Take a look through Joey Bada$$’s best songs of all time while we await his new album.
Image via HNHH
Joey recently announced a delay of his new album 2000, which is his first solo full-length project since 2017’s All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$. While we await the album’s release, we’ve compiled the top 25 best Joey Bada$$ songs as of right now. As a consistent and focused MC, picking just 25 songs was hard, and ranking them against each other was even harder. Some may disagree with this list, but it’s only a further testament to the sheer number of great songs Joey has under his belt and to the recurring sounds, lyrical topics, engaging energy, and excellent hip-hop that Joey crafts.
25. Head High (2000, 2022)
Starting with the freshest song on this list, “Head High” was released this year as the lead single for his new album 2000. Backed by a dramatic and reflexive Statik Selektah beat, Joey goes through the difficult– and often fatal– experience of growing up on “the block,” as he represents black struggle. He even shouts out his fallen friends Capital STEEZ and XXXTENTACION, using the second verse to reflect on his relationship with the latter. It’s a somber taste of what’s to come from Joey, but his rhyme schemes are still as engaging as ever and he continues to show his skill as a storyteller and vivid lyricist. It’s a remarkable reminder that he’s still one of the best in the game.
24. No. 99 (B4.DA.$$, 2015)
Amid bustling and hectic drum breaks, Joey crafts one of his most raw and immediate tracks with “No. 99” off his debut studio album, B4.DA.$$. He’s always been incredibly inspired by an older era, specifically the ‘90s boom-bap that dominated New York streets. This beat is one of Joey’s most obvious homages to this sound, with a fuzzy bassline that tips a hat to New York legends A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” and even hyped crowd vocals that close out the song. Joey’s ready for war on this track: his pen broaches disdain for police and other rappers. He’s confident, braggadocious, and letting his rhymes speak for themselves with lines like “Break a wrist, approach my demo with a risk / Brought my demo listens, I’m a demolition specialist.” One of Joey’s hype-up songs, for sure. Blast it at your next workout session.
23. Snakes ft. T’nah Apex (1999, 2012)
Backed by a J. Dilla beat sampled from his younger brother’s catalog, Joey’s “Snakes” is a perfect introduction to his early work. The beat’s plucky synths, bass and soulful vocals is a pallet that Joey flows effortlessly over. His lyrical focus here is, well, snakes: those who would go behind your back to do you wrong. He sees them in his crime-ridden upbringing, in the industry he was coming into, and the government at large. Some standout lines are “And I hope he see me cause these n****s don’t want beef with my talents / They ain’t fit for this green, they just caesar salad,” and “The blacker the berry is, the more sour the fruit / They ejectin’ us to make us cowards to the power of truth.” Throw in an excellent hook from T’nah Apex and you have a quintessential, thoughtful, chill Joey track.
22. Devastated (All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$, 2017)
One of Joey’s most pop-friendly tracks also happens to be one of his most triumphant. Backed by hopeful synths and guitar lines, Joey talks about his current success and using it to heal his past emotional wounds. The lyrics are some of Joey’s most celebratory, his flows and chorus are some of his catchiest, and the smooth trap beat he rides is one of his most fun. It’s Joey’s first platinum song, too. It may not be as dense as the rest of All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$, one of 2017’s most politically and socially charged rap albums, but it’s an important, empowering, and above all fun song from the Brooklyn MC.
21. Let It Breathe (Single, 2021)
This may be one of Joey’s most recent tracks, but it was our first taste of new Joey in a while and raised hype for a new project for longtime fans and first-time listeners alike. What’s more, is that it dropped on his birthday. The jangly beat and deep bassline make this one of Joey’s cleanest instrumentals. It’s also an unapologetic reminder that he’s done being humble, and that he is going to become one of the greats on his own terms, which his pen proves. As he raps on the track, “This ain’t no DJ Khaled pop BS.” Statik Selektah provides a soulful and jazzy sample for Joey to float over, and he takes the time to acknowledge his rise as an MC and his status as one of the best rappers of the past decade. You were definitely missed, Joey.
