The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.
A few weeks before he announced his third studio album The Forever Story, JID tweeted an intriguing statement about his burgeoning popularity. “None of my rap co-workers be tryna rap wit me dawg,” he wrote. “I think y’all n****z is scared, I’m talking to bigger rap artists.” The Forever Story presents a wealth of compelling evidence to support that theory.
In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that The Forever Story is the – as in singular, as in only – best-rapped album to come out in 2022. Present your arguments for whomever and however you see fit, but the Atlanta rapper’s project has at least one song to give it an edge over its qualified competitors.
I’ll go out even further on this narrow branch and say that JID belongs in the top five contemporary rappers discussion, and has since 2018 when he dropped DiCaprio 2. Since then, he’s followed up with the folksy Spilligion alongside his Spillage Village cohorts, utterly stolen the show on two Dreamville compilations, and made me enjoy an Imagine Dragons song.
So, why hasn’t JID gotten the recognition he deserves? There are a couple of reasons that spring to mind. First of all, JID has the unfortunate timing to have made his debut in a time slightly removed from the era where super technically skilled rappers could gain a lot of traction in a relatively short amount of time.
Think about the “blog era,” which spawned such lyrically-gifted standouts as Big KRIT, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, or Wale. Being a rapper’s rapper was prized at such a time because hip-hop goes through different cycles. There’d been a long lull in the priority of bars-first traditionalism, and the massive cultural shift toward blogs and weekly freestyles allowed artists like these to grab a lot of the spotlight.
That era came to an end in the middle of the last decade, as Chance The Rapper, who is probably the last of the blog era super rappers to get on, won his Grammy for Coloring Book. Then the Soundcloud era began, and colorful characters like Travis Scott who prized “vibes” over rhymes began to take center stage. JID is decidedly not one of those, but because he made his debut during that era, fans of hyper lyrical rappers likely wrote him off as just another punk kid.
Another reason might come directly from JID’s own words. One of the biggest drivers of any new – or even established – artist’s rise to stardom is the willingness of their peers to collaborate. Consider Lil Durk, who actually appears on The Forever Story on the song “Bruddenem.” He toiled on the underground scene for nearly a decade until Drake featured him on the 2020 standout “Laugh Now Cry Later.”
Now, Durk’s considered an A-lister, a hotly-demanded feature artist in his own right with numerous No. 1 albums under his belt. No one has yet done this for JID, aside from J. Cole, who hasn’t featured the younger MC on his own albums despite working with him on the Dreamville collabs on songs like “Stick.” Even if he did, JID’s an artist on his label, and would probably be subject to the “homie write-off” effect that plagued underlings in groups like Disturbing Tha Peace, St. Lunatics, and Roc-A-Fella. There’s only so much star power to go around, and artists can get overshadowed by their more famous labelmates.
Other rappers might really be nervous to feature JID, whose sheer force of persona could potentially overpower or overwhelm the sort of mainstream-friendly tracks it would take to expose him to a wider audience more used to party anthems than aggressive battle rap tracks.
Meanwhile, any rapper who considers themselves more lyrics-forward runs the risk of being “Renegaded” – the fan term for being outrapped on your own track, as applied to Jay-Z’s 2001 song “Renegade” from The Blueprint. When Eminem’s intricate, wordy verses seemed to tower over Jay’s more laid-back, heady ones, Nas ridiculed Jay, “Eminem killed you on your own sh*t.” Nobody wants the potential embarrassment.
The last reason JID might not radiate star power like some of his peers do is that he’s so down-to-earth and humble. He’s quiet, not prone to making outrageous pronouncements or having emotional outbursts on Twitter. In the few engagements we’ve had on that platform, he always seemed more curious and willing to learn than he did defensive, boisterous, or argumentative.
Hip-hop loves a villain – or at least an antihero – someone who talks loud and seems unafraid to make enemies. Acts like Kanye West or 50 Cent seem larger than life. Hell, even Tekashi 69, whose antics were decried by hip-hop fans, remains a subject of fascination. The soft-spoken JID just isn’t going to be as sensational a character for them to latch onto.
But his rhymes are sensational. Whether he’s talking tough on “Dance Now” and “Surround Sound” or telling nostalgic stories on “Crack Sandwich,” waxing philosophical on “Better Days” or getting confessional on “Sistanem,” he shows a grasp of the artform that almost nobody in the rap business today even comes close to. So, while he might not be as universally recognized as I believe he should be, The Forever Story might well change that.
He’s got the big-name co-signs from guest stars like 21 Savage and Lil Wayne. He’s starting to talk his sh*t on Twitter. He’s got enjoyable slow burners like “Can’t Make U Change” with Ari Lennox and veteran blessings from Yasiin Bey on “Stars.” All that’s left is for listeners to finally, well, listen. The Forever Story will reward them for doing so. In turn, all they need to do is hail JID as the best rapper of his generation.
The Forever Story is out now via Dreamville/Interscope. Get it here.