For better or worse, every generation of rappers has one or two artists burdened with the title of the ‘savior of hip-hop’ by a majority of their audience. While artists like Kendrick Lamar and Tupac have leaned into the title, fulfilling and exceeding their shouldered responsibility to advance the culture, others (*cough* Jay Electronica *cough*) have crumpled under the weight of the world’s expectations; failing to contribute what was expected of them. Twenty seven year-old Atlanta rapper JID, whether he wants to or not, has become the most recent and prominent name in these conversations. Since his stunning debut album The Never Story, JID has garnered a steady stream of comparisons to Kendrick, Lil Wayne, and Andre 3000 — each quite familiar with assigned messiah narratives themselves — placing a tremendous amount of pressure on his sophomore album. Though not as narrative-centric as The Never Story, Dicaprio 2 does not disappoint.
Admittedly somewhat late to the party, my introduction to JID was through his incomparable XXL freestyle earlier this year. While I was vaguely aware of The Never Story, it wasn’t until this performance that I fully understood how prodigious JID really was. Even when paired with Ski Mask the Slump God, arguably the second most technically proficient rapper on the XXL roster, JID looked as out of place as Darnell Dockett on a high school football field. Everything from his apparently infinite reservoir of metaphor to his shapeshifting flows and vocal inflections indicated that he was an artist capable of exceeding the lofty expectations placed on his second album.
Without exception, all of JID’s performances on Dicaprio 2 boast the same levels of artistry and technicality that made his debut album and XXL appearance so special. Despite already demonstrating more than capable songwriting abilities, JID further flexes his chops, making Dicaprio 2 his most well-composed body of work to date.
Two tracks, in particular, exemplify JID’s jaw-dropping performance ability. The album’s third track, “Westbrook”, begins with a haunting pitch-shifted intro from JID followed by an uninspired and grating contribution from ASAP Ferg on the hook. As soon as Ferg cuts out, JID spits an absolutely blistering verse; covering every rhythmic pocket imaginable over two of the smoothest, most vicious verses on the album. Ferg’s feature aside, JID’s marriage to the beat on this track is unmatched by anyone not named Black Thought this year. JID’s performance on “Off Deez” is similarly absurd, displaying unique tonal and rhythmic dynamics while extracting yet another standout J. Cole feature in the process. The Atlanta emcee’s ability to explore every crevice of an instrumental without becoming tedious or unnecessarily complex makes every verse on this project tasteful and satisfying — an unquestionably difficult balance to strike.
While JID’s lyrical prowess is undeniably the central tool in his repertoire throughout Dicaprio 2, his improved songwriting ability and attention to detail set the album apart. Debuted on the always-gorgeous COLORS show, “Workin Out” is JID’s most soulful track since “All Bad”. His melodies compliment the understated piano sample perfectly, adding impact to his contemplative verses about continued dissatisfaction amid resounding success. The seamless transitions between verses, choruses, and the atmospheric piano/vocal section leading into the final verse help make “Workin Out” compelling from start to finish. Zach Fox’s hysterical spoken outro is also a nice touch, ending the track on a more lighthearted note.
Along with “Workin Out”, JID’s improved songwriting ability shines through on “Skrawberries”. Working over an East coast boom-bap instrumental produced by the late Mac Miller, JID raps relentless bars about female empowerment and mutual love’s undying perseverance. Lyrics like “My homegirl rap, and she feminist / Hold it down for the women, I call her Feminem,” point to a more socially conscious perspective from JID, indicating the veteran rapper’s continued evolution. BJ the Chicago Kid’s contribution to the chorus is also one of the most show-stopping moments on the album.
With JID’s versatility and taste, there’s a lot to praise about Dicaprio 2, but some mixing and recording oversights plague otherwise-promising sections of the album. The most notable example of this is on the track “Hot Box” with Joey Bada$$ and Method Man. All three rappers contribute strong verses and DJ Drama’s instrumental hits hard, but most vocal tracks sounds somewhat muffled and buried in the mix. In general, many of the tracks on the second half of the album aren’t mixed as consistently as tracks on the first half, making for a frustrating listening experience. Small tweaks to certain mixes, like making JID’s vocal track less tinny on “Just Da Other Day,” could have made a world of difference in the track’s replayability. By no means is this debilitating to the album, nor is the problem too extreme, but it’s definitely something for JID (or really his studio engineers) to pay more attention to on his next project.
Since signing with Dreamville in 2017, JID has been on a steady vertical trajectory. His music has improved steadily since his earliest independent releases in 2010, and Dicaprio 2 is irrefutably some of his best work. As long as JID’s ambition doesn’t go blind in the spotlight, and his supporting cast can shorten the distance between JID’s message and its practical legibility, there’s little the Atlanta native can’t accomplish.