Seriously this might just be THE smoothest insight into the current state of race-relations in Donald Trump’s America
So Thursday last week I was sat there in anticipation, waiting to hear an album coming out the next day that I knew would blow my mind. A rap album with masterful wordplay used to deliver eye-opening messages about the state of race and class relations in a post-Obama America.
What I wasn’t to know, however, is that this album would be by Joey Bada$$ and not Kendrick Lamar (seriously though, check back here on SpiceUK for our coverage of Kendrick’s new album when it drops).
So what can I say about “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$”? Honestly. I think the only way to describe it and do it justice is to describe it as literally the smoothest protest music ever. Let’s start with the album title. Joey makes his opinion on the current state of America abundantly clear; spelling the name of the country with “KKK” in the middle of it in clear reference to the Klu Klux Klan. Then there are the song titles: “GOOD MORNING AMERIKKA”, “Y U DON’T LOVE ME (MISS AMERIKKKA” and “AMERIKKKAN IDOL” to name but a few. It’s clear Joey has something important to say here.
On opening track “GOOD MORNING AMERIKKKA”, Joey wastes no time in getting to his point. Starting his opening verse with “Now, what’s freedom to you? / Let’s talk about it, take a minute, think it through/I’m all about it, but the concept seems new/The coppers still shoot us down on Channel 5 news/Lock us up for anythin’ we do to pay dues/Some of us woke while some stay snoozed”; it’s powerful stuff and plays over a melodic piano-led beat.
That’s the hallmark of this album in my opinion, the content and lyrics are hard hitting and emphatic but the instrumentation is upbeat and jazzy throughout. This is made evident on the track “TEMPTATION” which features one of the most touching moments on the album with the intro being a sample of 9-year-old Zianna Oliphant, from Charlotte, North Carolina talking about police attitudes to African-Americans following the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott. Despite this emotive start, the track is as much a rap-summer banger as you’re going to hear all year, with a bluesy guitar riff and catchy, soulful chorus.
Of all the tracks talking about the state of America I found “Y U DON’T LOVE ME (MISS AMERIKKKA” to be the most intriguing. Using the metaphor of a rocky relationship to describe American attitudes towards African American citizens. Featuring lines such as “Why you gotta kick me down on all fours?/Why you can’t stand to see me stand tall?/Tell me why we got a war?/Why we gotta fight? Why we always gotta spar for?/Why the cops always gotta get called?/Why you always tryna see me in trouble with the law?” it’s a subtle but incredibly clever track!
Now not all of the songs on this album focus on the same topic. On lead single (and another certified summer banger) “DEVASTED” Joey raps about his rise to fame and the struggles he’s had to get there. On “RING THE ALARM” Joey enlists the help of Meechy Darko, Nyck Caution and Kirk Knight to call out the state of the current rap game.
The most anticipated collaboration on this album though has to be “LEGENDARY” which features J. Cole and sees the two create an uplifting earworm of a song where the two deliver an exhibition of wordplay.
But let’s make no mistake this album is very focused, with Joey intertwining a variety of influences into his smooth brand of boom-bap hip-hop to make his point. On “BABYLON” Joey brings in Chronixx to add a reggae vibe to the song and on “ROCKABYE BABY” Joey and Schoolboy Q deliver an aggressive message of resistance with the the resounding lyric “And if you got the guts, scream, “Fuck Donald Trump””.
It’s on closing track “AMERIKKKAN IDOL”, however, where Joey delivers his rallying call for resistance. His lyrics on this track are direct and cutting; calling out the institutional racism present in the US government and it’s public institutions whilst providing his manifesto for the future. It’s a fitting end to the album.
Now I’ll be honest, I probably would have taken longer to get to this album had Kendrick dropped his last week but I’m so glad he didn’t. I don’t think I can even pick out a favourite track on this album, everyone just seems to be absolutely on point. I love the summery vibe, alongside the ridiculously clever wordplay and eye-opening themes. I’m not gonna lie I think this may be the best album I’ve heard all year and unless Kendrick pulls off a miracle next week I cannot see him topping this with ease.