hear in the media. His level and time in the spotlight have made these issues more relevant to him than ever, and throughout this entire song, he lays everything out on the table to inform people and hopefully make a change to society as a whole.
Produced by DJ Khalil
17 • Paper Trail$
Joey Badass has always been an artist who cares more about intelligence and achievement than material success. He worked tirelessly to get to where he is and doesn’t take that for granted, utilizing this mindset to steer him in the right direction and continue on a path of greatness. Needless to say, money was never what Joey was necessarily chasing, but it comes with the success he has garnered. It is, on the other hand, something that is mandatory to live in society today. The themes he speaks of conveying the idea that when you’re broke you need to find ways to make money to live, but when you possess wealth of some magnitude, it’s not on your mind as much and deeper levels of happiness can possibly be much more accessible. This mindset, although somewhat innocent because the idea of having money was new to him, is something that he believed was changing him in a negative way. The journey he took us on from his days before the fortune where he tells stories of his struggles, to the life he currently lived with luxuries and sold-out shows is a tale of two different individuals. This song is so important because it’s Joey looking at these two people, confronting their differences, and addressing the fact that he can never go back to his old life, but he doesn’t want to either. He just needs to take a step back and appreciate the life that his music has brought for him and his loved ones and try to not let his newfound wealth turn him into a different person anymore.
Produced by DJ Premier
16 • Love Is Only A Feeling
For many Joey Bada$$ fans, there are a handful of songs that they consider criminally underrated, and for some reason, I have always heard the narrative from Joey fans that “Love Is Only A Feeling” is one of his best songs. I can’t say I disagree though, because actually, I am on that train with them — this track is one of my favorite Joey songs of all time. This joint was just a loosie so I feel like it can be easily overlooked by some when you speak about some of Joey’s best records ever because you can’t attach it to a specific album or project of his, but in my opinion, it’s definitely one of Joey’s best put together records ever.
Produced by Statik Selektah
15 • OCB
One of my favorite records that Joey has ever released is for sure “OCB” (aka Only Child Blues) that was featured on the backend of his debut album, and here on our piece, it is landing at number fifteen. I have already touched on Joey’s magnificent ear for amazing production, and this beat is yet another one of the most polished instrumentals he has ever graced in my opinion. This track was a standout for me on B4.Da.$$, but to be completely real, it took a while for this song to grow on me. Over the past year or so, however, when I look at the project that Joey released just over five years ago, this is arguably my favorite track included on that tape. It’s a record that at times finds Joey just giving us straight fact-filled bars but at other points taking a more introspective approach, talking about his younger days & what he did to get to where he’s at now. I feel like a majority of Joey fans will agree with this record landing in the top twenty, but if you aren’t too familiar with this record just yet, trust me, play it a few times & see if it grows onto you as it did me.
Produced by Samiyam
14 • Christ Conscious
There’s a reason why Joey Bada$$ has proclaimed “Christ Conscious” as one of his favorite songs he has ever recorded. His entire repertoire of talents can be seen on full display as he completely murders every aspect of the track. His wordplay is as elite as it gets, tying in pop culture references to his own life as a way for fans to relate to him on a level even deeper than usual. He feels as if all his years working to perfect his craft were beginning to reach a pinnacle, continuously building up to a level that is unworldly. The more he would key in on his energy, the stronger and stronger he would become ultimately leading to a level of evolution into a final form like some sort of inhuman being. Within this song, Joey is looking at God as the ultimate level, and although he’s not comparing himself to a being of that magnitude, he believes that his energy levels are on another plane, which is something that no one else will be able to come close to touching once he reaches his final form. I already think that he is untouchable from a sonic point of view but he is trying to level up in all forms, taking this persona that he has created and placing it in a position where it will never be touched by even the most talented and powerful individuals. It’s just incredible how someone his age was making music with themes such as this while other artists who had been working for decades paled in comparison to the young talent.
Produced by Basquiat
13 • Righteous Minds
“Righteous Minds” has always been a standout record by Joey for me ever since I initially heard 1999, and to this day, it’s left a lasting impact on me and is a strong reason why I became such a big Joey fan in the first place.
This track is landing at #13 on our top fifty count down, narrowly missing the top ten but finding a solid place on the piece, nonetheless. The first thing that I have to speak on about this song is the absolutely glorious instrumental that was provided by Bruce LeeKix. It’s such an impeccable and unforgettable beat not just in Joey’s catalog, but in hip-hop as a whole, being hands down one of the best beats I’ve heard in my lifetime. The production actually somewhat fuses two sounds together, both of which Joey had perfected even back then when he was first starting out.
