After Joey’s raucous Forbidden Fruit set back in May, it was far from surprising to see him popping back to Irish shores for another round, and even less surprising to find it a hotly-anticipated sell out.
Having won over the Dublin crowd back in Kilmainham’s spacious fields, a solo indoor gig in The Academy’s cage-like atmosphere promised to a particularly high-octane affair. Damn son, did it deliver.
Since landing on everyone’s radar as a teenager with his seismic debut mixtape release 1999 three years ago, Joey’s often nostalgically-flavoured body of work has incited debate from old heads and new, concerning his importance to the genre as it moves forward.
While his subsequent mixtapes and especially his 2014 album B4.Da.$$ have showcased his commendable progression, there’s nothing quite like seeing the 20 year old on stage to dispel any doubts about his relevance.
No longer the feted mini-Nas – a box many were happy to place him in – his ‘World Domination Tour’ shows off this whizz kid-becomes-man development with gusto. In his raspy, yet oh-so-slick voice, Joey led the crowd on a tour through his back catalogue with lyrical precision and a circus ringmaster’s knack for orchestrating crowd interaction.
While he needed no introduction as far as the Dublin crowd was concerned, his Pro Era posse members who made up his support acts – CJ Fly and Nyck Caution – displayed a similarly deft touch in maximising the intensity of the assembled audience.
Joey in person displays an outstanding talent for crowd-hyping, a natural charisma and undeniable rapping skills to win over anyone sitting on the fence concerning his released work.
He is a true MC, in that his commitment to creating an atmosphere the crowd wants is seen as being of paramount importance. Several times during the performance, the Brooklyn native donned his curator’s cap, taking the time to inform the bouncers not to bother would-be crowd surfers in the run up to big songs, to arrange mosh pits with the sole caveat that “no rules” apply, to instigate a tender moment’s silence for lost friends and loved ones, etc.
The feverish intensity reached its apex mid-way through with the dropping of the stand out single of Joey’s career so far, ‘Christ Conscious’, which was followed up with ‘Big Dusty’, to take his knack for call and response-driven rapport with his audience to dizzying new heights.
The raw energy Joey deals in on stage even transformed more chilled out tracks like ‘Paper Trails’ into punk-like performances. Vibing off the similarity of the words ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘Dublin’ to create genuinely stunning synergy with the crowd, levels of sweat and mirth were on the up and up right till the very end.
All in all, performances like this week’s Academy gig make Joey seem less like the ‘saviour of New York rap’ critics had marked out for him and more like a fully-fleshed out individual artist with a cohort of finely finessed performers in his crew.
A special night for Ireland’s hip-hop fans.