By: Lucas Kowalik
J.I.D.’s debut album, The Never Story,makes me physically angry. The first few tracks are amazing, but after a couple of bad tracks in the middle, the album never fully recovers. The album would have been much better as an EP, with only the first five tracks plus the finale.
J.I.D. is an Atlanta rapper signed to Dreamville Records. The label is helmed by J. Cole, who expertly produces two tracks on this album. In my opinion, Cole should have handled all of the production, but maybe he wants to give his artists more creative freedom.
Another problem I have with this album is that J.I.D. leans too heavily on his influences. His nasally flow is overly reminiscent of Good Kid Maad City-era Kendrick Lamar, except it isn’t bursting with the same complex wordplay. Even the intro track, “Doo Wop,” is very similar thematically to “Wesley’s Theory,” which appeared on Lamar’s last album, To Pimp a Butterfly.
After the intro, “General” kicks the album off. The first verse is reserved but during the second verse, J.I.D.’s flow is absolutely relentless. The Kendrick influence is most apparent on this track—almost to a fault. It’s trying too hard to sound like Good Kid Maad City again, even using phone calls between tracks to move the album along.
“NEVER” is one of the best tracks, and has two juxtaposing halves. The first verse features a humble J.I.D. criticizing other rappers for being fake. The second verse opens with the hilarious line, “what you call a chick that don’t suck d***? You don’t.” It is incredibly braggadocios, and feels like he’s impersonating the rappers he was criticizing.
“EdEddnEddy” is certainly the most unique song on the track list. It features a slowed down sample of the legendary posse cut “Scenario,” by A Tribe Called Quest. J.I.D.’s drowsy flow sounds like he took one too many Xanax, which is fitting due to the song’s references to drug use. I would like to see J.I.D. experiment with this sound more in the future, but unfortunately this is the only example on the album.
“D/vision” is the most exciting song on the album. J.I.D.’s verse has some great lines, but it is still littered with struggle bars. The feature from Atlanta rap duo EarthGang is the real reason I love this track so much. Both of their verses are outstanding, with clever lines like “I chose both pills, my thoughts 3D.” This was my first time listening to the pair, and I will definitely be checking out their music in the future.
After “D/vision,” this album starts to go downhill fast. “Hereditary” is a sappy vocal driven track that sounds like something Neo would have released in the early 2000’s. The phone call at end of this track features a women complaining to J.I.D. The voice acting is stale. It reminds me of Lisa yelling at Johnny in the so-bad-it’s good film The Room.
“Underwear” is a glorified banger, but the beat is the only upside. J.I.D. constantly makes this underwear joke that doesn’t even make sense, and references Matthew McConaughey seemingly only because his name sounds like melancholy.
From the atmospheric trap song “8701” to the playful “Somebody,” the album remains inoffensive but also not exciting. However, the album does go out on a high note with “LAUDER.” J. Cole’s production here is fantastic and I wish he was on board for every track – perhaps he could have saved the album. J.I.D.’s verses drag on a bit here, but it is a clear improvement from the previous tracks. With three long verses, his struggling bars becomes glaringly obvious. He spends most of the song talking about being a lyricist, rather than actually saying anything lyrical.
After listening to the first few tracks, I had high hopes for this album but was unfortunately let down. My main gripe with this album is how unfocused it is. Apart from many of the songs being painfully generic, there are a multitude of styles used which do complement each other well. I do see potential in J.I.D., and will be looking out for his next project.
(Featured Image: The Never Story, Dreamville Records)