Joey Bada$$ & The Pro-Era's Track By Track Breakdown of 1999

Joey Bada$$ Lead

Throwback beats nostalgic of the early '90s East Coast hip-hop? Check. Wordplay and flow that's effortlessly New York? Check. A crew of friends from the 'hood down to make music? Check. Joey Bada$$, the much talked about 17-year-old talent from Brooklyn, had all the right ingredients to cook up his solid mixtape debut, 1999, which he calls it "a dedication to the '90s since it's recognized as the golden age of hip-hop and '99 being the last year of the era."

His attempt at recapturing the era's vibe has so far garnered positive responses. The 15-track project, consists of original production from Pro Era's in-house beatsmith Chuck Strangers, along with multiple jacked beats across YouTube, details reflective thoughts from inner city youths and bonafide braggadocio. Joey Bada$$ along with his crew Pro Era recently stopped by XXL to break down the creation process behind the heralded mixtape. —Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)

“Summer Knights”

1. Summer Knights

Joey Bada$$: Chuck was home and shit and I just came through the spot.

Chuck Strangers: Yeah! We live—Joey [used to] live like two blocks [away].

Joey Bada$$: We’re from Flatbush. So I just went to his crib and shit ‘cause he had called me. He was like, “Yo, I got this beat for you, and I think it’s the intro for your tape.” And at the time he already produced a beat, which was the intro for my tape, but we were still iffy about it. We were looking for another intro. So I went through and he played the beat for me—first time he played it, I didn’t like it. He played it again and I just let myself melt into it. I was like, “Yo, this shit is crazy.” And then—I already had the verse for it.


2. Waves

Joey Bada$$: Waves? Um, I was at the beach, and it was mad waves [laughs]. I wrote that song in my mom’s room. That was the only song I ever wrote in my mom’s room. It was some specific energy in there that just—I wrote that song from start to finish, I didn’t stop, I didn’t think about anything. I was just writing. And I just put on the beat and I was writing and that’s what it was.

Freddie Joachim is just some dude I found on YouTube. At the time I was browsing some YouTube beats, and I just came across a beat and I did it. It was just that beat. He never reached out to me or anything. I don’t think he likes the song. [Chuckles.] We never connected. I followed him on Twitter; he didn’t follow me back. I gave him his credit on the beat. I’m sure he seen it.


3. FromdaTomb$

Chuck Strangers: I was at my homie’s house and we were playing L.A. Noire. He was like, “Yo, you should chop that up.” I was like, “No.” [Laughs.] That’s dumb. But I chopped it up. I played it for Joey he was all over it.

Joey Bada$$: It was fucking dope! “FromdaTomb$” that’s just the mood I was in. I actually didn’t have a second verse. And Chuck was like, “Yo, I got a verse.” And then the third verse just came out of nowhere.

“Survival Tactics”

4. Survival Tactics

Joey Bada$$: We were just like, "Yo, that shit is too hard. We got to put it out." We recorded it, and we put it out on the same night. Actually I did.

Capital STEEZ: I did a cover to “Yonkers” by Tyler, the Creator. Basically, I asked our boy who produced that song to show me some eclectic hip-hop and he showed me the Styles and Beyond. And Joey had a verse like, "Niggas don’t want war." So I played this and I said, "Yo, this song is called ‘Survival Tactics’ because he says survival, let’s just use it." And that’s how it started. The dude Vin Skully, he produced for Styles of Beyond. We took the beat. It was like our first real shit. Now we can introduce ourselves as Pro Era.


5. Killuminati

Chuck Strangers: That’s my favorite song on the whole thing.

Joey Bada$$: I’m trying to remember how it came about. I just came across the beat produced by Knxwledge. And I wrote to it, and basically sent it out to everybody, got opinions on it, and STEEZ was like, "Yo, I got a verse." And he just put his verse on it. We don’t double think it, I like the way it sounds, and by the time it’s released we haven’t thought of a new name. So it’s like, "Fuck it." We was actually going to name it "Audiopium."


6. Hardknock

CJ Fly: I’m from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. I’m just a fly guy. It was never really nothing materialistic. I always figured I had dreams of being fly. I never liked to be on the same level as everybody else. So I felt like fly was another level above. But, yeah, with that track, Joey and I were at his crib chilling. I have a cousin who’s across the river, and he has a friend who was locked up, too. So we just found the beat, and we were like, ‘Yo, why don’t we make a song about this?’ We just went with it. Put our verses on it—we went over to his crib, we recorded at his house. Went to Joey’s room and just knocked it out. We did our verses. I did my verse when I was by his house. He worked on his verses, and based it off each other’s energy and just made it into a song.

Joey Bada$$: I actually found [Lewis Parker] on YouTube. He’s from the UK, and he actually reached out to me. He sent me some more shit—he’s really cool.

“World Domination”

7. World Domination

Joey Bada$$: I was just chilling; I was in my crib—in the zone as always. I was just sitting by my computer and came across this MF Doom beat. And then the whole idea just formulated in my head. I just wrote it, and I recorded it one time.


8. Pennyroyal

Joey Bada$$: That’s one of my favorite tracks, actually. When you hear it, it just takes over your mood.

Chuck Stranger: Nobody ever came with a perspective on girls like that. If somebody’s being real about a girl it’s in a way that’s kind of like you don’t give a fuck. Like this nigga’s feelings’ hurt, I get it. This is some shit where you are tight one second, and then you go off on some shit and then you remember you’re mad at this bitch. It’s some real shit.

