Joey Bada$$ still shining on Pro Era's latest release
The world might not have ended on December 21st, which was also the release date of the newest mix tape by teenage rap crew Pro Era, but Peep: The aPROcalypse is nonetheless haunted by a sort of apocalyptic desperation.
Given the group’s penchant for expansion (its website shows no fewer than 11 currently active members) and its reluctance to venture outside of itself for guest verses or production, it would be easy to write Pro Era off as a second coming of hip hop’s golden child, Odd Future.
However, spearheaded by 17-year old wunderkind Joey Bada$$, Pro Era has developed into its own unique brand, obsessively reverent of hip hop’s 1990s golden age and dedicated to subject matter beyond Odd Future’s shock and horror. In fact, Peep: The aPROcalypse is a notable step up from Pro Era’s last group outing, The SECC$ Tap.e not only in name, but in scope and content as well.
As evidenced by Joey Bada$$’ solo joint 1999, the group members either benefit or suffer from each other’s presence, depending on the combination. Tracks like opener “Like Water” and “K.I.N.G.S.” emerge as highlights simply due to the imitable chemistry of Bada$$ and the late Capital STEEZ, Pro Era’s second breakout star, who died three days after the mixtape’s release.
Perhaps egged on by the apocalyptic release date, both Joey and STEEZ rap as if their esteemed reputations depend on it, bringing to the table startlingly mature meditations on spirituality and life that stand out among the often womanizing, bling-addled lyrics of mainstream rap.
The two blaze through lines like “My days numbered to infinity, when I close my eyes I see the trinity, mind, body and soul holds the energy” and STEEZ’s harrowing “And I quote, we came like them niggas in boats, still think it’s a joke, your third eye vision is broke” with feverish sincerity, solidifying Peep’s status as an elegy to the troubled but earnest endeavors of Capital STEEZ in his time with Pro Era.
Elsewhere, members like Nyck Caution and the endlessly smooth CJ Fly spout lines worthy of their more well-known peers, marking Pro Era as a group with more than merely one or two standout MCs.
Of course, with 12 MCs to burn through, it is inevitable that at times Peep feels a little messy. In the interest of democracy, spotlights are given to MCs like Kirk Knight and Chuck Strangers who, while talented for their age, lack the charisma and style of someone like STEEZ that could be bring Pro Era to the collaborative level of a group like the Wu-Tang Clan.
Elsewhere, the tape suffers from too-familar beats that ape the 90s hip hop beats Pro Era loves so much without adding much. Still, rap mixtapes have never been overly concerned with consistency. Instead, Peep does as a good mixtape does, showcasing what makes the group so great to begin with, and offering even more promise for the future.