In his brief career so far, Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ has effortlessly glided through nostalgic eras in his throwback rap that references the greatest MCs to come from New York City. Nas is the often cited choice comparison, but Joey clearly pines for greater heights. On “Death of YOLO”, one of the highlight cuts from his new mixtape Summer Knights, he references Jay-Z’s “D.O.A. (Death of Autotune)” and then proceeds to dominate on a song better than almost anything Jay has been a part of in years.
Joey hasn’t been meek with his aspirations to become the next Jigga. On “Waves” from last year’s 1999 he says “that’s why I’m trying to be a mogul” and later “won’t stop til I meet Hova and my mom’s in a Rover”. Earlier this year on A$AP Rocky’s “1 Train” (which is up for hip-hop song of the year in my opinion) he brags “Just got back to the block from a 6 o’clock with Jigga / And I’m thinkin’ ’bout signin’ to the Roc”. With each successive acclaimed album he seems closer to achieving that goal.
“Death of YOLO”, as it turns out, is less of a call-out of the #hashtag mantra, and more of a confessional tale about a near-death experience. Bruce Leekix’s beat is subtle and – in typical Pro Era style – timeless. The hook (“This the song I wrote if I died / I was on the 50 mile doing 9-5”) is among the best of Joey’s discography to date, and he bookends a solid verse by Smoke DZA with two verses that duck and weave around the laid back beat. On an album with production by Alchemist, MF DOOM, Statik Selektah, and DJ Premier, it’s always nice to know Joey and his crew can bang out a classic and make it feel routine.
Summer Knights is out now and available for free download via DatPiff.