The first style creates a relaxed, soulful vibe through some very tranquil and peaceful piano keys. This meshes seamlessly with the second style, which is the classic New York boom-bap percussive elements that were originally what appealed to Joey in terms of rap music. Although these two styles blend with one another, it is tough to truly stand out on such a complex beat. Well, it would be tough for anyone else except Joey, because he fits right in and takes off within his verses. His myriad of deliveries was eye-opening and played a major role in the young rapper being thrust into the spotlight.
Also notable, Joey covers a very mature topic in this track, discussing the fact that he needs to stay true to himself regardless of who might try and tear him down or oppose him. He understands that he’s going to have backstabbers and copycats that are going to try and take away from his success, but he knows that if he stays true to himself and his music like he always has, he’s going to be set up for success. “Righteous Minds” shows exactly how intelligent and wise the youthful Bada$$ was even at such a young age, which has played a major part in his successes throughout his career.
Produced by Bruce LeeKix
12 • 95 Til Infinity
As it’s been discussed in much detail throughout this article, Joey’s depth and complexity of different sounds is truly unheard of for most other artists in the industry today. He can make absolute heaters full of bellicosity and hostility, portraying some intense themes throughout his hard-hitting verses. He can also take a step back as an outsider looking into his own mind and soul, evaluating his innermost thoughts and sharing them with whoever will listen. I think this keeps him sane in a world as busy as his, but also helps fans relate to him and some of the struggles he encounters and deals with.
“95 Til Infinity” is a song that brings a combination of both of these styles, bridging a gap that he has created with his always opposing sounds. A sample containing some light piano and guitar riffs along with hardcore boom-bap percussion leads us to believe this is going to be another introspective offering from the young emcee, but instead, his lyrics pierce right through you as soon as he begins his unsympathetic verses. This is important and intentional because the struggles Joey shares on this track include commentary of him remembering his humble and sometimes unfavorable beginnings as he sees himself rising into the spotlight and dealing with new hardships. The strong-hearted beat provides a metaphor in a sense as if he is well-kempt and put together on the outside. His piercing words are metaphorical as well, showing how he is experiencing life on a more introspective level, struggling with inner battles that might be different than before, but they’re still battles, nonetheless. Through all this, the main message is the fact that he’s never going to give up and he’ll continue on for as long as possible, but he’s going to make sure to leave a legacy and cement his mark on this world before he’s finished.
Produced by Lee Bannon
11 • Land Of The Free
It should have been made abundantly clear at this point that most of the themes spoken of in All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ about political, racial, and social injustices are busting from the seams. Joey’s platform was just too big, and he had too much on his mind to speak for others that feel as if they don’t have a voice that he couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to make a statement, speaking out for his people. On “Land of the Free”, Joey basically comes for Trump’s neck more directly than any other song off of the album, stating how unfit he is to run the country and how his ulterior motives are what he’s in it for. The cover art for the single showed the rapper wearing a “Make Amerikkka Suck Again” shirt with Nazi symbols on it, mimicking a message that the president has become famous for trademarking.
This track also calls out Trump for his unfathomable antics of egging on certain white nationalist groups who show support of him. It is clear that the agenda of the president isn’t always considering what’s best for everyone, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, and other factors, and Joey just wants to shine a light on these things if no one else will. Although some of the themes and artwork are blatant and almost shocking, it’s this shock factor that’s going to open people’s eyes and draw attention to larger issues that should be dealt with. Some of these alarming topics include how people are dying in the streets and the government is letting it happen so they can get their donated organs, how the history of his heritage is disorganized and made them feel like they don’t belong, and the fact that some of the people that are making decisions for the country still have the same last names as slave owners did. Once again, although these things and more of the narratives Joey discusses in this song might be slightly appalling, it was necessary to gain people’s attention in order to try and create a community of change.
