Concert Review: Joey Bada$$ in Toronto

“Throw ya hands up and put your egos down”.

Check out the RLGT concert review of Joey Bada$$’s 2018 Amerikkkana Tour.

Joey Bada$$ delivered a powerful, electric performance at the Phoenix Concert Hall in Toronto.

I bought pre-sale tickets back in February with my friend Flan after successfully guessing the promo code. It was a concert I honestly forgot was happening until Ticketmaster emailed me a few days before.

We got there just over an hour before the doors opened, securing a decent spot in the already growing queue. It wasn’t long until the line outside the venue tripled with an eclectic crowd of Pro Era stans rocking t-shirts and clutching vinyl records. One could say we were prepared, having studied up on Joey with his three most popular projects in a constant rotation that week (being 1999, B4.DA.$$ and All-Amerikkkan Bada$$). I also listened to Summer Knights, but really just ‘cause of “95 Till Infinity”.

Once we got in, it was a go. Joey had a preshow rotation of reggae beats, something to get tired of after being there for just 10 minutes. Lucky for us it went on for about an hour. Powers Pleasant, a Toronto-born producer, came out to warm up the crowd with a variety of hip-hop bangers around 9. When he left the stage, we waited another 45 minutes or so until Chuck Strangers, a Pro Era signee came out and delivered some hard-hitting verses. I didn’t know any of his songs but was engaged by his old-school style of rap. The guy dropped some mf’n bars too. It was around 10:15 when the crowd started getting restless, featuring various boos and chants for the show to start. Things really weren’t looking too good and, in all honesty, it was getting kind of ridiculous. Any hype that had been generated from the openers was dead, plus we knew Boogie and Buddy were still scheduled to go on before Joey did.

SIDE NOTE: Joey later informed us that Boogie and Buddy, who never performed, got caught at the border and weren’t allowed to enter our homeland. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume this might’ve been why Joey came on late, as he was trying to get them through customs.

The stage setup reflected that of an old warzone. A massive bunker was dead center, with the DJ setup right behind it. Retro-looking guns and barbed-wire covered it, the bunker book-ended by two dark blue barrels. Then the old shitty venue finally went black. It was about time.

Joey Bada$$ opened with “Rockabye Baby”, a fan-favourite energizer off of AABA. The songs that followed failed to capture that same energy, something that made me nervous. Not gonna lie I was anxious, hoping the show hadn’t already reached it’s peak.

Thankfully from there, the concert improved exponentially, due to Joey and the audience alike hitting their rhythm. He performed cuts derived from all over his discography, a setlist that included his mixtapes, features, throwaway singles and lastly studio-albums. We assisted him while rapping various throwbacks such as “Survival Tactics” and “Hardknock”. Bounced during “No.99” and “Christ Conscious”. Sang our hearts out during “Temptation” and “For My People”. Joey was interacting with the crowd more often between songs, something that seemed to come naturally to him exemplifying a genuine connection with his fanbase.

“I got people in my ear tellin’ me to wrap my set up ‘cause apparently they gonna kick me off soon. Ni**a I’ll be done when I wanna be f*ckin’ done”.

Joey Bada$$ is an incredible performer. His effort is substantial and passionate. A few moments arose that gave Flan and I chills, not exactly sure whether that was because of the energy in him, the energy in the crowd, or from both. It was a strange sensation, enjoying a hip-hop performance that much although there was little-to-no moshing. Everyone was really just taking everything in and appreciating the moment – which was nice for a change. Joey rapped over his signature New York boom-bap production, without any background vocals (for the most part). There are no gimmicks, no autotune, no extravagance. The Amerikkkana Tour is simply Joey rapping Joey, for an entire set.

The final moments of that night were the most memorable. Joey Bada$$ closed the set with “Pull Up”, an instant favorite of mine when it dropped a few months ago. Its simple, repetitive bridge and chorus made it the perfect mosh-pit cut. In the end, everyone knew that it was just a build-up to the inevitable climax that is “Devastated” (which may have been my favourite live performance to date). It was wedged in as the encore and the fans f*cking loved it, to the point in which it was played three times. I personally have never gotten that wild in the pit before. With lyrics, such as “at times I thought we’d never make it, but now we on our way to greatness”, I couldn’t help but wonder how cool it must be for Joey to perform that song to a sold-out audience every night. Looking back, he really has come a long way. I believe he definitely has potential to be one of the greats, with an already cult-like fan following. The young MC has a special quality about him and a work-ethic that goes miles.

Joey Bada$$’s fans adore him and I hope he appreciates that as an artist. To come on so late, yet still be so respected is a quality that not many artists have. The first few songs lacked energy, awkward as everyone had been annoyingly waiting for Joey to finally arrive and seemed agitated once he finally did. But his on-stage charisma, lyrical ability, and showmanship won everybody over in the end. It felt powerful. Joey, donning a bullet-proof vest flowed with content expressing messages about black power and what it means to be truly free. As “Devastated” rounded out for the final time, everything was honestly pretty inspiring. I hope his next album bangs because there’s more of a legacy for him to leave behind. I also hope that if I see him when he comes back, he doesn’t show up late as f*ck again.

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