I ran into Joey Bada$$ on January 14, 2015 in an elevator bank. He had an interview at a company I was working for at the time. The night before he performed “Like Me” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. At the end of his performance he held his hands up in support of the recent wave of protests that followed the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Most of the press was positive. Most of the reaction on twitter was as well. However, it was hard to ignore some of the negative comments. They mostly attacked him for speaking out.
I stopped Joey Bada$$ who was with two members of his team (I assume manager and publicist) when I saw them get off the elevator. I told him as a white guy, an American, a fellow New Yorker and a voter who has never missed an election since becoming eligible to keep doing what he did on The Tonight Show.
In our quick discussion I said that he, the voice of a generation and that generation needs someone like him. Although I could be wrong, I got the sense from his team that maybe they didn’t want to hear people say that to him, a 20-year old kid from Brooklyn, recently signed to a label, who was about to release his debut album 5 days later and make them a ton of money. Joey Bada$$ thanked me for saying what I said and we went our separate ways.
I highly doubt that Joey Bada$$ remembers that conversation on January 14, 2015 at around 5pm. I also doubt that what I said had any influence over. However, I clearly do remember and I have been following his career closely ever since. You can imagine how excited I was to hear that Joey Bada$$ is back with a sophomore album titled, ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ (expected to drop April 7th). As soon as I was able to listen to the first single “Land of the Free,” I did. Then I did again, and again, and again. I listened very carefully to every word.
Here is a guy who 2 years prior I said to his face that he is the voice of a generation, of a movement and who has the capacity to bring people together and the lyrics I started listening to were:
Can’t change the world unless we change ourselves
Die from the sicknesses if we don’t seek the health
Then came the video for “Land of the free” directed by Nathan R. Smith. In the video Joey Bada$$ downright claims the throne for being the voice of future generations. He moves between scenes of white men assembling in a firing squad to shoot unarmed black men, of a Muslim women in a hhijab and of Joey himself telling young black children: “Still got the last names of our slave owners In the land of the free is full of free leaders. Leave us dead in the street than be your oran donors. They disorganized my people, made us all longer” and “Obama just wasn’t enough, I just need some more closure and Donald Trump is not equipped to take the country over. Let’s face the fact ‘case we know what’s the real motive.”
There could not be a Joey Bada$$ ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ without Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” or Beyonce’s “Lemonade.” Just like their couldn’t be a Kendrick or Beyonce without The Fugees or James Brown or NWA or Ray Charles or Nina Simone or Bob Marley. Joey falls in line with some of the greatest and most influential. He is what is great about America. He is the voice of many Americans. Keep doing what you are doing, Joey Bada$$. Keep doing it.