It’s a rare occasion when the hip-hip head of Western North Carolina shows their face around these parts. They tend to stay disguised in the comfort of their best friend’s basements in the largely white, largely hippy community of Asheville, NC, tucked in the valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You barely see teens with Biggie shirts, sagging skinny jeans, and portable speakers in tow, vibing to classic beats and sharing them with the likes of the streets around these parts. Upon Joey B’s arrival, though, it was a delightful spectacle. The Orange Peel, a famous venue in downtown Asheville, had it’s usual atmosphere turned on it’s side in anticipation for the Word Domination Tour. The crowd loomed among green-lit smoke while old school rap and Michael Jackson classics awaited the arrival of a young star.
The headliners warmed up the vivacious crowd, impressively weaving in unique styles that promised a world of underground rap to be ever-thriving. But once 20-year-old Brooklyn native, Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott, who goes by the stage name Joey Bada$$ took to the stage, the young fans immediately clicked into Joey-mode, anticipating every lyric and reaching out to him as if to share energy, a collaborative bond that the Pro Era rapper surely reciprocated.
He starts out the night with “Big Dusty,” an electric party-starter off his debut album B4.DA.$$. produced by his right hand Pro Era squad member Kirk Knight. He followed suit in energy for the first quarter of his set, singing “Always got the weed, so WTF you mean?” to mellow out the crowd before his first pause. At this time Bada$$ calls out his day one fans, gifting them the throwback of his 17-year old “1999” days with “Waves,” a song infused with coastal vibe and cheers to the good life.
Now he’s got the whole crowd lifting their lighters up to the ceiling to pay homage to everyone in the room who has gone through the struggle, following up with a somber rendition of his hit “Hardknock,” remixing the old Annie classic to shed light on socio-political strife of the hood lifestyle he experiences and represents in New York City. Afterward he immediately begins a deep and reminiscent track “Hazeus View,” a truly evident cursor of Bada$$’s maturity. The crowd vibes hard and he uses the line “When we get high we say fuck the police” to transfer the mood to mosh pit level intensity with the song “No. 99.”
Joey Bada$$’s was a clear depiction of the young star’s use of old school meter to produce a sound that’s beyond our time. He invites on stage and caters to the ladies in a song beckoning them to teach him how to dance, and turns right around to give timeless advice to share love before it’s too late — “Life is too short not to tell them you love them.”
He dedicates a moment of silence and a collective throwing of peace signs up for crowd members who have lost loved ones, and his own loss of late friend and Pro Era teammate, Capital Steez. The moment was heartfelt and even made the bartenders shut up in respect.
He closes the night by having the peace signing crowd turn those hands around and put the index fingers down to say “fuck you” to police, and to censorship.
Bada$$’s performance was refreshing to the old school hip hop head, hopeful for the pessimistic about the future of rap, and inspired to go out and make change, following the goal and vibe of his Progressive Era Movement.