Technical prowess and lyrical complexity are skills hard to come by in an age of showy mumble rap and buzzy trap beats. It is in these areas where the auspicious East Atlanta rapper JID exhibits his appeal. On DiCaprio 2 he combines the much flouted ‘vibe’ or buzzy sound of much of modern rap with profound insight into contemporary Southern US society. Throughout his work, JID is reaching for meaning and gravity rather than superficial looks with topical lyrics covering America’s drug epidemic, mental health and female empowerment, topics few rap contemporaries often address.
‘Slick Talk’ provides a strong opening to the album with Kenny Beat’s enticing trap production. “Pen so sharp told stories you thought I forged it” and “JID so flame, I propane rap” build hype and anticipation from the very start. On ‘Off Deez’ JID is joined by North Carolina rapper J. Cole, who signed him to Dreamville Records, and present a lyrical offensive against critics and detractors, asserting their self-confidence and assurance. Additionally, ‘Get Off My D**k’ is a musical analogy for being secure with one’s own talents and abilities regardless of what others think and is an inspiring anthem for personal security and self-esteem against external pressures.
The record’s highlight is ‘Off da Zoinky’s,’ an anti-drug song that urges listeners to “lay off the dope.” JID endearingly stays self-aware and avoids sounding preachy, yet his criticism of drugs is two-pronged. His first issue being that they impair his rap potential (“I gotta make sure my vision is clear”) and secondly noting they are having a disastrous impact on his society (“N****s dyin’, we ain’t sayin’ enough”). Supported by a steady bass, he makes a salient attack on an American drug culture which left 72,306 dead in 2017, including his friend Mac Miller. This is JID at his best: a voice of reason against the often immature Soundcloud rap mainstream.
Finally, on ‘Skrawberries,’ JID continues the blitz on the conventions and norms of rap culture, rapping, “my home girl rap, and she a feminist/cause ass shots are dead ass and fake tits been around, we gas it/ girl you perfect without that makeup or the plastic surgery,” providing a refreshing contrast to the shallow and misogynistic lyricism of much of mainstream hip-hop. It is also a timely critique of our societies’ often obsessive concern with body image. Where Kanye West and Lil Pump’s objectification of women make contemporary hip-hop appear hollow and ethically questionable, JID grounds it with meaning and moral clarity. All of these ideas and great tracks make DiCaprio 2 a must-listen album.
Image: thecomeupshow via Flickr