For the second time this year I made my way to the Library in The Institute with the University’s Hip Hop Society. Whereas only three of us went to see ScHoolboy Q in May, we managed to gather a crowd of around ten people to check out Joey Bada$$’s classic style. Almost none of the group had seen Joey perform previously so we were all prepared for anything from the Brooklyn-born rapper.
Before Joey graced the stage, up-and-coming British hip hop artist Loyle Carner [8/10] gave us a compelling insight into his life, performing emotional tracks such as ‘Cantona’ from his recent EP, A Little Late. I’m not the biggest fan of British hip hop, perhaps because I haven’t investigated the depths of the genre, perhaps because I’ve become too accustomed to American accents. However, Carner really impressed me: his delivery was great and the beats were very cool, provided by Rebel Kleff, who joined Carner on the mic for a couple of songs. I found that Carner himself was incredibly polite – he thanked everyone for turning up because he never usually watched support acts when he went to gigs – and the crowd appreciated his down-to-earth attitude, as well as his performance in general.
Despite not having yet released his debut album B4.DA.$$ (he announced on the night that it would be available on January 20th 2015, his 20th birthday), I expected a certain level of quality from Joey Bada$$ [9/10], considering I thoroughly enjoyed his first two mixtapes, 1999 and Summer Knights. I was not disappointed. We didn’t have to wait too long after Loyle Carner before legendary producer Statik Selektah appeared from the back to act as Joey’s DJ for the night. Selektah whacked on his personalised intro track that sounded like the theme for an 80s cartoon to get the crowd going and we were definitely fully hyped when Joey made his first appearance. As is the standard in this modern age we live in, the air was filled with smartphones when Joey came on stage.
I was extremely pleased with the wide variety of songs that Joey played throughout the gig. He appeased those of his fans who preferred 2012’s 1999 with classic tracks such as ‘Waves’ and ‘FromdaTomb$’, as well as those who bumped Summer Knights more, with hard-hitting songs like ‘95 Til Infinity’, with which he started his set. I get a little bit scared when I realise that some popular artists are younger than me but Joey’s youthfulness and energy shone through as he blended fantastically with the old-school sounding production. We were pretty confident that Joey was going to bring out another member of his hip hop collective, Pro Era, to perform with him on stage and we weren’t let down when Kirk Knight joined his friend to perform some undoubtable bangers that really got the crowd pumped up. Joey also played ‘Big Dusty’ and ‘Christ Conscious’, the two awesome singles from his upcoming album, as well as an unheard track titled ‘On & On’, for which Joey amusingly made his way through the hook because Maverick Sabre wasn’t present to sing.
Joey also managed to deliver an incredibly emotional moment, when he made the whole audience go dead silent for a short while in respect for his friend and Pro Era co-founder Capital STEEZ, who killed himself at the end of 2012. It was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had at a gig and it was only broken by Joey politely whispering “Thank you” into the mic, before unleashing my favourite of his songs from 1999, ‘Survival Tactics’, which is usually performed with STEEZ. At the request of Joey, the whole of the Library in The Institute became a giant circle pit and we celebrated STEEZ’s life in style with shouts of “Steelo!” and intense moshing.
This could have been a perfect concert for me if it weren’t for two minor gripes. Firstly, I was stuck at the back behind a couple of people taller than me for the first couple of songs so I was more listening to Joey than seeing him perform. Secondly, I feel that Joey’s set could have been slightly longer; it finished at around 10pm when curfew was 11pm. I clearly had to search hard to find something I didn’t like about this gig. I look forward to seeing Joey Bada$$ perform again once his album has dropped.