“Funky Ho’$”

9. Funky Ho'$

Joey Bada$$: Yeah, smelly bitches. Smelly, slimy girls. I was just on YouTube as usual, browsing beats. This time I came across this beat by Lord Finesse. I actually forgot, but I came across it—as soon as I heard the beat, the whole verse just came into my head, and then when I was through with the verse, the hook just came into my head.

“Daily Routine”

10. Daily Routine

Chuck Strangers: There’s a video of us working. The sample is Isley Brothers’ "The Highways of My Life." So I played the beat for him or whatever and he came up with his little raps and then we recorded all for the Adidas joint. That’s actually one of my favorite joints too. I tried to mix old with the new? So I tried to bring the new fast tracks, but still on some bap shit.

Joey Bada$$: We did that on the spot. Yeah, [Chuck Strangers] bodied that. You were successful. Everybody’s talking about that shit, too.

Morgan Steiker (Publicist): The project with Adidas was called "Songs from Scratch," where basically the idea was to get an artist in the studio and show the process of them making the song from scratch. They both went into the studio, Kirk [Knight] was there that day, and we went to the studio in Williamsburg called Dunham Studios.


11. Snakes

Joey Bada$$: That was T’nah [Apex] on the hook. I wrote that song the same time I wrote "World Domination." I was just in a creative zone, and then this time I was just browsing beats. After I was done with the MF Doom phase I went into J Dilla and I was just browsing beats and I came across a beat called "Allen Family" by J Dilla and it pretty much flowed. The last verse I already had that written, but the first two and the hook, they flowed. I actually got the idea from freestyling because what I do is, record myself freestyling for about an hour and I go back and listen to it and get the ideas. Yeah, that’s how I got it.

T’nah Apex: I first [met Pro Era] when I was a senior in high school. I hadn’t done any shows at school, and I just decided to do something before I leave school. I did a show and that’s where I met STEEZ and CJ. So CJ asked me if I could be on a mixtape of his. I was excited; I hadn’t done anything with my music yet so it was cool. And then I ended up meeting the rest of them at this studio at our friend Eli’s house and that’s where it pretty much started.

“Don’t Front”

12. Don't Front

Joey Bada$$: Yo, that track was made from like, no lie—

Chuck Strangers: From scratch.

Joey Bada$$: Not only was it made from scratch; it was made in like eight minutes. Dead ass. We went to see [Statik Selectah] because he did the scratches on ‘FromtheTomb$’ record. And then he just started playing us beats, and then the beat for ‘Don't Front’ automatically formulated in both of our heads. And Statik was just like, "Yo, just record." So we just recorded. Like 60% of that song is just freestyle. That’s what I do basically. I just start off with the freestyling and I’ll listen back to it and be like, "Yo, maybe I should’ve said this instead."

“Righteous Minds”

13. Righteous Minds

Joey Bada$$: I actually wasn’t going to put that on the tape. Thanks to CJ, it’s on there. I just didn’t like it. It was just something about it that I didn’t like, and I wasn’t going to put it on the tape. But then CJ was like, "Nah, you got to." It ended up being most people’s favorite [track].

CJ Fly: That shit is hard, bro.

Joey Bada$$: That was actually by a Pro. He’s part of the [group]. It was a remake of another beat. I forgot what beat it was. We linked with this guy through YouTube. [There’s] this guy named Elbee Thrie from Phony PPL, who we went to school with. He made a status like, ‘What’s your favorite machine to make beats?’ So I commented the name of instruments, and then Bruce LeeKix had commented like, "Yo, I make all my beats to…" And then he put a link to his YouTube videos. I checked them out. I ended up liking every beat that I played, so I just hit him up, and he was like, "Yo, I’m down to send you guys some beats." We never met him in person though, he’s going to come to New York this summer to hang out.

“Where It’$ At”

14. Where It's At

Joey Bada$$: It was just an average day. I was linking up with CJ and I just went to his crib. He had just got his speakers, so we were just browsing beats. I just heard the beat and we started freestyling the hook and we was like, "Tell’me where it’s at, and I’m in that spot!" [Laughs.] We were doing the ad-libs and shit, just fucking around, and ended up recording by [CJ Fly’s] crib. He was originally on it. But at the time he was already on ‘Hardknock’ and I was like, "Yo, son, you should probably give this to another Pro instead of being on two tracks." But he ended up being on two tracks anyway.

Kirk Knight: I was on the train, and I was thinking about this girl, and then I saw a nice girl on the train. Originally, I was thinking about my dream girl. So then I was just writing, and it was a no brainer.


15. Suspect

Joey Bada$$: I was like last minute changing it and calling it "The Shift." ‘Cause that’s what it was. "Third-eye Shift."

Chuck Strangers: Originally I made the beat for STEEZ and then we all heard the beat. We came up with the hook together…I don’t know if you’ll like it, but the hook should go like, ‘Suspect niggas don’t come outside’—and then [STEEZ] came up with the second part "well, I deserve my respect."

A La $ole: I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was my graduation night, and I was out in Queens. One of the people called and was like, "Yo, come to the studio, and drop everything you’re doing" and I’m like "I’m not in the borough."

Joey Bada$$: We recorded this the same day as "FromdaTomb$."

Chuck Strangers: We recorded this at Premier’s studio.

Multiple Voices: T’nah killed it. Kirk messed up the most!

Kirk Knight: I had to do like 47 takes. I don’t like when people stare at me when I record. I usually record in a dark room.