|2022||The Forever Story||JID||★★★★½||89||Hip-Hop|
Whether it’s rapping on his own albums, as a feature or part of a collaboration, I think JID has pound-for-pound become the most consistently high-performing hip-hop artist out there today.
Sure, when Kendrick Lamar releases something it’s still an event that demands your attention unlike almost anyone else. And there are guys like Tyler The Creator, who’s multi-faceted creativity as an artist — from his instantly recognizable brand of produced to varying personas through the years — has constantly pushed musical boundaries in the genre. And there’s Vince Staples, who every year puts out a solid, subtle, smart record that just works.
But JID does not miss these days. The Forever Story is somehow only JIDs third solo record, and his first since 2018. But in the time since then, his few features a year routinely dominate other rappers on tracks. That’s on display throughout his 2022 release.
His spit-fire delivery is up there among the most technical rappers we’ve had, and grabs hold of you with ease in a way few others can. The way he intricately weaves his words and themes together is rivaled only by the best wordsmiths out there. And he can smoothly ride an ever-changing beat with supreme confidence, energy and varying vocal inflections. Plus, he just sounds cool as shit saying most of the things he comes up with.
This new album is an absolute powerhouse that fully showcases JID’s skill and ability as a lyricist, a crafter of rhymes and lines. The production is essentially perfection for that task, bringing underground feelings of grit and rawness while also placing moments of more soulfulness, vocal samples, softer R&B stylings and classical music precisely at the best times.
Every song on here is good, but “Raydar,” “Dance Now” and “Crack Sandwich” are a stellar 1-2-3 punch at the very top of the album. “Surround Sound” with 21 Savage is a fun track that lets the duo rap over a “Ms. Fat Booty” sample, appropriate for an album that later features a timeless Mos Def/Yasiin Bey verse over a beat that would fit right in as part of Black on Both Sides back in 1998. “Just In Time” brings JID and Lil Wayne together for the first time, a great pairing considering JID’s swagger, energy and even vocal quality are clearly influenced by old school, braggadocious Wayne mixtapes. The slower, more reflective and soulful tracks like “Sistanem,” with James Blake, “Can’t Make You Change” with Ari Lennox and “Kody Blu 31” help give balance to the record in a way that feels appropriate, not forced.
I loved DiCaprio 2 in 2018, but that album’s hard hitting, sometime heavily-handed instrumentals did some of the work in making it a success, and led to more of a well-crafted mixtape feel versus an intentionally-crafted work of art. JID shows so much growth on The Forever Story, and the result is more honed in themes, a more refined, sophisticated sound and a better product overall.