On Thursday 26th October Joey Bada$$ returned to Manchester and blessed the Albert Hall with Sampa The Great as his support act. I was first introduced to Sampa The Great after a friend recommended her to me since I listened to Hiatus Kaiyote, Jordan Rakei and REMI. Like her Australian counterparts, Sampa The Great’s music is firmly rooted in hip-hop and soul.
At a hip-hop show the energy is often conserved for the main act, but Sampa The Great caused a ruckus with her track Blue Boss. When this dropped, there was a noticeable change of energy in the room as everyone was captivated by the bassline, flute-like sample and the confidence with which she flowed over the track and owned the stage. I first saw Joey Bada$$ at Manchester Academy in December 2014, when he was supported by a then unknown Loyle Carner. As Loyle impressed in 2014, Sampa has impressed in 2017 and I have no doubts I will be seeing her again at her own headline show soon.
Joey Bada$$ is now one of two artists who I have seen live 3 times, the other artist being J Cole. People often question why I choose to see the same artist multiple times but in doing so you get to see their growth as an artist and you get a sense of what direction their art is heading in.
Socio-commentary has always played a huge role in Joey’s music and while artists often drop the conscious aspect of their art to increase sales, Joey has brought the consciousness to the forefront of his music. Released at a time of heightened racial tensions in the USA, singles such as For My People and Land of The Free focus heavily on the plights that he, as a young black male, faces in America. However still staying true to his name, the soul-nourishing music was aptly supplemented with the raw and gully hip hop that was reminiscent of his prior projects, 1990 and B4.Da.A$$. One moment Joey was stood in bright lights communicating his people’s strife, whilst the next he was orchestrating a mosh pit to his song No.99.
At 22 years old, Joey's stage presence is better than most, his lyrics are powerful and the fan base for him and his collective, Pro (gressive) Era, is extremely strong. This was demonstrated most with the final song of the show, Survival Tactics which featured his late friend, Capital STEEZ. The audience, to which Joey was visibly touched, rapped STEEZ’s verse.
In addition to seeing Joey in Manchester in 2014, I saw him in Amsterdam at Encore festival in 2016 when he was joined on stage by a band. At a festival, the acoustics of the band were not great and it detracted from his performance. So far in an intimate setting I have only seen Joey accompanied by a DJ and perhaps on his next return to Manchester a band would add to his progression as an artist.
Words: Lehin Adenekan