Arts & Entertainment Editor
Joey Bada$$’s 2012 album 1999, so-named because it was a tribute to the rap style of the late ‘90s, is seen as one of the strongest debut records of any rapper in history. Ten years and five albums later, Bada$$ released 2000. While the naming feels like it has a pleasant reciprocity, it does not seem to be a tribute to the rapping or production style of the early 2000s. Its smoothness, attitude, and flow sound more inspired by Jack Harlow and Denzel Curry today, and Drake ten years ago.
Joey wanted to use this project as an opportunity to reflect on where he is now and his rise, projecting an image of success, skill, and style. Like most big rappers, he repeatedly details the contrast between his life at the start of his rap career and its current grandeur. As for the latter two traits, he lets them show in the music. The opening track makes for a perfect example — he sounds so confidently laid back one might think he could do this in his sleep. Despite how easy he makes it look, Bada$$ is quick to remind listeners that it took a lot of work to get where he is and to congratulate himself for his own accomplishments.
An essential part of Joey’s victory lap in 2000 which comes separate from the music, is short skits and interludes placed at the beginning or end of the tracks. Though a few well-executed skits can be essential to any album, 2000 has more misses than hits in this department. Anyone would be excited to have Nas hyping them up at a speech in front of a crowd, but the legendary New York rapper takes a long time to say pretty little as he is sampled at the end of “Cruise Control.”
The outro of “Zipcodes” is essential to explaining the meaning of the album but does a disappointing job. The man rambling at the end over calm piano could have been great if he had had anything interesting to say, but he doesn’t. He spends a full 30 seconds saying things like, “If y’all wasn’t around in the 2000s you wouldn’t know what really goin’ on, you feel me? We smokin’, we drinkin’, it’s good vibes, it’s the right vibe.” Why have such a weak communicator explain the purpose of your album?
The intros and outros would be much less of a drag if the music didn’t tend to have such a nice vibe. The slow, R&B-like “Show Me” creates a feeling of drifting through water on a sunny day. The soft, echoey keyboards over the chill drums and bass lay it down perfectly for Joey to give an overview of his feelings in relationships. The calm guitar intro following Bada$$’s looped call-and-response makes for a great finishing touch, not to mention Joey’s great wordplay on the hook — “You ain’t gotta lie now, it’s the bed we made.”
Bada$$’s ability to say whatever he wants while maintaining a slick flow is one of his greatest strengths. In any given verse there is so much focus that it takes almost no work to understand what he means, which allows listeners to absorb the song’s message without interrupting any sense of groove. The picture of a young Bada$$ taking the long way home to practice rapping while his mom called him in “Where I Belong” is amazingly vivid.
Even with his commitment to making vibe-heavy music, Bada$$ pays homage to his lost friend Capital STEEZ multiple times, even having a few songs dedicated to him. Preceding the punchy, catchy chorus of “Head High,” Bada$$ slips in a line about STEEZ after a whole verse detailing his story of helping another rapper rise.
Next comes “Survivors Guilt,” which explains all of the references that led up to it. Like most on the album, the song has clear focus and structure. He introduces his importance and legacy, talks about experiences with him, glosses over some drama with his family, STEEZ’s depression, and Bada$$’s resulting gratefulness to be alive. The chorus, simply repeating “[t]his one is for you,” hits hard.
Though 2000 is an impressive display of Joey’s skill and versatility, there are some missing elements. First, there are a few tracks in which his voice sounds oddly metallic like it was recorded in a room with poor soundproofing. Though nearly every track is an easy listen (the obnoxious “Welcome Back” being the only notable exception), none are particularly creative. His ability to solidly structure a song, focus his verses, and create a vibe shines but nothing really sticks out — the opposite of what one might expect from someone who calls himself a “Bada$$.”