July 1st 2013 marked the release of the new full-length mixtape by Joey Bada$$, Summer Knights. With 17 tracks and approximately 10 producers, Summer Knights is similar to its prequel mixtape 1999 in that the album has a variety of production and MCing styles. A few producers on the mixtape are exceptional – all four tracks produced by Lee Bannon are fantastic, as well as ‘Sorry Bonita’ (produced by Oddisee).
I have noticed that Joey tends to mould his rap style to each producer – in theory this is an advantage as it shows his versatility, but Summer Knights does lack a signature style that some of his peers have already developed. Yet somehow, there is continuity throughout the tape despite the many styles of production.
Standout tracks include ‘Hillary $wank’ (prod. by Lee Bannon), with Bada$$ effortlessly gliding over its nu-jazz hook and arrhythmic time signature, and also ’47 Goonz’ (ft Dirty Sanchez & Nyek Caution, prod. by Lee Bannon). A gently lagging minimal kick and snare beat complements a melodically stark 2-bar hook, with Dirty Sanchez and Nyek complementing Joey’s verse perfectly. ‘Sorry Bonita’ (prod. by Oddisee) is another jawdropping track: the beat and bassline are sampled from A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Bonita Applebum’, and a collective-style group track featuring the rest of Pro Era (almost reminiscent of Native Tongues).
I can’t commend the production style on these tracks highly enough – all the standout tracks for me are produced by Bannon and the one track by Oddisee, which is interesting. The remaining tracks on Summer Knights range from hip-boppin to mediocre, with a huge degree of variance. Perhaps Bada$$ would produce a more concrete MCing style if he made an album with just a couple of key producers?
Overall, the production on Summer Knights is outstanding. So is Bada$$’s flow and rhythm, which is so comfortable and instinctual. That said, the lyrical content on this mixtape leaves something to be desired, but considering Joey’s age (18) and maturity level this is to be expected. He shows so much potential at a young age that I think we can expect Joey to break out of his predecessors’ mould and develop an instinctual style of conscious rap a la 2013.
by gemma clarke