There were definitely a few shockers for me regarding Joey Bada$$. Firstly, he has the dopest voice and it’s even better live – raspy yet smooth and technically made for rap. Although, my very unprofessional advice is that he uses his voice for singing instead and rebrand himself as carrying the essence of an angel. Secondly, I learned his year of birth after attending his show at the Vogue theatre. The young MC’s age has no correlation to his established flow in style and smart lyrical sound – especially carrying the nostalgic spirit of early ‘90’s hip-hop. Thirdly, Joey has been in the scene for a mere two years and this is surprising not only because of his heavy following, but also because of his level of confidence and dynamism as an entertainer.
The concert tour “B4.DA.$$ North American Tour” is in promotion of Joey’s latest album B4.DA.$$. Nevertheless, the solid crew consisting of DJ Statik Selektah, CJ Fly and the rest of the Pro Era collective brought it down with numbers from his earlier mixtapes including: “Alowha”, “95 Til Infinity”, “World Domination”, “Sweet Dreams”, “Funky Ho’$”, “Unorthodox” and “Hardknock” to name a few. The group even pulled out some medleys such as M.O.P.’s “Ante Up” and “Simon Says” by Pharoahe Monch.
It was natural for Joey and the audience to feed off each other’s energy and this was confirmed when he stated, “Vancouver’s the best crowd every time we come here, man”. Dyemond Lewis added to the room’s force when he joined Joey for “On and On” followed by “Like Water”, when the entire Pro Era came on stage to commemorate Capital STEEZ with a moment of silence. Before the last track, “Survival Tactics”, Joey conducted a few mosh pits which led me to foresee at least one death particularly with his very safe instructions: “Here are the rules… there are no rules”.
It may have been the only rap concert I’ve ever attended where they bothered investing in stage props or creating some sense of theatrical production. I mean, it was just a stand-up wall depicting a red door, some front steps and worn-out windows. But when they were closing the show it truly felt like a group of really tight kids hanging out on the street and shooting the shit (also, one of them was riding a bicycle on stage – nice touch, bro). Very Boyz n the Hood-esque with the added bonus of being musically complimentary to one another.
Is Pro Era the new answer to hip-hop’s old era? Or is the more appropriate question: are they progressive by taking us back or can they create an original era of their own?