Considering I tend to have awful taste in hip-hop, I’m somewhat hesitant to be overly enthusiastic about Joey Bada$$ for fear of jinxing it — like acknowledging a no-hitter in progress. Last night at the Converse Rubber Tracks series at The Sinclair, the ascendant Brooklyn rapper seemed to have lost a little off his fast ball -– a hoarse vocal kept him leaning back for the second half of his set, letting members of his Pro Era collective take most of the leads -– but what might normally be an easy point of criticism actually worked to his advantage, paradoxically.
We talk a lot lately about how much rock bands and electronic producers are indebted to the 1990s lately, with grunge and emo and ’90s-style R&B being the primary source of influence, but that same era is reflected in tracks from Bada$$’s recent “Summer Knights” mixtape. A Tribe Called Quest and Leaders of the New School references abound on tracks like the jazzy, leaned-back “Sit n’ Prey,” but the most prevalent callback comes from Souls of Mischief, pass-the-mic style tracks like “95 Til Infinity” and “My Jeep.”
The 18-year-old star-in-the-making had such an easy-going, infectious charisma, his pushing through the difficulties were more endearing than disappointing. Even rarer, his sidemen and collaborators were actually good enough to take center stage. Weird, an entire crew full of talented dudes having fun and making people dance. What’s more ’90s than that?