On the start of Summer Knights, Joey Bada$$ lets us know he’s the “reigning champ, hailing from Flatbush, Brooklyn...” This grandiose, yet soulful introduction leads you to believe that there will be similarities from his highly regarded project, 2012’s 1999. As it plays through, Summer Knights is completely different. He takes you to basement nostalgia because the tone and vibe are much darker. He’s not here to joke around. He’s here to spit.

The 2013 XXL Freshmen's omnipresent confidence is in full swing here, as seen in lyrical gems “Satellite,” and “Amethyst Rockstar.” He exuberates mannerisms of BK on cypher-like songs, 47 Goonz” & “Sorry Bonita,” where the essence of old-school MC-ing is brought to life. He came to be loved for his lyricism and he gave us exactly that going bar after bar. At the same time, he has an ability to balance a hard-hitting MC, while packaging in songs made to cruise to.

Just like 1999, there are remnants of ‘90s chill-vibe. The Navie D.-produced “Sweet Dreams” and the Chuck Strangers-produced tracks—“Reign” and “My Yout”—are perfect examples containing strong reggae influences. The tape’s standout is the Lee Bannon-produced “95 Til’ Infinity,” where Joey flows with this hard, DMX-like flow over a soulful sample where he lets you know why he thinks he’s the best. “Cause they will never stop for a young Black male/ Black mailed in braille that means what he felt,” he raps with bravado.

“#LongLiveSteelo” is the STEEZ homage track that many had been waiting for. Rarely addressing the issue in public, Joey reveals to the public as much as he can without getting too personal. All over these emotion-evoking strings, he explains a lot without saying much, “Why did you have to go? It hurt me inside/ I feel guilty walking around with false pride.”

1999 was Joey’s “coming-of-age” project. He was simply a high school kid in Brooklyn and was making the youthful, relaxed music that any 17-year-old would. Only one year later, a combination of the gleaming success that he has been experiencing since its release, to which he says, “King me like James, straight out of high school” in “Reign”, and Capital STEEZ’s death this past December, we are seeing a different Joey. Summer Knights is for the hip-hip heads and less for the kids that are Joey’s usual teenaged fanbase. But now with new life experiences, Joey is here to prove that they’re one in the same.—Abrea Armstrong (@abreaknowsbest)

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