By: Tommy “T-Rod” Rodriguez

Atlanta rapper and Dreamville superstar JID embodies what people want from hip-hop. A marvel with a unique cadence, a razor sharp pen and a wide range of production choices, JID embodies textbook talent. In the same vein, his commercial output has embodied “textbook quality”: Dicaprio 2 and The Never Story were great at giving straightforward bangers and displays of JID’s potential as a lyricist. Songs like “EdEddn’Eddy” and “Workin’ Out” are some of my favorite rap songs last decade, hints that JID could push rap boundaries. Fast forward to this past week, and it looks like JID fulfilled that potential on all fronts with The Forever Story. Loaded with some of JID’s most creative songwriting and thematic choices, the album feels like a simultaneous look at JID’s past and future, planting its roots in his present talents to make music that can last forever.

Off the bat, one of The Forever Story’s best aspects is its writing. While I have loved JID’s bar-per-second style of spitting, I can admit that it makes some of his older tracks work less as songs and more like talent showcases. JID’s focus on his background and his goals in life turns his main skill, his lyricism, into a focused narrative. “Crack Sandwich” is a perfect example of the “past” aspect of the album, telling a tale on JID’s adolescence and the lessons his parents taught to him over a nasty beat. On the flip side, the “future” of this record’s themes is exemplified by “Stars,” a meditation on the hip-hop industry using JID’s hustle and Yasiin Bey’s sage wisdom as combined POVs. I especially loved that small transition into his verse: “And now, a word from our ancestors.” The Mos Def influence shines throughout this album, whether you’re looking at the advice or uniquely-worded rhyme schemes sprinkled on every track. 

Now despite JID’s influences being pretty clear on this album, that doesn’t mean he isn’t doing his own thing; far from it actually. JID is an expert at honing his skills to craft some exceptional content on classic topics. “Bruddanem” is a classic “ride or die” track, but his mix of theatrical singing, a funk rap beat and exceptional flow makes it an easy highlight. The Durk feature displayed are icing on the cake. “Sistanem” is a great counterpart to this track, shifting its focus to JID’s thoughts on an environment where misogyny, homesickness and longing hurts his relationship with loved ones. It’s a deep track, heavy on the heart despite the minimal beat. Again, these tie into that “past/future/forever” aspect that JID goes into, but these more introspective moments work because they’re offset by some great pacing and bangers. “Can’t Punk Me” and “Dance Now” strike me as classic JID joints, stuff that is infectiously catchy and feature some clever wordplay. The highs and lows are perfectly balanced to show that JID is proud of where he’s at, but he’s hungry for more.

One thing I want to cover from The Forever Story is how unique a record it is at times. Some tracks here are alien, feeling like they took years to perfect. “Kody Blu 31” is a haunting ode to perseverance, primarily featuring JID singing his ass off; it’s a fantastic gut punch that gave me pause on first listen. Similarly, “Better Days” is a peaceful guitar ballad that laments in JID’s own current frustrations and hopes for better times. “Surround Sound” nets a classic soul loop (from Mos Def’s “Ms. Fat Booty”) and flips it into a sinister rager. The tempo switch here is more the rule than the exception on this tracklist, with the beat of many songs progressing and evolving as much as JID’s flows do. Not too many mainstream rap records sound or flow like this one, and I implore any rap fan to check it out. 

Before we close out today’s session, I want to discuss what may be the best song rap listeners may not hear this year, “2007.” While JID himself has expressed on social media that the song is only available on Youtube (due to clearance issues), I feel like many may miss out on a 10/10 story track. The song is a perfect cap to the themes and technicals of the record, detailing JID’s entire life as a college athlete to a struggling artist to his signing to Dreamville. Few artists can capture the cinematic detail JID’s lyrics contain here, and it perfectly displays how far he has come and how far he is willing to go to succeed. It’s heartwarming, chilling, powerful, any other buzzwords that can describe a genuine human experience…

And in a way that’s how I feel about The Forever Story. I love rap music because I think that it embodies aspects of the human experience that we all need to learn: pain, love, hype, humor, confidence, etc. For me, The Forever Story captures all those emotions, seasons them in a blanket of incredible writing and production, and grills them in some of the best sequencing and pacing in a rap album this year. It’s a full course meal that satisfies on all ends. To speak to the title of the record, music like this lives…forever

Tracks to Save: “Raydar,” “Dance Now,” “Crack Sandwich,” “Can’t Punk Me,” “Surround Sound,” “Kody Blu 31,” “Bruddanem,” “Sistanem,” “Can’t Make U Change,” “Stars,” “Money,” “Better Days,” “2007”

Tracks to Skip: N/A

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