20. Belly of the Beast ft. Chronixx (B4.DA.$$, 2015)
Joey may be heavily influenced by classic ‘90s sounds, but it doesn’t mean he can’t lean into different styles. While his rapping feels as Brooklyn as ever, this track has a darker palette than most on B4.DA.$$. The most prominent part of the beat is a deep bassline that drives the song’s groove, whereas the drums and echoing vocal samples are breezy but small moments instrumentally. Joey also honors his Jamaican background with his vocal inflection, the chorus, and the inclusion of Jamaican singer Chronixx, who delivers a mysterious and murky performance. The boom-bap rhythms aren’t quite as exciting or energetic on this cut, but their omission emphasizes Joey’s lyrics. Chronixx’s croons and the instrumental gives the track an ethereal quality, like a moment of rest on an album full of high-energy verses.
19. Waves (1999, 2012)
Some might recognize this beat from J. Cole’s “False Prophets” in 2017. Joey was the first to ride this sample back in 2012, and it made for one of the biggest songs of that era. Following his first video for “Survival Tactics,” Joey made another splash with this song. Hazy keys and one of Joey’s funkiest and most soulful basslines provide a chill backdrop for his bars, which makes this track stand out as one of Joey’s dreamiest tracks. Joey goes through his aspirations on this song, talking about his ambitions as a rapper and his wish to give his family a better and safer life. This was before Joey’s mainstream success, before 1999 had even been released, and before he was known as one of his generation’s greats. His hunger is palpable on this track, and it’s mind-blowing to listen back to “Waves” after knowing what Joey became.
18. Ready (Single, 2016)
As one of his first songs after the release of his debut, B4.DA.$$, Joey wanted to show he was back with a vengeance. A steady piano and jangly up-beat drums open “Ready,” and Joey comes in high-energy to contrast the beat’s more mellow timbre. Joey doesn’t switch up much of his lyrical fare: his come-up, his perseverance, his hunger to be the best. But this song did hint to the more progressive and modernized beats that he would ride on 2017’s All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$. It has a slowed-down beat switch in the second verse, Joey’s ad-libs are slightly distorted, and the samples are given a cleaner sound than his previous sample work. Joey’s comeback loosie made for one of his best choruses, too.
17. Like Me ft. BJ The Chicago Kid (B4.DA.$$, 2015)
Joey’s not one to get super low-key, but the second this song starts, it sinks you into a contemplative state. Understated guitars and kicks, a simple snare, and background vocals that pop in and out make a very calm and atmospheric background for “Like Me.” It emphasizes Joey’s bars that much more, which aren’t blaring but still display a lot of passion and sorrow. Joey questions whether there’s hope for him and his community to overcome their struggles with mental health, police, relationships, and violence. He knows his position is elevated as one of the most classically trained MCs, but his greatest achievement on this track is his ability to relate to the struggles of his surroundings. It’s not where he’s at that troubles him: it’s what he went through to get there.
16. Unorthodox (Summer Knights, 2013)
“Unorthodox” is a fitting title for this song given Joey’s lyrics, but not so much for the beat. On the contrary, the legendary DJ Premier produces a crisp, old-school New York beat complete with record scratches, remixed vocal snippets, and hard-hitting drums. Seeing Joey collaborate with such a hero in the hip-hop world is inspiring, and Joey spits about how his skill as an MC has made his rise to fame feel… Well, you know the title. He won’t sign to a major label for an unfair deal, he’s going to stay true to the roots of hip-hop, he’s going to do right by his community, and he will stay authentic to himself. All while getting Porsches and Jimmy Fallon endorsements. It’s a testament to Joey’s idiosyncrasy as an artist and a well-deserved victory lap from a young MC who had made it big from keeping it real.
15. 95 Till Infinity (Summer Knights, 2013)
Out of Joey’s entire catalog, this song has to be one of the most surreal. Joey’s voice is raw on this track, often sounding like he’s growling at the mic. The beat, though, is glistening with light keys and dreamy background vocals that give it an incredibly psychedelic quality. The contrast is stark, it could even challenge some fans at first, but his rhyme schemes justify any vibe clash on the song. “And we smoking, toking potent herb / Preaching spoken words that just might poke your nerves.” Sure, this juxtaposition between aggression and soulful samples might be expected of the ‘90s New York rap era Joey pulls from, but it definitely wasn’t as common when this track came out in 2011, just as trap was about to take over. Given how energetic and raw his live shows are, “95 Till Infinity” triumphs as an encapsulation of that passion.
