For those not keyed into rap's latest come-ups, we present a series introducing the most notable 90s babies of the moment.
90s Babies Rap by Christopher Alley
Straight-up Old School Rappity Rap
Joey Bada$$ – (19) Brooklyn, NY
Joey Bada$$ is 19 and hails from Brooklyn, NY. He’s undeniably talented, but also pretty polarizing. For one, there’s the proxy retro-fetishism of his 1993-esque aesthetic. Fans who were old enough to rock Karl Kani when it first came out, and 90s babies who see that era’s garbled East Coast take on eastern mysticism and athletic weed-smoking as perfect for their Tumblr identities, dig him for rocking a style that’s fashionably dated.
However, his critics see him as more of an anachronistic novelty than the “next big thing” – someone who, back in the 90s, would’ve done tracks with AZ and then disappear off the planet, just like AZ. We’re in a post-Wayne era, where entertaining tics and cartoonish inflections are the norm. If you tend to use the phrase “real hip-hop” unironically, this makes rap’s currently unrecognizable landscape fucking scary, so Joey is a comfortably orthodox token for the kind of people who are still upset that Soulja Boy had the audacity to diss Ice-T and not know who GZA is. Problem is, despite being dope, his appeal might expire with our 90s nostalgia.
Unlike many of his peers, Joey seems to authentically love and want to inhabit NY’s "Golden Era” – so as long as internet rap fans and the old head tour circuit exist, he’ll have a lane. But as it is, he’ll have to craft one hell of an album to break free from his status as a novelty. In an era where Common and Nas struggle for attention, Joey has the heavy task of competing with both the past and the present. His youth is his advantage; whereas most of the rappers from the era exhausted their creativity and, often, awkwardly transitioned to mediocre NY mixtape rap, Joey’s young enough that his potential is ahead of him, assuming he’ll take those well-worn dusty breaks and jazz samples somewhere interesting.