Jo-Vaughn Scott was attending Edward R. Murrow High School when he first started honing his musical abilities. The aspiring actor pivoted to the intricate art of emceeing alongside a small posse of likeminded classmates, who united under the banner of Progressive Era. On leaving school, Scott had traded aspirations for actuality: as Joey Bada$$, he'd already released one of the decade's most acclaimed mixtapes.
Bada$$' 1999, as the title suggests, is steeped in the same East Coast sensibilities that reigned throughout the artist's infancy. He brings a curiously indebted sound to his debut release, revelling in the tenets of New York's mid-90s dominance whilst showcasing his own substantial musical skills. Flowing atop beats from MF DOOM, J. Dilla, Knxwledge, Lord Finesse and Statik Selektah, Joey seamlessly slips between the past and the present. Ultimately, 1999 would act as a launchpad for Bada$$' collective, Pro Era, kickstarting the careers of artists such as Kirk Knight and Chuck Strangers. It also signified the birth of the Beast Coast movement, a revival of regional hip hop prowess built atop promising young talent.
In celebration of the landmark tape, we delved into the samples that comprise the 2012 debut, identifying and contextualising their place in musical history. From cosmic jazz to Queensbridge classics, this is 1999.
This smooth track recalls Nas' "The Genesis," opening with candid chatter before launching into the opening track. Built around a cosmic jazz sample, it's one of the album's smoother moments.
Pro Era member Chuck Strangers builds "Summer Knights" atop Lonnie Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes' 1975 track, "Summer Nights." The closing track from Visions Of A New World, it remains one of Smith's most successful and enduring tunes.
LL Smith is a himself a prolific figure in hip hop, having been sampled by artists such as JAY-Z, Rick Ross, AZ, Big K.R.I.T. and Chance the Rapper, the latter of which was sued for his uncleared sample.
Arguably one of Bada$$' most memorable tracks, "Waves" makes great use of a now-popular beat by blessing it with some memorable lyrics and a potent artistic contention. An affirmation of Joey's old school sensibilities and passion for the art of emceeing itself, "Waves" makes for a fitting distillation of the greater tape.
The smooth beat underpinning "Waves" is a composition by San Diego-based producer Freddie Joachim. He built it around two samples: one from Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson's "Peace Go With You, Brother (As-Salaam-Alaikum)," and another from Monk Higgins & The Specialites' "One Man Band."
This beat achieved further fame when it was used for J. Cole's 2016 single, "False Prophets."
The spoken sample at 2:17 is lifted from an interview with Tupac, broadcast as part of a posthumous feature on the legendary rapper. The actual interview occurred in New York City in 1992, presumably promoting the release of his debut album, 2Pacalypse Now.
Though eventually counted amongst Pac's most significant releases, the album yielded no hit singles and took over 3 years to go Gold.
"FromDaTomb$" features the microphone debut of Pro Era member Chuck Strangers. Primarily a producer in his early career, Strangers produced album opener "Summer Knights" and 1999 cut "Daily Routine." He would go on to produce tracks such as "My Yout," "Reign," "Escape 120," "Black Beetles" and "Rockabye Baby." His debut solo album, Consumers Park, dropped in March 2018.
Strangers assembles the unique beat from Andrew Hale's instantly-recognisable "Main Theme" to L.A. Noire. A Rockstar Games production, L.A. Noire was a critically acclaimed neo-noir procedural.
It was the first video game to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The echoing chorus that quietly repeats "go Brooklyn, go Brooklyn" is lifted from Stetsasonic's 1986 track, "Go Stetsa."
A pioneering outfit, Stetsasonic were one of the first hip hop groups to use a live band. Group members Prince Paul and Frukwan went on to found Gravediggaz, an outfit that pioneered the horrorcore subgenre. Paul is best remembered for his production work alongside De La Soul.
Often remembered as one of Capital STEEZ's most impressive moments, "Survival Tactics" is pure lyrical intimidation. Whilst it finds both Joey and STEEZ at their most vicious, it's arguably a renegade performance from the Pro Era co-founder. STEEZ committed suicide on December 23, 2012, less than a year after his appearances on 1999 and the release of his debut mixtape, AmeriKKKan Korruption.
The instrumental is lifted from Styles of Beyond's 1998 "Survival Tactics." That 1998 album track was included on the underground group's debut album, 2000 Fold. Critically acclaimed but commercially maligned, the group became ultimately best known for their work on Fort Minor's debut album.
Capital STEEZ interpolates Cutty Ranks at 1:54, referencing the opening lyrics from 1996's "A Who Seh Me Dun" - "six million ways to die, choose one." These lyrics doubled as the name of the record, Ranks' fifth.
One of the strangest beats on 1999 is supplied by Knxwledge, which should come as no surprise to those familiar with the eccentric beatsmith. Joey and STEEZ link up again, this time with an assist from one of instrumental hip hop's most individualistic producers.
The "Killuminati" beat is taken from "WhºK∆res," a track from Knxwledge's 2010 tape, SKR∆WBERRiE.UNR∆iSRS VO.. Knxwledge himself samples from Soul Generation's 1972 ballad, "That's The Way It's Gotta Be (Body and Soul)."
The base instrumental is taken from Lewis Parker's 1998 track, "Eyes of Dreams." A London-born hip hop producer, Parker is largely enigmatic considering his two-decade stint in music. He's active on both Twitter and Soundcloud.
At 3:22, Joey parrots one of the most famous lyrics in East Coast hip hop: "I'm out for Presidents to represent me."
Originally spat by Nas in "The World Is Yours," the lyric was flipped by a young JAY-Z for "Dead Presidents." This is often seen as the first incident in one of hip hop's most venomous beefs, one that was only settled once Nas dropped what may be the most famous diss track of all time.