14. Hazeus View (B4.DA.$$, 2015)
Sorry for the pun, but “Hazeus View” is one of the hazier tracks on B4.DA.$$ thanks to the echo effects on the vocals and the fuzzy high-pitch keys. It doesn’t mean the track is low-energy, though. Joey spits passionately on the track and even gets into some sung lines in the second half of the song. The song’s also often broken up by instrumental switches, fade-outs, and explosions that clear the smoke and keep the beat fresh. Joey tackles his rising stardom and how he’s seen as an idol by many now. However, this hasn’t made Joey numb to his emotional and personal struggles– he’s still contemplating happier days of his life and wondering whether or not it’s even worth it to move on. His rapping ability has clearly given him new strength to face those issues and honor the experiences that ultimately forged his success.
13. Word Is Bond (Summer Knights, 2013)
This was the first single to Joey Bada$$’s Summer Knights project, which was first rumored to be an EP. When this song dropped, Joey revealed it would be a full-length project and dropped the mixtape a month later. While Summer Knights was later re-released as an EP on DSPs, “Word Is Bond” is one of the mixtape’s strongest moments that did not make the streaming service version. It’s a classic Joey formula at this point: excellent throwback production from Statik Selektah, verses that feel plucked from Nas’ discography, including vivid imagery of robbery and street life. Some of the rhymes and double entendres here are particularly insane, even for Joey’s standards. “Yo Houston, we got a problem, copy / Four, five hotties in the lobby / Said that they can blow the rockets properly, but blow up spots and never stop / Like them aki’s, they never get aqui to my property.” One of the best introductions possible to Joey’s discog.
12. On & On ft. Maverick Sabre & Dyemond Lewis (B4.DA.$$, 2015)
“On & On” is one of Joey’s most somber tracks. It’s a piano-led ballad with all the drum patterns and verse structures you’d expect from a quality Joey track. What sets this one apart from the rest is the way the beat builds throughout the song. We begin with a simple piano, bass, and drums, but the track incorporates echoed synths, background horns, and strings throughout to propel the song forward. UK artist Maverick Sabre delivers a hopeful refrain, whereas Pro Era co-member Dyemond Lewis matches Joey’s introspective and calm delivery. They display a jaded vision of violence and pain for them, whether that be failed relationships, a lifestyle of crime, or lamenting friends they’ve lost along the way. Joey’s known to champion perseverance and strength in troubled times, and this song’s earnest nature gives that energy to many listeners who need it.
11. Killuminati ft. Capital STEEZ (1999, 2012)
Producer Knxwledge’s track “WhºKâres” made for the best beat on 1999. It’s a mystical and shimmery melody, with drums just off-beat enough to give the track a unique and hazy swing. “Killuminati” begins with high-pitch piano samples before tuning down to match Joey’s vocal tone, with which he delivers a verse rife with wordplay and intricate rhyme patterns. Some standout lines are “No cash flashed, but the cheese still make teeth show” and “I’m a beast with these flows / Two birds, one stoned, you get geese’d when trees rolled.” It’s one of the few moments that Joey comes close to replicating the flow and rhyme mastery of MF DOOM, and Capital STEEZ reaches the same high bar. He’s similarly braggadocious and flashy, with just a bit more of that youthful energy to contrast Joey’s cold delivery. On an album full of lyrical highlights, this is a rap fan’s delight.
10. Save The Children (B4.DA.$$, 2015)
Kicking off the Top 10 (and B4.DA.$$ as a whole) is a whole crowd chanting Joey’s name. It’s a grand start to Joey’s debut studio album matched with a dramatic and soulful beat from frequent collaborator Statik Selektah. Watery piano samples, soaring synths, horn solos, and lo-fi record scratches make this one of Joey’s fullest and most lush instrumentals, ever. As an intro track to this record, it sets the perfect tone and displays just how much Joey’s production and resources have grown since 1999. Lyrically, Joey goes through his relationship struggles, dangerous upbringing, and authenticity in the rap game. However, he frames this all with a sampled hook that calls for black unity and pleads for someone to “save the children.” Joey’s struggles and success are not just his own here, but rather represent a new spark of hope for generations of black people.
