Gods before 20

Joey Bada$$ isn't the first musician to make a statement before age 21

There’s so much thoughtful attention to detail on the timeless B4.DA.$$, it’s hard to believe Joey Bada$$ is only 20. His flow, rhyme technique and production choices make him a hip-hop visionary. But he’s not the first musician to make a monumental statement before his or her 21st birthday. Here’s a list of the company he keeps.

THE WHO, My Generation (1965)

Surrounded by a talented rhythm section and a great singer, then 20-year-old songwriter/bandleader Pete Townshend crafted signature songs like My Generation and The Kids Are Alright on the band’s debut.


MICHAEL JACKSON, Off The Wall (1979)

People can talk Thriller all they want, but Off The Wall had Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney rallying around the magnetic 20-year-old with the golden voice. It’s the first game-changing classic from the iconic man-child. What’s a wedding reception without Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough and Rock With You?


METALLICA, Kill ‘Em All (1983)

The menacing dirtbags channelled adrenalin and rage into one of metal and hard rock’s most impactful, influential and virtuosic statements, all while 20-year-old founding members Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield were barely able to grow peach fuzz on their chins.


WHITNEY HOUSTON, self-titled (1985)

Houston was 20 when she and Clive Davis began work on her debut album, but producers resisted working with her because they didn’t see her gospel voice clicking on the charts. Saving All My Love for You, How Will I Know? and The Greatest Love Of All proved them wrong. A pop queen was born.


NAS, Illmatic (1994)

Joey Bada$$ often gets compared to Nas due to his precociousness and New York state of mind. He’s still got a long way to go before matching the monumental narrative prowess, distinctive production and unholy flow Nas displayed on Illmatic. But he’s on track.

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