The United States Capitol building was raided and vandalized on Jan. 6, 2021. This event was just another example of civil unrest during Trump’s presidency. From the increased exposure of police brutality to Confederate flags being flown in the capitol building, America has seen more than its fair share of worrisome events.
Joey Bada$$ released ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ (AABA) on April 7, 2017. Bada$$ is not one to shy away from the topics of systemic racism or police brutality. That, and much more, is what AABA is centered around.
In a perfect world, AABA, along with its themes, would sound outdated rather quickly. The truth is, however, that this album seems more applicable for today’s times.
The final track on the album, “AMERIKKKAN IDOL,” features his most blatant criticisms and hopes for change on the entire project. On the outro of the song, he says, “What the government is doin' amongst our people is downright evil / Disturbin', but not surprisin', that's for certain / With all of the conflict of propaganda, I believe they are simply tryna slander / Start a Civil War within the U.S.A amongst black and white and those alike / They are simply pushin' us to our limit so that we can all get together and get with it / They want us to rebel, so that it makes easier for them to kill us and put us in jails / Alton Sterlings are happenin' every day in this country and around the world / … Who do we call when the police break the law? / People actin' like this s*** isn't happenin', it's downright wrong / Justice won't be served by a hashtag, and that's the very reason I ask that / What are we to do?”
Although it’s not hard to tell what the album may be about just by looking at the cover or seeing the strategic placement of “KKK” within certain words, listening to this album, and the outro in particular, seems like one big call to action that he is putting out.
AABA is not just an album about police brutality or racism, it’s also an album that highlights not only the struggles that black people had to endure centuries ago but the societal limitations that are still placed on black people today, regardless of their status.
While no album can single handedly change the outcome of the fight for social justice, AABA lays the groundwork for what using your voice for change can sound or look like. From major historical events in the past century like the Civil Rights movement, “White Flight,” police brutality and so, so much more, Joey Bada$$ makes it clear that the U.S. government has hardly, if ever, been on the side of the minorities.
Hip-hop has always had artists that have shed light on social inequality, racism and police brutality. People like N.W.A were some of the first popular hip-hop artists to bring politics into their music and use their voices to bring change. Hip-hop has seen a resurgence of politically-charged hip-hop in recent years, especially since the election of Donald Trump. From artists like Kendrick Lamar and his project To Pimp a Butterfly, J. Cole, Vic Mensa, Joey Bada$$ and many more, hip-hop is starting to become a platform to encourage change on a bigger scale.
While Bada$$’s album is extraordinary both sonically and contextually, it’s not ideal to feel the need to create a body of work like this. While he has surprisingly failed to respond to an Instagram DM from someone with 750 followers, one could only imagine that Bada$$ would not want this album to remain relevant.
ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ is a beautiful yet uncomforting project that is bound to force the listeners to think about or even have conversations about injustice in America. Joey Bada$$’s honesty and transparency toward the listeners and himself is evident throughout the project as he, time and time again, demands change from the U.S. government.
Bada$$ did on this album what many people want celebrities to do: use his voice to promote positive change. The number of protests and demonstrations have risen dramatically since the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, which are two (of many) cases where there was no significant systematic change afterward.
Whether it be the growing bipartisan disapproval of Donald Trump, whom Bada$$ denounces multiple times on AABA, or the growing number of protests surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, Joey Bada$$ has been one of the biggest voices for change in and beyond hip-hop.