2018 Highlights: "DiCaprio 2"

By Sean Lee

With his nasally flow and extreme lyrical technicality, it would be too easy to toss aside J.I.D as a rehashed 2011 Kendrick Lamar. But perhaps the fact that his technical lyricism warrants a comparison to a Pulitzer-prize winning rapper reveals that J.I.D is in a lane far above his peers.

Dicaprio 2, the East Atlanta rapper’s sophomore studio release is a hip-hop album that warrants comparison to the rappers idols. Similar to Lamar’s previous work, J.I.D straddles a delicate balance between overt technical display and artistic vision. While he fails to create any true sense of cohesiveness beyond simply his lyrical dexterity, there’s definitely a message inside his multitude of words.

If not a deeper message, J.I.D raps with a desperation that his recent success can be taken away from him at any moment. “My niggas got a Benz and he push it like a go kart/ Tryna get one of them, but my ends like don’t start/ The bullshit again fore’ you end up broke boy again/ So don’t pretend,” he raps on “Just Da Other Day,” revealing a deeper insecurity that stems from the lack of permanent income.

In this manner, J.I.D’s lyricism seems the efforts of a maniacal desperado confident enough to know his bars earns him a spot among his idols but still young enough to fear that he’ll wake up from this hip hop dream. But this self doubt is often masked as overconfidence on DiCaprio 2.

“I’m from East Atlanta like Gucci and Travis Porter/ But my story is similar to the hare and the tortoise,” J.I.D raps on “Slick Talk,” a ferocious four-and-a-half minute track that sees the rapper switching from a 32nd note dexterous flow to a braggadocios drudge, an interesting move for an emcee who at times seems uncertain about his raps. “Slick Talk” alone placed J.I.D as one of the best rappers of the new school for me and the rapper himself seems aware that he’s not in the same realm as the Lil Uzi’s or the Lil Pump’s which his braided hair and post rock fashion might suggest.

Four songs into the project, J.I.D’s mentor and Dreamville sponsor J Cole enters the ring. While most mentor/student situations the elder outshines the apprentice, J Cole sounds surprisingly out of his league attempting to keep up with his protégé. Whereas J.I.D seems at ease delivering his lightning fast six-word-per-bar delivery “We like to feast and I try to eat, cannibal meat/ I am not an animal, a beast/ Riding with the hammer on the seat/ Shotgun, shotgun hand on my heat,” his Dreamville mentor bars sound out of breath even having to revert to playground nursery rhymes to keep his flow up “Pull up on the block, eenie, meanie, miney, moe/ You and every nigga that you know is getting popped.”

And this is where J.I.D shines as an artist to me. Here is a young rapper that builds upon the prowess of his predecessors and injects a youthful energy to it that is lacking in the Kendricks and the Coles. When Kendrick Lamar raps “I milly rock when I get my advance” it sounds oddly outdated when compared to where J.I.D alludes to the same dance move: “Still managing to come up with magic in true fashion/ J.I.D Milly rocking through the madness.”

Perhaps counter to my argument however, is the fact that hip-hop heavyweight Method Man raps on this same song and drops one of the best verses I’ve heard from the Wu-Tang Clan member. But that is a testament to J.I.D’s energy: it’s infectious.

Dicaprio 2 certainly is not J.I.D’s magnum opus like his predecessor Kendrick Lamar had with Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. However, it is an album that indicates that huge projects are on the horizon for this young rapper. And in a year where Eminem dropped two albums, J.I.D still managed to give the best display of technical wordplay and lyricism heard in 2018.

This piece is by Sean Lee. Follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leee.

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