What happens when a millennial rapper with an old soul connects with a Gen Z fanbase infatuated with mid-’90s hip hop? A sold-out show with a vibration unlike any other. Last week, Brooklyn, NY emcee and actor Joey Bada$$ (government name Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott) returned to The Fillmore Silver Spring for his 1999-2000 Summer Tour.
On July 8, a line of young fans stretched down the street leading to the concert venue. Some of them would pass the time by ostentatiously discussing acts from the golden age of rap. I overheard a concertgoer trying to impress friends with his knowledge of De La Soul. The Long Island trio, which helped to shift the course of hip hop with their 1989 release “3 Feet High and Rising,” reached the apex of their popularity well before the name-dropping youngster was born. Initially, this surprised me, but in retrospect, it makes sense.
Joey Bada$$ released his debut mixtape a decade ago. The aptly titled “1999” was a boom-bap opus from a lyricist with a razor tongue. A 17-year olds musical interpretation of a bygone era not lost on fans raised on Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, and MF Doom. Now a vet in the game, Joey’s music reminds hip hop heads — young and old(er) — of why they fell in love with the genre.
Listen to 1999 by Joey Bada$$ on Spotify:
During the show, fans rhymed nearly word-for-word to “Waves,” “Paper Trail$,” and “Rockabye Baby.” Chants of “Joey, Joey, Joey” filled the gaps between songs. Bodies collided in makeshift moshpits as Joey Bada$$ performed “Survival Tactics.” The ovations were befitting the return of a rap hero after a long interval.
It has been five years since the release of Joey’s last album, “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$.” Why so long? He was chasing his other passion — acting. Joey Bada$$, the thespian, would take the lead in the 2020 Oscar-winning Netflix short film “Two Distant Strangers.” He played Inspectah Deck in Hulu’s “Wu-Tang: An American Saga.” The rapper turned actor had a recurring role as Leon on the award-winning television series “Mr. Robot.” Despite success in front of the camera, Bada$$ doesn’t appear ready to step away from the mic.
“Should I stick to acting,” Joey asked fans during the show. The audience’s reply was clear. Joey appeased them with performances of new material, including “Where I Belong” and his recently released single with Chance the Rapper, “The Highs & The Lows.”
Fans were at a fever pitch when JID joined Joey during his performance of “Distance.” As the Atlanta rapper exited the stage, Joey announced that JID would be on his upcoming album, “2000” — release date, July 22, 2022.
My fellow Gen Xers, one day, you may find yourself saying, “they don’t make music like they used to.” Resist the temptation. Joey Bada$$’s recent performance, and the fans that showed up, are a testament to the timelessness of hip-hop’s gilded age.
Other highlights from the show included performances of:
- “Big Dusty,” B4.DA.$$ (2015)
- “Hazeus View,” B4.DA.$$ (2015)
- “For My People,” All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (2017)
- “Temptation,” All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (2017)
- “Devastated,” All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (2017)
- “Love Is Only a Feeling”(2017)
Here are some photos from the Joey Bada$$ show at The Fillmore Silver Spring on July 8, 2022. All photos are copyright and courtesy of Will Colbert.