Often, rappers will appear on other rappers projects as a favor, and simply add a different stylistic angle. Joey’s stylistic angle is that he straight crushes bars, all the time. It’s pretty clear by now that even friends of Joey shouldn’t dare enter in the studio with him. He is the living embodiment of “Renagade,” the best man who runs off with the bride. He will make you look silly with no provocation. His lack of decorum is frightening and needs to be stopped at any cost, or there will be no rappers left.
His latest offense came this week at the expense of Denzel Curry, 21-year-old Florida rapper who’s on the rise with some help from Rick Ross. That is, he was on the rise until Joey came on “Zenith” and ripped on Curry’s own flow. Curry has a cool concept and some nice wordplay, but he sounds a bit stiff and out of breath; some bars are overstuffed, while others have awkward pauses. Joey’s subsequent verse, on the other hand, is delivered with gravitas and effortless swagger. His pauses are calculated, he slides up and down his register melodically, and he raises the ante on Curry’s little word game to a ridiculous level.
“Catch me on a zenith, astroprojected to Venus
Woke up in a European with a singer
She said she couldn’t wait to get home and cook me dinner
Curry chicken for the soul, man I’m feeling like a winner”
You’d think that Joey wouldn’t turn on his own crewmates within Pro Era. But whenever he gets in on the action it turns into an mama bear dragging her cubs along by the scruff of their necks. On “5 Minutes,” Kirk Knight spills his anxieties, but they’re knocked flat by Joey’s anger and psychosis. He beats us over the head with homophones (“warden/ward in,” “vocal/focal,” indica/syndicate”), making me entirely forget Knight’s verse except for biting Biggie’s flow a couple bars. And with an aggressive, gasping, no-holds-barred attack, he inflicts similar damage on Nyck Caution (“What’s Understood”) and the late Capital STEEZ (“Survival Tactics”).
And while the knockouts have come in bunches as of late, you can even go back to 2012 to find Joey being an amazing rapper but terrible houseguest: on Mac Miller’s 2012 banger “America.” After two chilled verses by Mac and a loopy one from Casey Veggies, the song has been fully fleshed and ready for party consumption; there’s no need for Joey to even be there. Of course, he busts in by firing a warning shot at his compadres: “Bout to drop hot shit, runnin’ outta patience, niggas not sick.” Then he embarks on an off-kilter ostinato filled to the brim internal rhymes. It’s astoundingly confident on first listen and still astoundingly dense by the tenth.
Is anyone going to make Joey pay for his transgressions? Actually, Raury already did. Perhaps fed up with Joey’s arrogant, virtuosic bullshit, Raury used his feature on “Escape 120” to make like Andre and deliver a machine gun flow anithetical to Joey’s trampling-elephant one. The result just might be the best verse on Joey’s great album, “B4.dA.$$.”
It’s disrespectful as hell, but then again, Joey probably should have seen it coming. Payback’s a bitch.