Joey Bada$$, Auckland NZ, 2017

Joey Bada$$ 
12th January 2018
Powerstation, Auckland, New Zealand.

Review by Sarah Kidd. Photography by Leah Victoria.

Joey Badass performing live in Auckland, New Zealand.

Beg, borrow or steal.

Unless you were lucky enough to have scooped a ticket for tonight’s show, not even the three options above were going to get you in the doors of the Powerstation tonight for Joey Bada$$ sold out show. At only twenty-two years of age the East Coast rapper hailing from Brooklyn, New York is already on the fast track to major success and the fans that have piled into the venue tonight all know it; I mean if people like Jay-Z and Puff Daddy are singing your praises, well…

Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott may have started out as JayOhVee but to his followers today he is Joey Bada$$ his initial moniker being dropped fairly quickly into his career. His rise to fame reads like one of those rags to riches tales, at just fifteen he uploaded his first freestyling video to YouTube; but instead of being lost amongst online celluloid, as so often happens, pure talent shines through and he soon gained the attention of all the right people. Fast forward to 2012 and he drops ‘Survival Tactics’ [OG fans being treated to the track during the set tonight] and with that the Joey Bada$$ train begins to roll out of the station. Following it up in the same year with his mix tape 1999 and his reputation in the underground scene was set. This was the kid hailed to be one of the kings of boom-bap. His debut album B4.Da.$$ carried this on and delivered such goat material as ‘Paper Trail$’ and ‘Christ Conscious’ – and yes in case you’re wondering he dropped both of those tonight too.

But with age comes growth and with growth comes change. And you can feel that change in the air tonight, as Joey Bada$$ mixed the old with his new you could identify the fans that had been riding with him since the beginning and those who had been introduced to his world through his outstanding sophomore album All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ released just last year. But it didn’t matter as to at what stop you had boarded the Bada$$ freight train, all stood united tonight, shoulder to shoulder, hands in the air, voices collectively belting out the lyrics so loudly at some points that they threatened to drown out the man himself. And judging by the grin that often slid across his face – he was loving every minute of it. Indeed Joey’s latest album is in parts pure lyrical genius; political and enquiring, it asks the hard questions about the topics that have eaten away at the fabric of the country that he calls home. Racism, poverty, police brutality he takes aim at it all. And as for Trump? Let’s just say that Joey ain’t no fan of the current POTUS.

Arriving on stage to a crowd already drenched in sweat thanks to a DJ that spun the dial to eleven and kept it there; Joey looked unassuming in black jeans and a long-sleeved black top that featured large red stripes down the sleeves. A backdrop of the American flag in a bandana style print sprung up behind him and the opening notes of ‘Rockabye Baby’ chimed out, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

Only the third track in and Joey drops ‘Big Dusty’ on the already ecstatic crowd – impressing even further when he raps the last verse a capella. Hailed to be one of the next greatest MC’s, Joey certainly provided several examples throughout the night of why he has a shot at the title. He calls out for the energy in the room to stay just how it is at this very moment, the sea of bodies nodding as one collective – there was a vibe in the room tonight and it was a good one. Maybe it was the love that Joey kept professing for both the country he is currently in and the people that inhabit it; maybe it was the overwhelming smell of ganja, but there was barely a bad or aggressive feeling anywhere in sight.

Four songs in and Joey takes a quick break off to the side, winded by his own insane efforts on stage. The crowd chant his name as a sign of respect and adoration. It seems to provide the fuel that Joey needs as he puts his foot to the pedal and starts hitting the audience with the big guns, the crowd matching him in exuberance. They bounce, they chant, they play the ‘simon says’ game and open up mosh pits on command one minute while the next they are holding lit cell phones above their heads (or in the case of the old schoolers – lighters). A toast is rendered to the ladies in the audience; who made their presence felt despite it being an unsurprisingly male dominated crowd, the track ‘Front & Center’ dedicated to them by Joey himself proving to be a popular choice. He even dropped an unreleased track on his New Zealand fans – but not before giving them a quick lesson on the hook; ‘Pull Up’ seeing the crowd once again throw their back into it as they hollered out the newly learned words.

By now the shirt was off and so were the shirts of half of those in the crowd, the heat inside the venue threatening to stifle. But we had arrived at the end – and as they say, save the best for last.

With over 22.8 million plays (and counting) on Soundcloud alone, ‘Devastated’ proved to be a pretty damn big hitter. And it is with this song that those aforementioned changes could not be more clearly illustrated. Gone are the aesthetics of the throwback sound, in their place a Top 40 hook that might make his original fans wince just a little. But Joey has his eye on the prize. He wants to make it big; and not just with his rhymes either. With deals like Mountain Dew, Calvin Klein and PONY under his belt, Joey Bada$$ is proving that this Pro Era freight train won’t be stopping anytime soon.

Were you there at the Powerstation for this politically charged hip-hop show? Or have you seen Joey Bada$$ perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below! 

Setlist:
  1. Rockabye Baby
  2. Paper Trail$
  3. Big Dusty
  4. Christ Conscious
  5. Waves
  6. Temptation
  7. For My People
  8. Land Of The Free
  9. Y Don’t You Love Me (Mis Amerikkka)
  10. Legendary
  11. Amerikkkan Idol
  12. Survival Tactics
  13. Front & Center
  14. Pull Up [unreleased]
  15. Devastated

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