Joey Valence & Brae: The Beastie Boys of the 21st Century

Photo credit to Connor Phillips / Connorpnw.

Sounding like it was stripped straight from the video game soundtrack of “Skate 3,” rap duo Joey Bertolino and Braedan Lugue reinvent the hip-hop genre in their debut album “PUNK TACTICS.” Going by the stage name of Joey Valence & Brae, the two artists reignited the spark that is early ‘90s rap and hip-hop with countless songs that remind their audience of The Beastie Boys, Digital Underground and other artists of the era. Through this vibrant, refreshing and purely fun album, the two artists managed to revive an often neglected genre in today’s music industry.

“PUNK TACTICS” starts with a bang and sets the stage for the themes of all 14 songs. With the first song being a self-titled piece, Joey and Brae showcased their talents through an irresistibly catchy chorus and polished mixing.

Scan to listen to “PUNK TACTICS” on Spotify.

Immediately, the listener can almost feel as if they are in the studio recording the songs alongside the duo. An almost unexplainable sensation, Joey and Brae sounded like they had a blast in the album’s creation, which ultimately created an incredible listening experience for the audience.

It’s one thing to listen to an album, but it’s a completely different reality when the artist’s enthusiasm has an infectious capacity. 

In conjunction with the lively pieces, a slew of pop culture references are thrown into nearly every song. Mentions range from music artists to movies to memes — you name it, and there’s a high likelihood that it can be found embedded in the lyrics of this album. This was yet another contributing factor that made this album so memorable: the direct connection to the audience. 

With the prevalence of pop culture being a large component of many peoples’ lives, “PUNK TACTICS” has even the smallest of niches represented. When I first listened to the album and caught a subtle reference that I recognized, I grew to love the project more than before. Knowing your audience is powerful, and the artists made sure to evoke this feeling of interrelatedness through these infinite cultural allusions. 

Album cover credit to Spotify.

Although a 31-minute runtime may appear long, time flies when you’re having fun. Clocking in at 3:11, “TANAKA 2” was marked as the lengthiest song in the entire work, and the shortest was a mere 32-second intermission piece. The former song mentioned was the longest for good reason, as it had the only album’s feature: Logic. 

An immense wave of shock came over me when I realized that the voice I was hearing belonged to Bobby Bryson Hall II, but it worked in the song’s favor. However, “PUNK TACTICS” would have been a stronger album with a higher frequency of features since Logic’s addition was perfect for the hip-hop quality. By no means did the lack of features diminish its caliber, but it could have enhanced the album that much more. 

Standout songs on the collection include “WATCH YO STEP” and “RN,” which truly emanate the sounds of hip-hop predecessors such as the aforementioned Beastie Boys. Traditional hip-hop songs — at least in my opinion — are slowly dwindling in popularity in recent years. Together with Joey and Brae, this genre was renovated with a modern twist, where both old and new listeners of hip-hop can appreciate the work created. 

Pure exuberance radiated throughout the duration of “PUNK TACTICS,” as the rebellious nature of hip-hop was illustrated through both its lyricism and instrumental elements. With the waning popularity of the genre, Joey and Brae strived to create an energetic and dynamic album, in which I firmly believe they succeeded. Being the duo’s first album, hip-hop is bound to only grow more from here thanks to these trailblazing artists.