Produced by 1-900 • Kirk Knight
10 • Survival Tactics
There’s no denying that 1999 is the project that put Joey on the map. His skills were put on full display for fans to take in and the praise that came along following its release was unmatched when compared to many mixtapes that artists drop in this day and age, not to mention he was only 17 at the time. “Survival Tactics” was a standout track on the tape, leveled up by the late and dearly missed Capital Steez. His style was as aggressive and impressive as Joey’s making them a match made in Heaven, so his death truly left everyone at a loss for words. This affected Joey deeply but contributed to his continuous grind to become a better rapper and just a better person all around. Without Steez, who knows where Joey would be now considering their chemistry was unmatched and it truly leveled up their bars respectively. Joey showed the influences he gathered from some of his idols growing up, displaying multiple different flows to pay homage to those who came before him on this classic-sounding East Coast beat. Considering the name of this song, Joey lists multiple strategies he used to survive in the streets at the time. Although this has nothing to do with wilderness survival, of course, he looks at the city as a jungle of sorts, talking about how violence and other illegal activities are what keep the streets alive. Age and other factors aside, Joey was at the top of the food chain with regards to his lyricism, style, and overall persona on 1999, and people seem to forget that he was doing it better than anyone on his debut mixtape regardless of age, experience, or any other factors.
Produced by Vin Skully
9 • Longlivesteelo
As a die-hard Joey Bada$$ fan, I feel like the Summer Knights EP doesn’t get the love that it truly deserves. It had plenty of shining moments, but my personal favorite was easily the touching track, “Longlivesteelo”. This track all started with the exquisite instrumental that was handled by Kirk Knight, who knew how precious this moment was and put his best foot forward to cook up the best beat he could. And man, he delivered with one of the most pleasant beats that Joey has ever rhymed on. With this beat in front of him and clearly a ton on his mind at the time, Joey used this instrumental and treated it something like a therapist, getting everything he had on his chest out into song form. In turn, he created one of the most memorable songs of his career. Fly high, Steez.
Produced by Kirk Knight
8 • For My People
While the majority of All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ is full of aggression and frustration with the current climate of America, Joey realizes there are different approaches he can take to various injustices. A lot of the songs show anger and hostility about the inequalities in the country, and rightfully so, but he knows that in the midst of the frustration, he needs to maintain a level head in order to not be bested. “For My People” pays homage to those who came before him as well as the people in this current day and age who are standing up alongside him to fight the fight. Although Joey is known for is intricate lyrics and insane bars, one of his more underrated and possibly even unnoticed talents is his aptitude for singing. Although he might not have the most incredible voice in the world, he definitely knows how to carry a tune and doesn’t need any effects or autotune to assist him. This is clear within his hook where he talks about surviving in such a destructive world as he looks for a hero to stand up and fight, harmonizing his way in a pleading manner rather than a forceful way. Even in his verses, you hear a more introverted person rather than an outspoken one, as well as someone who is just getting tired of unfair treatment and not wanting to continue repeating the same things that have been talked about for centuries. Beyond topics such as issues that African Americans face on a daily basis including racial profiling and police brutality, Joey levels the playing field and talks about his aspirations on a more personal level. He mentions how he wants to get his mom a house with a big lawn so the kids he wants to eventually have can play on it. These aspirations are what keep him fighting, encouraging others to join him and not let inequality suppress their voice.
Produced by DJ Khalil • 1-900
7 • Curry Chicken
Joey has never been shy in talking about the importance of his mother and father, but I believe the best example of this is the song “Curry Chicken”. The track starts off with a skit of his mother giving him some advice, –something Joey isn’t shy of doing in his music, but for some reason or another, this skit felt more powerful and impactful than the others. It just had a certain level of wisdom and foresight shown by his mother and displayed a mother’s love for her son and some realistic adversities that she believed he would have to overcome. Once the track started, he sort of gave his own version of that knowledge that he had learned from his parents over the years. It was a special moment that found a young but extremely smart Joey reciprocating that energy, and in result, made for a touching track that I’m sure he, his parents, and his fanbase will remember forever.
Produced by Statik Selektah • 1-900
6 • Waves
When you get down to the nitty-gritty of Joey’s stellar catalog, I feel as if you can go multiple different ways as to what you can include in his top ten songs – it gets tough to decide! I say that to say you could call any of these songs your favorite and genuinely not be wrong. Most true Joey fans could hear you out and see what you’re saying, and honestly, I would totally understand if a Joey fan said “Waves” is their favorite Joey song of all time. On our list, this track is landing just outside the top five, but that’s not to take away from it in the least bit – that fact aone should just show you how deep and remarkable that his catalog is up to this point in his career.
