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Rap in 2018 isn’t trash, Joey Bada$$

By Thomas Johnson, February 2 2018 —

Throwback rapper dear Joey Bada$$ thinks the genre is currently trash. In a recent string of tweets, Joey articulated his thoughts on the current climate of hip-hop.

Curmudgeonry is a cyclical vice. It’s inherently human to idolize a passing generation and resent the one that supersedes it. A lot of people don’t like change, but come on.

Joey, a derivative boom-bap traditionalist, has often been at odds with the uneven landscape of modern trends. His 2012 breakthrough, 1999, borrowed so heavily from tropes of hip-hop’s over-fantasized ‘golden age’ that it could have been packaged with a pair of JNCO’s and a snakeskin Gucci visor. It was a serviceable record of decent MCing and solid beat-making that benefited from a period of peak East Coast revivalism from names like Roc Marciano, Action Bronson and KA.

Joey is a solid rapper — clearly a student of New York icons like Jay-Z, Nas and Cormega. But for all his self-righteous championing of the good ol’ days, he has never once pushed the envelope. Since 1999, his releases have struggled to find a foothold in the market, slipping between his affection for a period two decades in the rearview and the exponential change of today’s open market. He can claim no right to any original concept. He doesn’t take risks, instead treading comfortably in the footsteps of those who took risks before him. He’s a student of the game, but no one should consider him a resident hot-taker of the genre that passed him by even before his debut.

To be fair, the mid-’90s were an almost overwhelmingly formative time for rap, filled with unprecedented growth. But that doesn’t mean it’s free of myopic romanticization. Harmful cons have been written out of a wistful, revisionist history. Apart from charitable radio outlets like New York’s Stretch & Bobbito, the only way to break through to an audience larger than your average street corner 20-years ago was to sign a highly coveted record deal. Elitist New York media refused to acknowledge regional rap that wasn’t from the five Boroughs and certainly not from a rapper that could literally be killed because of their music and what it stands for.

In 2018, anyone can make a rap record — for better or worse. What we have at our fingertips couldn’t have even been fathomed 20 years ago. You can start a label from your mom’s basement. Boundary-pushing rap can come from New York or Atlanta, Chicago or Houston, New Orleans, Toronto or the United Kingdom. You probably won’t get shot because you prefer 2Pac to Biggie or vice-versa. You can always listen to the finite music made in the ‘90s and no one will blame you for it. But if you think rap is currently trash, you — like Joey — are part of the problem.

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