Joey's second lyrical interpolation at 3:43 pays tribute to Mobb Deep's classic single, 1995's "Shook Ones Part. II." It's a standout from their sophomore album, The Infamous, one of the East Coast's defining golden age records. It's no surprise that Joey would pay tribute to Havoc and Prodigy on this nostalgic mixtape.
The first of a two-track sequence that borrows beats from NYC underground legend MF DOOM, "World Domination" is a lighthearted brag delivered over a honky-tonk piano loop.
It should come as no surprise that the comedic opening dialogue is lifted from the introduction to Pinky and The Brain, an Animaniacs spinoff that ran for four seasons between 1995 and 1998. The sampled dialogue - "the same thing we do every night, Pinky - try and take over the world!" - is the show's most popular catchphrase.
Joey's fairly upfront here: "Pennyroyal" is "another love song gone wrong." Working DOOM's beat mournfully, he recalls a romance gone awry and references JAY-Z's ode to the difficulties of emotional vulnerability.
There are two things Joey Bada$$ would never do. He spends "Funky Ho'$" telling us what those two things are, and exactly why he's averse to them. Production is handled by NYC legend Lord Finesse, who originally produced the sampled instrumental in 1999. Finesse is most famous as the founder of the Diggin' In The Crates Crew, home to artists such as Big L, Fat Joe, Buckwild, Diamond D and O.C.
The sole sample on "Funky Ho'$," Xperadó's "All Night," houses three samples:
Pro Era's in house producer, Chuck Strangers, mans the decks for "Daily Routine," the third of his four production credits.
Perhaps one of the most prolifically sampled groups of all time, The Isley Brothers are practically rap royalty. On "Daily Routine," Strangers flips "The Highway Of My Life," a single off their classic record 3 + 3.
Featuring Pro Era femcee T'Nah Apex takes the hook on "Snakes," one of 1999's most laidback tracks. Apex mysteriously disappeared sometime between 2014 and 2015, leaving Pro Era and abandoning social media. She's yet to resurface, leading to much speculation as to the nature of her departure.
"Snakes" samples a beat by legendary crate-digging producer J Dilla. The beat first appeared on Illa J's "Alien Family," off his debut 2008 album, Yancey Boys. Dilla - who died in 2006 - created the beat between 1995 and 1998, during his tenure at Delicious Vinyl.
On CJ Fly's second appearance - the first being "Hardknock" - he and Joey wax poetic about memories of a girl they once loved. It's deliberately unclear as to whether the girl is a person or a personification of weed itself, a drug Joey quit in 2018.
Statik Selektah takes multiple elements from the first 20 seconds of Lô Borges' "Tudo Que Voce Podia Ser." The 1979 recording of the classic Brazilian track was included on his second solo album, A Via-Láctea.
Borges was a member of Clube da Esquina, one of Brazil's most internationally successful rock/jazz/bossa nova outfits. Borges has released 12 solo LPs, the most recent arriving in 2010.
The titular vocal sample that first appears at 0:05 - "don't front!" - is taken from the Jungle Brothers' "Jimbrowski." That track was featured on the group's 1988 debut album, Straight out the Jungle, which received a coveted 5-mic rating from The Source, a designation reserved for classics.
"Righteous Minds" finds Joey going it alone. Produced by Houston-based artist Bruce LeeKix, the track explores the challenge of carrying on in a violent and unpredictable world marred by betrayal.
The instrumental itself is taken from a section of Monty Alexander's 1974 track, "Love and Happiness." A Jamaican jazz pianist, Alexander is a prolific fixture of the jazz scene, having collaborated with artists such as Ernest Ranglin, Quincy Jones and Dizzy Gillespie.
"Love And Happiness" was included on 1974's Rass!, one of three LPs he released that year.
The distinctive, recurring vibraphone lick that punctuates the track is lifted from David Axelrod's "Holy Thursday." It's the most memorable track on his debut, 1968's Song of Innocence. The phrase "jazz fusion" itself was coined in a review of Alexrod's debut.
"Where It's At"
"Where It's At" features the debut of Pro Era member Kirk Knight, noted for his work as both an emcee and a producer. Knight's debut album, Late Knight Special, dropped in 2015. He linked up with fellow Pro Era member Nyck Caution for 2017's Nyck @ Knight. He's perhaps best known for his production on A$AP Ferg's 2017 hit, "Plain Jane."
The instrumentals that comprise the album were gifted to Illa J by label Delicious Vinyl after Dilla's death in 2005. Dilla had composed the beats during his three years under the label. Prolific even in death, Dilla has continued to foster his legacy through a swathe of posthumous releases.
A relentless posse cut that introduces us to the Pro Era roster, "Suspect" flips an East Coast classic and turns it into a 12-minute flex from Brooklyn's finest. The roster includes, in order of appearance: Capital STEEZ, CJ Fly, Chuck Strangers, Dyemond Lewis, Nyck Caution, Kirk Knight, Rokamouth, T'nah Apex, Dessy Hinds and, finally, Bada$$ himself.
In the years since he burst onto the scene, Bada$$ has become a fixture in modern hiphop. Pro Era, the collective he represents, stands alongside A$AP Mob as vanguards of modern East Coast hip hop, and he's arguably the most successful member of the Beast Coast, a movement which includes NY acts Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers.
His most recent album, 2017's ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$, staked an impressive claim for the mantle of New York. Whilst it's hard to say whether or not Joey's best representing New York, his place amongst the East Coast's best is undeniable: standing alongside artists such as Meechy Darko, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Rocky, Nicki Minaj and Issa Gold, Bada$$ is surely one of the decades most essential NYC rappers.