I love this song a ton but the music video brings the song to life way more than the audio ever could. At the time, it was a peek behind the curtain, letting you take a look at a day in the life of seventeen-year-old Joey. Years later, this music video is even more awesome to me because it represents a certain time in Joey’s life as well as his Pro Era homies – it’s like a time capsule that you can revisit and get nostalgia from at any point.
Produced by Freddie Joachim
5 • On & On
As fans highly anticipated Joey’s debut album B4.Da.$$, he decided to release a slew of various sounding singles leading up to its release. “Big Dusty” was first up, awakening his true inner New-York sound with a boom-bap beat and hard-hitting lyrics. “Christ Conscious” portrayed his transcendence into greatness and his thoughts about rising to fame in a way no one else has. “No. 99” tapped into his deeply rooted love for his family’s tropical origins, and “Curry Chicken” used a jazzy instrumental mixed with retro record scratches to bring yet another dynamic sound to this album. Finally, one of the last singles he released leading up to the album was “On & On”.
This song gave fans a deeper look into his life, preparing them for the real-life testimonials he would be sharing on the project. Soft, gliding piano keys, brassy instruments, and classic hip hop percussion laid a smooth foundation for Joey to open up and discuss some of the thoughts and emotions he has experienced throughout his life. Maverick Sabre sings some background vocals about taking off into what seemed like another world, playing up the different universe Joey is beginning to experience with his newfound success. He talks about so many different things in this track such as spreading love and trying to stay humble even though he’s confident and believes in himself, hardships that he has encountered within his life and how they’ve helped him grow as an artist and as a person overall, and how you must keep on going even when the going gets tough. It’s no surprise, but he also talks about how his escape is music, claiming that creating his songs and writing lyrics allow him to escape reality and remain at peace with everything going on in his life.
Pro Era member Dyemond Lewis also offers his thoughts on the situation, relating to Joey’s stories and sharing a few of his own. He talks about hiding his sadness and frustrations from the world, doing things on his own and not being controlled by someone else, and how he has lived his life to the fullest even before he had any money or notoriety. It’s always clear that Joey elevates the skills of whoever else is on a song with him, and Dyemond’s verse is no different. His verse is absolutely amazing, but pairs so well with the other portions of the song that Joey has brought to life as well.
“On & On” showcases the rollercoaster of emotions and experiences that he has had even at such a young age, but he isn’t afraid to share these things with fans because music is his outlet for whatever is on his mind and an escape from whatever brutal realities he might be facing at the moment.
Produced by Joachim
4 • Daily Routine
“Daily Routine” was one of the first Joey songs that I heard and instantly knew that I was going to be a lifelong fan of this guy, and years later, I hear this song and it just reminds of countless good times that I had in my teenage years. This song to me represents many summer nights, many great memories, many sessions with the homies; it’s a timeless record that I am positive I will be listening to for the rest of my lifetime. I am sure that many Joey Bada$$ fans can agree with me though, I understand that most people have their own personal favorites that won’t exactly go hand and hand with this list of MY personal favorites, but I feel as if this song is in the top ten for a large percentage of the Joey fans out there. There’s just something about the way that the Chuck Strangers production perfectly meshed with Joey’s vocals on this track that makes it unforgettable, they created a song that can be played by people (especially young adults) from different generations for decades to come, and some of the subject matter will always remain relevant.
Produced by Chuck Strangers
3 • Temptation
It’s definitely not a secret that Joey wants to speak up for those who feel like they don’t have a voice that will be heard. Considering he has a platform for freedom of expression and everyone, whether they’re fans of his or not, will hear his messages, he has always felt that it’s only right to bring attention to issues that have been plaguing underprivileged people for centuries, especially African Americans. He has never shied away from being brutally honest and speaking his mind, which is even more notable considering how clearly intelligent he is with a pen. He’s not just saying these things need to stop, but he also goes into detail about very real events that take place, putting together lyrics that are intellectually brilliant as well as impactful. All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ was his most powerful and eye-opening project to date without a doubt.
While there are certain cuts on the album where he thanks God for the blessings he has received, the majority of the project takes on issues such as racial injustice and police brutality, among many other important topics. Utilizing a soulful sample as the backdrop for these messages, his hit song “TEMPTATION” opens with a recording of nine-year-old Zianna Oliphant’s speech at a Charlotte, North Carolina city council meeting. This speech took place after police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, and touches on the fact that someone’s significance in this world shouldn’t be calculated by their skin tone or ethnic background. As the upbeat, touching sample starts up, Joey sings in a very moving fashion. When he goes into his verses, he gets animated with his words, showing emotion while also trying to stay strong for his people. Although this track has a very bouncy rhythm and a catchy vibe, it doesn’t distract anyone from the fact that his message is strong and powerful. This catchiness might be due to the fact that he wants these themes to get stuck in listener’s brains so whether they realize it or not, they’re aware of the narratives he is speaking of. “TEMPTATION” is a track that won’t be easily forgotten, causing it to stand out on an album full of impactful songs.
