In an age where lyrical ability in hip hop is becoming more and more irrelevant, Atlanta rapper J.I.D sticks out like a sore thumb. Everything he’s done in his very short career up until now involves going against the grain in some way, shape or form. That alone is probably the very reason why J Cole gravitated towards the 28-year-old in the first place.
Much like his rebellious Dreamville counterpart, J.I.D doesn’t care about much with regards to the industry; unless it has to do with mercilessly rapping of course. When fans questioned J.I.D’s plan to release DiCaprio 2 on a Monday rather than a Friday, he responded with this. It’s the most J Cole thing to do, and is mainly the reason why both of them work so well together.
With that in mind, none should be surprised about their collaboration on the incredibly jittery and frantic lead single on DiCaprio 2, “Off Deez.” The track essentially acts as a three-minute boast with regards to each other’s respective skills. Unsurprisingly, the lack of a catchy hook represents the ongoing “fuck you” attitude each of them has for the industry (“Get off my dick, get off my dick/.40 my hip, loading’ my clip”). While the repetitive pace becomes stale after awhile, Cole and J.I.D’s ability to spit in the most uncharacteristic way is still a sight to see.
Much like on J.I.D’s last project, DiCaprio 2 features a wide range of fidgety trap beats and off-kiltered flows. However, it’s the improved songwriting and clever Eminem-like lyricism that sets this project apart from his others. The other lead single, “151 Rum,” presents J.I.D’s phenomenal wordplay in its truest form. With post-production help from the late Mac Miller (who helped with the majority of this record), the track not only bumps because of it’s bombastic horns and killer base, but J.I.D’s infectious energy carries this victorious feeling throughout. It’s almost as if one of the greatest rappers from the boombap era decided to flow over a modern-day trap beat.
Dicaprio 2 is basically like Logic’s Young Sinatra IV mixtape, but without the annoying references about how fast the MC can rap. J.I.D actually presents thoughtful ideas through his relentless efficiency and intensity. He’s got a lot to say, and he doesn’t take long to do it. “Slick Talk” is probably his most enduring track to date, where J.I.D. claps back at haters who can’t seem to fathom his uncanny style within the Soundcloud era we find ourselves currently in (“I got a lotta shit to say, but I’ma keep my list short/
I know alotta your favorites not gon’ fuck with this part/When I’m done, please know that I was trying to diss y’all/Cause if this is a competition, then I’m setting this bar”).
The Atlanta rapper is at his best when he does exactly what he knows, which is why it’s peculiar when he adds an awkward ASAP Ferg hook on “Westbrook” to an otherwise fire song. Their contrasting styles fail to mesh well, and leads to a pretty messy and uninspired beat transition between each of their contributions.
J.I.D.’s turbulent attitude towards the industry sometimes functioned as a detriment to the album. There’s some Kendrick-like skits at the end of a handful of tracks that don’t really amount to much other than spreading a surface-level message of “paving your own way in life.” Normally, an addition like this may not be a problem, but J.I.D sort of acts like the dialogue is some kind of revelation to a whole other idea no one’s ever heard of.
Unlike the Yachtys and Uzis of the genre, J.I.D keeps to himself for the most part. He very rarely does interviews, so when people do listen to his music, the lyrics should be dissected carefully. He eerily speaks out on the dangers of hard drug use in the track, “Off da Zonkey’s;” and I say eerily because of the amount of time Miller spent on this project with J.I.D. His influence is clearly felt, notably within the very soulful “Workin’ Out.” The production and thematic elements could have easily been featured on The Divine Feminine as a solo Mac Miller song. J.I.D even sounds exactly like the Pittsburgh native in the early stages of his career on “Despacito Too,” which was one of the more lighter moments on the record.
It’s nice to see Miller’s legacy carried on throughout his influences prior to his death, and J.I.D was one of the last artists to experience that feeling. Overall, the Southern rapper is at his most thoughtful to date, and while imperfect at times, DiCaprio 2 was surely a post-boombap album done right, filled with bouncy beats and lyricism that’s finally worth mentioning amongst the crowded trap sub-genre; where songwriting has seemingly become irrelevant.