Author: Michael Tonetti|Keegan McChesney
Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott, better known by his alias Joey Bada$$, had sweat dripping from the Echoplex walls last Friday night. Bada$$, along with fellow Progressive Era (Pro Era) members Dyemond Lewis, CJ Fly, Nyck Caution, Chuck Strangers, Kirk Knight and West Coast sensation Vince Staples, is on a cross-continental tour that started on Sept. 26 in New Haven, Conn. Los Angeles was the crew’s 17th stop on the 35-concert tour.
The B4.DA.$$. Tour is the concert release tour for Bada$$’s debut studio album of the same title. B4.DA.$$ is not only the name of the album, but also a clever twist on the young musician’s name and an allusion to the high expectations of his debut studio release.
Bada$$ honed his talents in his youth by freestyling and writing poetry with friends on the streets of Brooklyn. He released his first solo mixtape, “1999,” at age 17, which garnered high accolades by the hip-hop community. In 2013, shortly after he was named one of 11 XXL Magazine’s Freshman to Watch, Bada$$ released his mixtape/EP “Summer Knights” to less acclaim than his first project.
Since then, fans have eagerly awaited the release of his first full-length studio project, which the young artist teased for over a year. So far, he has released three singles off the project, two of which he performed on Friday: “Christ Conscious” and “Get Paid.”
Pro Era was formed by high school classmates Bada$$, the late Capital STEEZ, Fly and Powers Pleasant. The group, only a few years out of the high school where they met, is a self-described hip-hop-based collective originating from Brooklyn, N.Y. Despite their youth, Pro Era have burst onto the scene like seasoned veterans.
In a venue packed full of anticipation, Bada$$ and his crew exceeded the crowd’s expectations. The charismatic nature of the young rapper drew in the audience, and the fierce malevolence of his flow demonstrated the artist’s maturity. By interspersing weed anthems, gangsta’ raps, love songs and socially-conscious tracks, Bada$$ took the crowd at the Echoplex on a hip-hop roller coaster. Screaming at the top of their lungs and with their hands held high, the crowd undoubtedly enjoyed the ride.
Knight opened the B4.DA.$$ Tour with a strong set. His rhythmic flow and energy-inducing enthusiasm proved to the crowd that Pro Era’s talents extend far beyond just Bada$$. Knight’s performance laid the foundation for an evening focused on the Pro Era family, rather than the individual performances of each rapper. The sentiment was emphasized by the tributes that Knight and several of the other performers payed to Capital STEEZ, who committed suicide in 2012.
Fly graced the venue next with a sophisticated stage presence. In a similar fashion to Knight, Fly engaged the crowd in chants of “Stee-lo, Stee-lo, Stee-lo” in honor of Capital STEEZ, as well as other Pro Era chants. Due to the successful release of his mixtape last year, “The Way Eye See It,” Fly had many crowd members rapping along to the lyrics.
The only non-Pro Era artist of the night—recent Def Jam Recordings signee, Staples—brought a violent, aggressive energy to the crowd that transferred over to the main act. Hip-hop heads bowed to legendary producer Statik Selektah, who took to the turntables for the penultimate performance. From behind the curtains, Bada$$ himself finally emerged to chants of “Joey, Joey, Joey!”
Despite not coming onto the stage until more than two hours after the show began, Bada$$ could not have received a warmer welcome. He began his set with “World Domination,” a hit from “1999,” that is perhaps a foreshadowing of his, and the rest of Pro Era’s, future. Bada$$ performed other tracks off of this project, including “Summer Knights,” and, of course, singles off his upcoming album.
In addition, he treated the crowd with an unreleased track, “On and On,” which he said held an especially spiritual significance to him.
Perhaps the most moving moment of the night, however, came before the finale, when Bada$$ paid homage to his co-founder, classmate, best friend and brother, Capital STEEZ. While all of the performers acknowledged their late friend, only one dignified Brooklyn voice commanded enough respect to bring the mosh-smitten crowd to a complete silence. After rocking an audience well-versed in Pro Era lyrics, Bada$$ asked the masses for a moment of silence to remember their fallen brother before he incited one last mosh and brought his whole crew on stage.
“I saw Joey perform once before and although it was a great show, last night blew it out of the water,” Ryan Banard (first-year) said. “It could have been the intimacy of the Echoplex or just how his East Coast style of rap influences the music on the West Coast. Either way, this show was well worth it.”
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