Produced by 1-900 • Kirk Knight
2 • Devastated
It’s certainly no secret that “Devastated” is Joey’s biggest and most successful song to date — I feel as though it helped him reach a whole new demographic that he might have not already been tapped into. For a lot of Joey fans, it’s probably their favorite song by him, but here on our list, it’s landing at #2.
This song sort of represented a full-circle moment considering some of the traumatic events as well as trails and tribulations that Joey had to overcome on his way to where he’s at now, it’s a feel-good song and it might be Joey’s most infectious song thus far — scratch that, it IS his most infectious song yet. Within the first twenty-five seconds of the track, Joey built this one up with the start of the contagious hook. Right around the thirty-second mark, when the beat really hits, it’s simply impossible to not fully buy into what he was giving us. That feeling is only amplified when watching the music video along with the song, ESPECIALLY when the hook first hit along with the beat and you see a crowd of fans going crazy in the bleachers behind Joey. Meanwhile, you also get to see his fellow Pro Era members behind him having the time of their life, enjoying the beautiful moment of seeing the brother having this type of success.
This was a major moment for Joey in his career, I would argue it was the biggest release for him yet, it had such a huge impact on not only himself but the music world in general. The exciting thought about all of this though, I am sure when it’s all said and done, he will have AT LEAST a handful of moments + songs that will be bigger than this one.
Produced by 1-900 • Kirk Knight • Pleasant
1 • Snakes
I am sure at a certain point in this list, as you were scrolling down from fifty to one, you were probably wondering when this song was going to appear. Coming in at #1 on our 50 Favorite Joey Bada$$ Songs list is “Snakes”.
Admittedly, I’m a super fan of J. Dilla, so whenever I hear artists rhyme over his instrumentals, there’s something that gets me right away – even so, there’s something extra special about when Joey floats over his beats – it’s like it was meant to happen. It’s almost ridiculous to think that Joey Bada$$ was rapping this well when he was still just a teenager, especially see how he approached some legendary hip-hop beats like he was already one of the GOAT’s, but I’m sure that in his mind he had a good feeling that’s where he was going to end up when it was all said and done.
After all, Joey has always been a very spiritual, faithful individual and speaking things into existence wasn’t something he was ever shy about. After doing this, though, he knew just how much hard work, dedication, and persistence was going to play a part into achieving his goals and getting to the point in the music industry that he knew he deserved to be. As far as this song itself goes, J. Dilla does an absolutely incredible job at painting a picture without even needing words, which is part of the reason why he’s a certified legend when it comes to the music world. His calm, serene beat could have been interpreted various different ways, but Joey knew that he needed to show up ready to go and open some eyes, because this early on in his career, he needed to impress as many people as possible as often as he got the chance to.
Clearly, having someone like J. Dilla in his corner to provide guidance, advice, and direction for his still blossoming career is invaluable, so he had to grab his attention even more than ever before. Instead of trying to get aggressive and belligerent on such a tranquil beat, he knew that he had to match the vibe while still showing off just how skilled he is. To do this, he pretty much spits constantly rhyming words in possibly the most consistent cadence I can imagine, as intricate bars are carefully pieced together in order to build an entire song that is comprised of sheer genius. What’s even more impressive than his immaculate flow is the message he is expressing, understanding the fact that he isn’t in music for the fame or fortune, but rather his passion and just pure love of the genre all around. This plays a major part in his massive success over the years, because at a certain point, just making music for money is going to get old and boring, but that’ll never happen if you always love the music you’re making. He knows that if he puts his passion into every single song, the money will come along, but fans will appreciate him for his music first and foremost.
“Snakes” is number one on this list for a wide array of reasons, but at the end of the day, it just fully encompasses some of Joey’s most abundantly evident skills in a flawless showcase of his talent. A legend, to say the least.
Produced by J Dilla
Article by Elliot Montanez • Intro by Seamus Fay • Assistance from Danny Adams • Art by Grif