By Jack M. Angelo, Senior Content Producer
As the art of hip-hop ages, the OGs get older, but the youngest participants are still in their teens. 17-year-old Lil Pump broke the top 5 on the Billboard last year, 18-year-old NBA YoungBoy is on the charts (and in jail) as of press time. Of course, there are many rappers out now who began their careers as teens, but few rappers received recognition for their skills as young as Joey Bada$$. In 2012, when the Brooklyn native was only 17, he released his first mixtape 1999 to critical acclaim and immediate interest. In fact, before that, Joey had already released a group mixtape, been featured on MTV, and been signed to Cinematic Music Group. To claim that Joey Bada$$ had a quick rise to fame at a young age would be an understatement.
Meteoric ascensions to widespread recognition can be dangerous, however. The public often loses its interest as quickly as they gained it. However, Jo-Vaughn Scott (Bada$$) was no flash in the pan. About a year after his solo debut, Joey released another mixtape, Summer Knights, to more acclaim. From that point forward, Joey Bada$$ was a household name, becoming a XXL Freshman the same year. Since then, Joey has only improved his skills, releasing two albums, creating his own collective with Pro Era, and even branching out into acting, with a recurring role on USA’s Mr. Robot.
His most recent album, All AMERIKKKAN BADA$$, is one of the best rap projects of 2017, and the inspiration for the Amerikkkana Tour that passed through Silver Spring, MD, on April 20. That this show was taking place on 4/20, the unofficial holiday for marijuana, was evident even before walking into The Fillmore. On the way in, a security guard found a roach on a patron attempting to enter the theater. The guard threw the roach away and allowed the customer in. Upon entry to the venue, it was clear that he was one of the few whose weed was confiscated. Every few seconds, a puff would rise from the crowd, and a lingering haze grew thicker throughout the night. Vaporizers, joints, and blunts were passed through the crowd communally, and were even smoked in the press pit by VIPs apparently with one of the artists on the bill. The most obvious smoke, however, was only visible through the door to the backstage area, where presumably the artists and their guests were celebrating the holiday liberally.
Scott took the stage about two and a half hours after the show began, with a nearly 40 minute wait between the final opener and himself. This surprisingly had no effect on the audience, perhaps due to the holiday, who took it in stride, and were still excited when their headliner arrived. Before Joey stepped onto the stage, a fog machine or 10 worked overtime and pumped an excessive amount of fog onto the stage, through which Badmon emerged to the tune of “Rockabye Baby.”
Once the smoke cleared, the reason for the gap between sets and fog overload became clear. The stage was set like a war zone, complete with sandbags, barriers, and barbed wire. After the first song, an enormous paisley pocked Amerikkkan flag, like the one featured on Joey’s album cover, dropped from the ceiling and draped the back of the stage.
Scott spent the next few minutes barreling through some of his catchiest material, with no breaks until at least 5 songs in. Once the 23-year-old did slow down and speak to the crowd, he took the time to address one member specifically. He explained that before the show, a fan had come up to him and given him a wristband in commemoration of a friend she had just lost. Apparently, the song “Hardknock” from Joey’s debut was “their jam,” and so he played that in honor of her. Joey’s own friend, Capital Steeze, committed suicide in late 2012, whom he had mentioned earlier in the show. The emotion was raw and clear in this dedicatory performance.
Save for a few reflective moments, the show was mostly a high-energy spectacle of Joey’s best music and incredible stage presence. Joey has honed his performing over the past six years into something truly amazing, belying his relative youth. His trademark scratchy voice and intricate flows sound just as good live as they do recorded, often better. Joey Bada$$ should feel accomplished for what he has achieved, and even mentioned his own come up during the show. “This is like the fifth or sixth time I’ve been here,” he said, referring to The Fillmore, “and this is the first time it’s sold out.” The thousands-strong crowd roared at this. “I couldn’t ask for a better crowd,” Joey added later.
Hip-Hop’s best acts under 25 can be debated endlessly. With Chance the Rapper, Travis Scott and most of the Migos now out of the running for this title, we are left with Vince Staples, Takeoff and a plethora of Soundcloud Rappers. Of course, Joey Bada$$ is only 23, and has arguably been the best rapper under 25 since his debut. Joey is certainly one of the youngest artists with incredible staying power, and will surely be a staple in Hip-Hop for years to come.
These incredible photos from Joey Bada$$’s performance at the Fillmore, in Silver Spring, MD, on April 20, 2018, were taken by StayUp.News senior content producer and photographer Jack M. Angelo:
StayUp.News documents social and political issues through Hip-Hop, amplifying unheard voices in a language all their own. But we can’t do it without you. Support this important mission and receive exclusive content: