By: Tommy “T-Rod” Rodriguez
“‘I’m backed by popular demand and on that timing/
I popped out 2012, y’all wasn’t outside then,
Ten years later, tell me, why y’all still hiding?”
These were the first few lines to catch my attention on 2000, the newest album from Joey Badass. If you were a fan of rap music in the 2010s, few names attracted as much acclaim and hardcore following quite like the Pro Era star. That 2012 year in particular was a watershed moment for the MC, with the release of his debut mixtape 1999, often hailed as one of the best rap projects in recent memory. Joey’s trajectory since his debut masterpiece has certainly been interesting, solidifying his slick pen and use of updated 90s aesthetics on Summer Knights and B4DA$$. He even tackled a political, polished rap aesthetic on the polarizing All Amerikkkan Badass, a project that to this day divides fans. This was his last full length to be released for a while, with Joey vibing in his own lane by dropping more pop-focused tracks and keeping the heat in his features.
Come 5 years later, and now it looks like we’re getting an album to de-polarize fans, a sequel to 1999 named 2000. It’s honestly a great record that I’m sure can reel in older fans with its classic production and offers plenty of highlights in its lyrics. Joey himself said that the album is not a sonic sequel to 1999, which heavily sampled 90s boom bap, but more so a spiritual sequel to show Joey’s mentality ten years later. For the most part, it succeeds in showcasing that Joey seems to be just happy where he’s at right now.
Off rip, Joey’s transition from a teen rapping over famous samples to an established name is made crystal clear on “The Baddest.” Diddy’s hypeman antics evokes that classic rap feel, but the dramatic piano line, backing vocals, and Joey’s subdued verses bring out something completely different. This is Joey talking his game, reminiscing on the journey and success he’s experienced since 1999; when the drums came in on first listen, I knew that I was going to experience something great. “Make Me Feel” feels like the first proper track on the album, a smooth Statik Selektah production with fat kicks and keys, but the real star here is Joey’s performance. His vocals are loaded with conviction, perfectly matching the confidence his pen suggests.
“Make Me Feel” is great at displaying the growth in joey’s life since 1999; on that album, his confidence was much more youthful, almost like puffing up his chest because he knew he could outrap you. Now, in context of his success, he doesn’t need to prove how sharp his pen is. He’s talking about property, investments, his internal value. In general, 2000 feels very celebratory, and that can lead to some very sweet tracks. “One of Us” is a one of my favorites, loaded with syrupy samples and a great crossover with Larry June. A shoutout should also be given to “Zipcodes,” a great example of how that Pro Era sound never gets old, especially with those thick drums, chilly horn line, and Joey’s perfection of his classic sound. You can feel the enthusiasm from everyone involved here, and it’s infectious.
Even though 2000 is tied into that classic Joey sound and aesthetic, there isn’t anything wrong with sticking to your guns. Joey’s recent work has been very different, and may not have struck a chord with as many as hoped, so going back to basics makes sense. Can’t complain when the production for this album is so great too. Statik Selektah’s beats lend a cinematic air to the more dramatic and heartfelt tracks of the album, with the moody tones, strings and wailing samples on “Head High” servicing a haunting reflection on Joey’s past. In the same vein, “Where I Belong” is a hyper-detailed analysis of Joey’s neighborhood and the stress on his head, avoiding phone calls and taking the long way home to ignore his issues. The Statik beat is incredible, taking a simple sample and pitching it down to match the darkness of the track. 2000 feels like a much more polished and waxy take on the grimier stuff Joey did earlier in his career, but I think this polish helps the beats themselves sound both familiar and new. The album falters most with this when things get a little too buttery and smooth. “Cruise Control” is a decent enough song on the verses, but the pop rap synths and the basic hook derail the mood of the record. “Welcome Back” is probably my least favorite here, a sneaky link anthem that has a generic Youtube-type beat and a very misplaced Capella Grey and Chris Brown feature; it mixes like oil and water in the album and just seems like a random diversion that goes nowhere.
Thankfully, this album is mostly highlights, not lowlights. A a lot of that comes from Joey’s goal of showcasing his growth on this album. “Show Me” is a much better mix of relationship bars and genuine honesty, a track about a faltering relationship that is as blunt and honest as it needs to be. “Eulogy” is Joey giving a eulogy for the people on the street he’s known to have passed away, and his own regrets as he tries to make it through the day. It’s a very well-done song that shows how his music has become more mature and yet remained the same. The game itself has changed a lot since 2012 as well, so of course some great new names have popped up on 2000. JID drops a solid verse on the temptation-driven “Wanna Be Loved,” and Westside Gunn’s extravagant sound bleeds onto the incredible “Brand New 911.” The latter has become a personal favorite in Joey’s catalogue, both showcasing the trademark hunger he has delivered in his previous work while mixing it with the nasty samplework that Griselda is famous for…I need these two camps to collab more.
Before I close this review out, I want to give a shoutout to the best track on the album, the one I think represents its ethos best: “Survivor’s Guilt.” Over somber keys, a steady groove, and an ethereal synth line, Joey opens his heart and talks about his friend Capital Steez. Steez was another Pro Era member, a very promising young MC who took his own life before his own career could take off. The track dives into Joey’s admiration of Steez, the guilt he feels about his passing, and the public’s perception of those events. Joey goes on to talk about others he has lost in his life, including his cousin, and admits that he feels the responsibility to share their legacy with the world. This whole track embodies the way Joey has progressed as an artist and as a man, going forward in terms of success but never forgetting those he has lost along the way. As Ab-Soul’s describes how he met Steez years ago, it leaves time for reflection, time to appreciate what you have in life before it’s gone.
So with all of that being said, I think it’s safe to say 2000 is great. While I don’t think it surpasses 1999, I don’t think that’s a fair metric to judge the album on. 2000 showcases the growth Joey has experienced in his ten years as an artist and a man. His pen has remained as sharp as ever over, the beats are great, and it never hesitates to make you feel something. Good to have you back Joey!
Tracks to Save: “Make Me Feel,” “Where I Belong,” “Brand New 911,” “Eulogy,” “Zipcodes,” “One of Us,” “Show Me,” “Head High,” “Survivors Guilt”
Tracks to Skip: “Cruise Control,” “Welcome Back”
What’d you think about 2000? How does it rank among Joey’s catalogue for you? Any favorite or least favorite tracks on it? Let me know what you think! If you want to see more on my analysis of Joey’s work, click here.
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