Review: Will McGee
A young new hip-hop group has emerged on the scene with the release of Joey Bada$$’s mixtape ‘1999’, and that has already led to Odd Future comparisons, because “young new hip-hop groups,” am I right? All right, there’s more to Progressive Era than that.
They both have a charismatic leader (well, we assume Joey Bada$$ is the leader of Progressive Era, but that’s mainly because there are no other mixtapes from them yet), and their beats are pretty chill. There is also a LOT of people in Pro Era; the final track on the mixtape, Suspect, features not quite all of them and still takes up a whole 11 minutes, which brings another comparison to Odd Future’s recent posse cut ‘Oldie’. That’s about as far as the comparison can be taken, though. One of the most defining features of Pro Era’s aesthetic is a deep respect for their hip-hop predecessors that manifests itself in decent-quality boom-bap production (not to mention a few tracks where they use beats made by MF Doom, Lord Finesse and J Dilla). Joey Bada$$ himself is very young; in the very first line of Waves he lists his birth year as ’95, but his style is practiced, if not quite perfect yet. His lines are decent and his flow is generally accurate and enjoyable, but there’s not an awful lot of quotable or memorable lines throughout the mixtape.
While it is Joey’s solo debut, eight of the fifteen tracks have a featured guest or nine. Most of the guest features are somewhat similar to Joey, in that they are solid and enjoyable without anyone standing out too much. As for the tracks that were produced by Pro Era members, the beats have a summery, nostalgic vibe built from samples and funky keyboards. One of the more memorable guest verses is CJ Fly’s on the Lewis Parker-produced ‘Hardknock’; here, and on Survival Tactics, the beat is briefly removed from the picture and the MC in question continues a cappella, 8 Mile-style. This mixtape is unapologetically hip-hop; it makes no attempt at creating a pop-friendly sound, but it never descends into shock value. He may be seventeen, but Joey Bada$$ raps about sex and drugs just the same as any other rapper, and it sounds perfectly natural.
Aside from the production credits, there are a few lines here and there from classic hip-hop albums but otherwise this album is strictly Pro Era; they make no overt shout-outs and no beef (although there is one lighthearted jab at a certain Based God). In general, Joey successfully makes a good first impression for his retro-sounding crew. There’s an immense amount of potential and a lot of enjoyment to be had from this mixtape; it’s obvious that Joey isn’t the only major talent in this group. For the most part there’s nothing here that could be construed as filler, although a few tracks might be accused of being repetitive (you’ll probably get tired of the hook in “Suspect” the fifth or sixth time you hear it). Naturally it’s too early to make any calls on PE being the new Black Hippy or Odd Future, but the sound established here is one that is both reverentially revivalist and, more importantly, distinctly their own, and led by a charismatic young talent no less.
This mixtape is available to download from Datpiff, 2DopeBoyz, LiveMixTapes, and other trusted hip-hop sources.