The Brooklyn rapper’s third album searches for importance as it tethers to the brass tracks, still firmly connected to the era that defines his career.
New York has plenty classes of iconic rappers that have laid their mark on hip hop for life. But it feels like Joey Badass is still waiting to graduate. At 17 years old, he released his debut mixtape, 1999, that set him on track to become the new King of New York. His debut album came three years later, with a sophomore coming two years apart. What followed was a five-year break from music, embarking on an acting career in the meantime. Tactically titled 2000, Joey’s comeback album looks to make up that lost time and reward Pro Era fans for their loyal patience.
2000 is a clean, straightforward return for Joey Badass, unwinding through the basics of hip hop without complexity.
According to Joey, 2000 isn’t a direct sequel to the famous 1999. However, it sets out to capture the same essence in sound and style of rapping. Joey is a product of the boom bap era, and wisely remains firmly in that lane across his third album. You can hear the passion for the art, which is relieving to hear as a listener from a rapper who’s been away for half a decade. On “Make Me Feel”, he canons through glaring rhyme patterns that capture that youthful spirit heard ten years ago (“Now I’m back to leave a casualty and flee the scene casually / I ain’t even gotta aim, it’s all hip accuracy / Amen in Jesus name, my n****s still gon’ blast for me […] / Automatic classic when Joey get on a Statik beat / All my bars appreciate with time like a Patek Philippe”). In other moments, he flexes his position in the rap game (“The Baddest”), or takes a breather to be reflective (“Survivors Guilt”, “Head High”). Wherever the pen is sharp, 2000 excels.
The production is direct, though is exactly what 2000 needs to be authentic. It is handled by frequent collaborators Statik Selektah and Chuck Strangers, responsible for highlights across Joey’s earliest projects. Their samples invigorate tracks like “One of Us” with Larry June, or the dusty horns of “Zipcodes” and “Brand New 911” with Westside Gunn. “Eulogy” is the song most adjacent with 1999, sounding as if it was recorded back in 2012 as a leftover. “Show Me” impresses the most with its sample of Men I Trust’s “Show Me How”; a simple relationship track on the writing side, but certainly the most effective one when combining with the sentimental production. With this in its locker, 2000 achieves the right balance of vintage beats and modern flair.
On 2000, Joey isn’t too concerned with making hit songs. Its hooks are understated, or often non-existent, allowing the tracks to be the right level of raw. The album is also rosey at the same time, like a soundtrack to a spring clean. This is what separates it from the deeper dusty aura of B4.DA.$$, and the pristine polish of ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$.
There is enough to enjoy as a regular hip hop album, but 2000 still finds Joey short of his potential. 2000 is a casual effort from Joey Badass, diverted from the statements of ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ and boy-turned-man tone of B4.DA.$$. He takes a conscious approach to keep his songwriting range simple, often not rapping about anything memorable. It feels like a routined album that would come eight months after a real comeback album. 2000 misses the feeling of importance, which must exist for an artist claiming to be in the same trinity as Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole.
Context matters plenty with 2000. If it was released around 2018-19 – not too long after ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ – it would easily be accepted for what it is. But the five-year break adds the momentous weight that simply cannot be shaken off. 2000 doesn’t have to deliver statements, but rather emphasise what it sets to achieve. The most that can be taken out of 2000 is that it’s a 1999 homage that celebrates the tape’s 10-year anniversary, not an album that highlights growth in any areas.
From a direct view, 2000 stands its ground as an album that presents Joey’s passion for rap. Although it lacks inspiration, he sounds right at home, cozied up in the Brooklyn bedlam with the sound that works for him.
7.5 / 10
Best tracks: “Show Me”, “Make Me Feel”, “Eulogy”, “Where I Belong”, “Zipcodes”