‘1999’ to Infinity: How Joey Bada$$ Put Me On


by Anijah Boyd

As a child I would fashion dresses and wigs out of pillowcases at the approval of my grandmother. The makeshift clothing served as my wardrobe for countertop performances, where I would dance to the sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire, The Isley Brothers, Bobby Womack and more as my grandmother cleaned our home. Growing up much of my time was spent with her while my mother worked to provide a better life for me than She had envisioned for herself. As a result, my musical knowledge was confined to classic soul and R&B artists like Curtis Mayfield, The Gap Band, G.Q., Bobby Womack, Marvin Gaye, DeBarge and many more. And though these artists influenced it through melodies, harmonies and samples, Hip-Hop wouldn’t appear on my radar until many years later-2012 to be exact.

It was that year when “Righteous Mind$” by Joey Bada$$ slid across my Twitter timeline. The cover intrigued me so I listened, and after diving into “Snake$” and then 1999 in its entirety I knew one thing: boom bap made my heart skip a beat.

Joey was unlike any artist I had heard before, and even more unlike any rapper at the time. His beats were reminiscent of the drums and hard-hitting snares that defined the East Coast in the 1990s. His lyrics were original and versatile. Few at his age rivaled his respect and passion for the genre. And, let’s be honest, hardly anyone else was freestyling over Dilla beats.

Joey Bada$$ was authentic, unique, and my introduction to Hip-Hop. His work-coupled with that of his fellow Pro Era members-provided me with the one thing humans desire most in a state of sadness or sorrow: comfort. 

I remember sitting on the side of my bed bawling as Capital STEEZ’s “Infinity and Beyond” and “HYPE Beast” played in the background. But it was “Wave$” that made my connection to Joey Bada$$ stronger.

My mom was working a 9-5. Our landlord was fed up. And I too, prayed to Allah. Through the music I felt supported, because everyone needs a place where his or her struggles are affirmed. Where they’re guided to familiarity when they feel lost in the world around them. Where they’re consoled when they feel alone. For me, every time, Hip-Hop was there.

Once I learned that Hip-Hop was my missing peace, I dug into the whole Beast Coast movement and other New York artists like Bishop Nehru and Ken Rebel, the sounds of J Dilla, MF DOOM, Lord Finesse, and the music of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Souls of Mischief. I owe a lot of my own knowledge to Joey Bada$$ and my discovery of his artistry, so much that I often feel like I got an introduction just as special as the people who were with DJ Kool Herc back in ‘73. 

Thanks to Joey I discovered a genre that gives a voice to the otherwise voiceless. To Hip-Hop, I am forever in debt for giving me the courage to use my voice and reminding me that I’m not alone. And, if I ever lose focus or become unsure about where to go next, I’m comforted when I hear Joey Bada$$ say: 

“Since ’95, mama been workin’ 9-5…”