Joey Bada$$, the 17-year-old phenom who spits like he came straight out of the boom-bap era, doesn’t need much of an introduction to Complex readers. Last night Bada$$ and his Progressive Era crew experienced what has become a hip-hop rite of passage: their first headlining show at SOBs. Earlier this month, he released his long-awaited debut mixtape, 1999 , to rave reviews. It even secured a spot on Complex’s Best Albums of 2012 (So Far) list. Combining classic-sounding tracks—some of which were produced by underground legends MF Doom and Lord Finesse—with sick lyrical flows, Bada$$ is clearly influenced by the leaders of the old school—even though he's still a youngster.
His Pro Era crew took the stage first, performing an array of freestyles and unreleased tracks for a mostly teenage crowd who were enjoying a Thursday "Summer Knight" out. Rolling about 20 deep, the Pro Era crew packed the stage shouting their rhymes to a receptive audience that included Brooklyn rappers Dyme-A-Duzin and Rapsody—while the rest patiently waited for the main attraction to arrive. At one point, chants of “beast coast” broke out, and this would become the mantra for the evening.
Bada$$ didn’t wait for his posse to clear the stage. Without any formal introduction, he slipped right into the pandemonium. “NYC! How y’all doing tonight?” he said, moments after “World Domination” got the crowd bouncing. Wearing a Grizzly fitted cap with an American flag bandanna and a gray designer Tee, Bada$$ looked comfortable sharing the spotlight with his crew. At times he was maybe a little too comfortable, often retreating to the background and allowing guys like Chuck Strangers or CJ Fly to take center stage. Even so, Bada$$ always made sure to make his presence known by shouting out “R.I.P. Tupac.”
Bada$$ channeled his meticulous bars over Doom’s sample-based production, giving fans an intimate glimpse of his skills at work. However, this didn’t last too long: 'Can I get my cronies back on stage? They just left me.'
The 1999 mixtape was the soundtrack for the night, with gems such as “Waves” and “FromdaTomb$” getting big responses from the crowd. To give his show some breathing room, Bada$$ jumped into “PennyRoyal” which served as the signal for his crew to clear out one by one. Despite the moral support provided by his army of hype-men, he sounded better with fewer distractions on stage. Bada$$ channeled his meticulous bars over Doom’s sample-based production, giving fans an intimate glimpse of his skills at work. However, this didn’t last too long: “Can I get my cronies back on stage? 'They just left me.”
Before Bada$$ performed “Daily Routine,” he asked his Pro Era crew to sit down on stage, then had them rise up again after the chorus dropped. This might have seemed like a good idea before the show, but in fact it looked awkward and uncoordinated—they were better at rapping than theatrics. Later on, Bada$$ smoothed out the slight pause with “Funky Ho’$” and then his breakout single “Survival Tactics,” which incited some crew members to leap into the sea of fans.
The brief set ended just before midnight, which made sense considering Bada$$ is still in high school. Still, he and his crew left a lasting impression with the posse cut “Suspect,” allowing all the MCs to prove themselves one last time. Afterwards, they kicked a cypher with nothing but a beatboxer for the backdrop. With this crew, everything old is new again.
Written By Eric Diep (@E_Diep)