Smoke DZA and Joey Bada$$ are both talented if generally unimpressive rappers. They’re great at filling a verse between better rappers without dragging a song down. Joey’s flow has been getting more distinct since his 1999 mixtape, with a new style that’s marked by stretched out syllables and shitty enunciation. He’s gone from being a talented guy repurposing old styles to someone with an identity of his own, but a Joey Bada$$ credit on a song still isn’t something to get super excited about, although he’s getting there. Likewise, a “(feat. Smoke DZA)” label on a song is nothing to complain about, but DZA’s verse is probably not going to be the one on the song you remember. His verse on “Underground Airplay” is better than his standard weed raps, which is unfortunate because he’s immediately followed by Big K.R.I.T., who is rapidly becoming one of those rappers who comes up last on posse cuts and makes you forget about everyone else on the song (see also A$AP Rocky’s “1 Train” and Phonte’s “Life of Kings”). That he sounds just as comfortable over post-UGK Southern funk beats as gutter New York boom bap throwbacks is just another reason why he’s one of the best young rappers out today. His King Remembered in Time mixtape can’t come soon enough.
Also worth mentioning: 90s New York rap music videos are endlessly watchable, even when they consist solely of people walking around in alleys and tunnels rapping and mugging for the camera. It’s great to see some of the people in this new New York underground bringing that visual aesthetic back.