9. Righteous Minds (1999, 2012)
For a song about fear and danger, this is a pretty fun beat on a Joey album. The plucky keys sound playfully fuzzy and high-pitch, plus the track has a relaxed high-tempo swing for a boom-bap beat. This song is all about staying righteous and uncorrupted when the world is trying to kill you. Joey mostly focuses on his upbringing for inspiration here, talking about his innocence as a child and the brushes with death and drugs that have kept him paranoid. The second verse in particular tells a story of getting jumped by someone you know is scared deep down, and the third verse even has Joey wondering whether he would’ve founded Pro Era if he kept living that lifestyle. Maybe that playful beat is what’s fighting against that violence and fear, but it’s a key reason as to why this song is so compelling.
8. Rockabye Baby ft. ScHoolboy Q (All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$, 2017)
“Rockabye Baby” goes hard. It’s one of Joey’s most well-crafted instrumentals: a menacing piano line backed by a progressive East Coast beat. However, the track’s classic energy doesn’t keep it stagnant. It switches up more often than the average Joey beat– there’s the piano interlude, the police sirens at the start of ScHoolboy Q’s verse, and the psychedelia-tinged outro. Joey and Q match the instrumental intensity with fiery flows and increasingly passionate performances that dive into multiple aspects of black unity and black struggle, such as Q’s drug-dealing and Joey’s gang connections. Joey also throws a Donald Trump diss in there that has aged beautifully. Vivid bars like “They gave us guns, but won’t hire us n***a? / So we kill ‘em senseless,” and gritty depictions of injustice and indignation in the verses make this song one of All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$’s standout moments and one of Joey’s most anthemic tracks.
7. Survival Tactics ft. Capital STEEZ (1999, 2012)
Horns, heavy drums, heavy bass… it’s a modern hip-hop classic. One of Joey’s most popular songs was a collaboration with the late Capital STEEZ, where both Brooklyn MCs deliver some of their fiercest and hardest bars. Joey has the first verse, a confident and intricate flow that solidifies his Pro Era crew as dominant. He even disses the police and corrupt politicians on the bridge. Capital STEEZ, though, drops one of his most iconic verses on this track. He tackles the failing education system, the youth getting pulled into violence, political censorship, and challenges other rappers to step to his skill. For as dense as his verse can be, it’s amazing how lively, charismatic, and fun he makes it all come off with lines that reference King Arthur and Pokémon. Capital STEEZ was an absolute gem of a lyricist and individual that left us far too soon.
6. Love Is Only A Feeling (Single, 2017)
“Love Is Only A Feeling” was Joey’s first solo release following 2017’s All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$. Don’t let the fact it’s a single fool you: this track has proven to be incredibly unique and enlightening in Joey’s discography, on top of being lyrically distinct from most of his work. The instrumental here is built on psychedelic effects-heavy guitars and a jangly drum section, quite the departure from the piano beats Joey frequents. Joey also comes through with one of his most melodic and tuneful flows, complimenting not only the beat’s more mellow and soulful sound but also the song’s lyrical focus. It’s about Joey’s romantic interest, a girl who he wants to see succeed and blossom out of her struggles. He gets very romantic on the song, wishing they could spend the rest of their time together with no worries. Love’s not only a feeling here: it’s what keeps Joey going.
5. Paper Trail$ (B4.DA.$$, 2015)
What makes Joey Bada$$ special? All his qualities would make for a Top 10 rapper, but what makes Jozif Badmon one of the game’s most talented rappers is evident on one of his biggest songs, “Paper Trails”: his mind. This song is both a reflection on how money changed his life and the way it corrupted his perspective as well as his love for hip-hop and for others. He raps on the track, “I got dreams filling arenas and breaking brackets… / …God bless the heaven that sent you / But now I’m breezing out, baby, cause my rent’s due.”
With a smooth beat from the legendary DJ Premier, Joey characterizes money not as the root of all evil, but as the root of all people. Money has dictated his circumstances, his history, and his aspirations. Everyone follows the paper trail. Joey flips Wu-Tang’s classic phrase “C.R.E.A.M.”: “Cash ruined everything around me,” but comes to a more nuanced conclusion. It may be corrupt in Joey’s eyes, but it’s also brought him ambition and a chance to help his family. Only someone of Joey’s caliber could make that conflict convincing on a track and turn it into one of his most celebrated songs.
