Review: Joey Bada$$ Puts Out Energy, Gets It Back at Revolution Live

When Brooklyn's Pro Era poster child Joey Bada$$ talks about energy, he's not just trying to get the crowd hyped. At 20, he might be young, but the rapper who's known for his technical flow and old-school flavor is also pretty damned spiritual. When he's not taking reporters crystal shopping in new-age stores of NYC, balancing his chakras, and "riding life's waves," he's penning deeply thoughtful, complex rhymes that indicate Badas$$ functions on some next-level planes of existence.

Following a particularly turned-up set by one of South Florida's most promising young rap stars, Denzel Curry, Bada$$ had some ground to regain. Curry went in fast and hard for his opening set this past Friday at Revolution Live, riding off the high from the summer release of his acclaimed double EP, 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms and dialing up the energy of the mid-sized venue to impressive heights.

"How many y'all watch Dragon Ball Z in this muthafucka?" the Carol City champion of the underground intro'd, turning down the lights and letting the swirling mashup of anime visuals serve as backdrop to his tripped-out performance.The production value remained high throughout the night, with very few technical hiccups and virtually no delays transitioning among the night's well-rounded lineup that also featured Pro Era's Nyck Caution and MF Doom protégé Bishop Nehru.

Curry dropped a no-nonsense mix from his steadily growing catalog, including "Zone 3" and "Threatz" off of Nostalgic 64, and "Ice Age" from his latest release, with fellow Miami alt-rapper Lofty 305 joining on a few tracks. The receptive crowd was heavily high school to college-aged dudes landing on various points of the stoner-bro spectrum, who knew every word to his raps and happily obliged when in the middle of his set Curry commanded them to split down the middle and role-play an Athens versus Sparta showdown.
True to his bipolar style, Curry bounced between his angry, edgier tracks to his more playful, trippy ones, never losing the attention of his audience. "I'm mad as fuck today, man. I just don't know what it is," he mused, riding on some serious future apocalypse vibes. As Denzel Curry closed his set, it was clear he'd brought out a strong local following, his aggressive, psychedelic, net culture-soaked style perfectly crystalizing South Florida suburban youth.

With energy still pulsing off Curry, the crowd needed a few minutes to cool down before getting hyped back up for the night's headliner. Joey Bada$$'s tour DJ and producer Statik Selektah hopped on the decks quick to throw down some old school beats, offering up a bit of scratch-style DJing for the digital-gen crowd. By 10:30, fans were buzzing as Bada$$ came out and played "Paper Trail$" off his latest full-length effort B4.DA.$$, which sort of plays out like a new "C.R.E.AM." If there's one thread that flowed through all the night's performers, it had to be nostalgia. Clad in a white T, baseball cap, and flannel button-down, Bada$$ looked like the image of the '90s rap heroes he likely grew up watching on YouTube.
"You know how this works," Bada$$ instructed the crowd Shaman-style as he took in their simmering energy. "I only put back out the energy y'all put in." Diving into the rest of his performance, Bada$$ showed he knows how to handle a crowd with deftness, especially for a performer of his age, crafting a set that built steadily on itself, with peaks and valleys timed just right. It didn't take long before the rapper stripped off his shirts, sweat dripping over his lean cuts as he bobbed and weaved across the stage to his smooth lyrical flow.

Fans rapped along with every track, the more mellow and reflective "Hazeus View," "Christ Conscious," and "Fly Away" serving as buffers to lighter tracks like "Teach Me," during which the rapper summoned up an impressive gaggle of young ladies to serve as his back-up dancers to the upbeat track featuring Kiesza. A brand new, U.K. grime-inspired track with the hugely popular Glass Animals, "Lose Control," also went over well. 

For a rapper whose pretty clearly-defined, old-school style can come off as more serious and subdued on his recordings, Joey Bada$$'s performance on Friday night was completely commanding, his raps always coming through clearly even at his most loud and aggressive moments. Whether perched, sweat glistening, at the edge of the stage or leading the audience in "Beast Coast" chants between tracks, Bada$$ owned the room with an easy finesse. "I do this in my sleep," he told us.
With a group of highly skilled young rappers bolstering his performance — Bishop Nehru's stripped-down opening set was also notably raw and captivating for its simplicity — Joey Bada$$ allowed the talent of his World Domination Tour crew to shine without ever failing to live up to his own hype. Like his smartly crafted rhymes, the night just flowed, and in an honestly pretty heartwarming show out for South Florida's humble local music scene, the crowd rode the wave, showing we might just be in the midst of a second Golden Era for hip-hop.

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Falyn Freyman is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Miami. She previously produced videos for Univision and edited music content for New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Her work has been featured in Vice, Bustle, Broadly, Time Out, and other publications. She has a master's degree from the Columbia School of Journalism.
Contact: Falyn Freyman