4. Christ Conscious (B4.DA.$$, 2015)
It may be pretty short, but no Joey Bada$$ list is complete without “Christ Conscious.” It’s an absolutely iconic verse and, at this point, an iconic music video as well. This song really characterized Joey during his rise into the mainstream and defined his essence without stunting his growth. He had classic MC energy, but with a new hunger and wide set of influences that made him an instant name to look out for. Everything from Joey’s youthful passion to the sci-fi themes of the video made for a refreshing take on retro sounds.
The Basquiat-produced beat is a heavy knocker with emphatic kick drums, ambient piano, and sample loops. So many iconic Joey quotables are all over this track, from “Hit you with the hurtful f**kin’ truth like Sojourner” to “Tell these haters “Beat it,” can’t jack son—thriller.” There’s even a strong Ol’ Dirty Bastard energy to this song: the hums, the sung threats, braggadocious lines, and the persistent vocal sample after the end of the verse. It’s one of Joey’s most all-killer, no-filler tracks, and you haven’t lived ‘til you’ve seen him perform it live.
3. Hardknock ft. CJ Fly (1999, 2012)
Clocking in at 5 minutes and 18 seconds, this track is one of Joey’s lyrical odysseys. The beat hints at it: it’s one of Joey’s simplest, one of his most stationary, and it’s absolutely perfect so that audiences can focus on what’s being said. It does give the song a melancholy and slightly menacing melody that fits well with Joey and featured guest CJ Fly’s verses. As Joey and CJ reflect on the chorus, “One day I’m tryna have a wife and kids / So I just can’t live my life like this.”
On this track, Joey reflects on religion, morality, and growth. Joey alludes to an inmate searching for God on the first verse, but says he can’t find him because of the hardships he’s facing. Joey clearly wants to grow out of his pain and not have to recur to old habits and survival tactics, but he knows it’s not easy either. Joey wields these heavy topics like lightweight swords, crafting one of his most impressive verses ever towards the end. His rhyme schemes should be impossible to pull off with the depth of his subject, but that just shows how special Joey is as an MC.
2. Ring The Alarm ft. Meechy Darko, Kirk Knight & Nyck Caution (All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$, 2017)
Few Joey Bada$$ songs are as progressive and complete as “Ring The Alarm.” The track begins with a fuzzy piano line that makes the Mobb Deep-inspired instrumental one of the most classic on 2017’s All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$. Then the boom-bap drums and verses hit in perfect harmony. This record exemplifies the dramatic and purposeful banger that Joey sought to perfect on All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$, and it’s the most visceral and engaging version of that vision.
Flowing alongside Joey are fellow Pro Era affiliates Nyck Caution, Kirk Knight, and Meechy Darko of Flatbush Zombies fame, who all give fantastic, albeit brief performances. Meechy’s beast of a voice, husky and guttural, makes for a killer hook that’s surely one of the album’s catchiest moments. It’s also one of Joey’s most confident performances, fitting for a track all about the group’s dissatisfaction with the rap game.
1. Land Of The Free (All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$, 2017)
Joey Bada$$’s best song is one that will resonate with listeners for generations. As Joey tackles the treatment of black people in the United States, he references the “full house” in his hands as the cards he was dealt. He has a lot of ambitions and talent, yet he has so much pressure to excel. It’s not just from the rap game, but from his ancestors, who fought through the same prejudices Joey does. What are the cards in his hands? “Three K’s, two A’s in America”: a corrupt system that has ravaged his people for centuries.
Systemic racism reveals itself in various forms through Joey’s pen: mass incarceration in disadvantaged communities, Donald Trump’s election as President, the legacy of slavery, and political corruption. He shows the pain these injustices can cause over a smooth beat that, while sorrowful, is made hopeful with bright key samples, soft background vocals, and cathartic drums. Joey’s hope is that the next generation will be inspired by his words and, like him, speak out and create change. We think he’ll succeed. From that hope, he made an anthem that defines his artistry and will be played and celebrated for years to come.