Atlanta-based rapper J.I.D. is no newcomer to his craft — he’s been cranking out music well before a lot of his contemporaries hit puberty. However, only recently have audiences started tuning in to what he has to say. In 2017, J.I.D was signed to J. Cole’s label, Dreamville. In 2018, he was placed on the XXL Freshman cover. However irrelevant being put on the XXL Freshman list may be nowadays, it is still a significant nod to J.I.D.’s achievements and gradual maneuver towards the upper-echelons of the rap game.
In spring of 2017, J.I.D. released his debut record — the amazingly compact and vivid “The Never Story” — and demonstrated a genuinely shocking level of artistic maturity. Chock-full of amazingly catchy hooks, intricate personal tales and consistently bouncy interplay between flows and beats, “The Never Story” set the bar high for the follow up. With “DiCaprio 2,” J.I.D. delivers — for the most part.
J.I.D. released “151 Rum” and “Off Deez” in anticipation of the release of the new project, both lyrical hurricanes complimented with a complex mosaic of rhyme flexes. From these two singles, J.I.D. makes mind-bending rhyme schemes seem elementary. Even before the release of his new record, fans knew that J.I.D. was coming with a new hunger, a new venom.
And this hunger and venom runs rampant throughout. “Slick Talk” wastes literally no time cheffing up a sinister J.I.D.-typical internal rhyme — “A acne patient acting patient / so complacent.” On “Hot Box,” he rhymes “cockroaches” and “glock is closer,” truly inexplicable until you hear it. On “Despacito Too,” J.I.D. demonstrates his ability to craft the wonderfully wonky, deeming himself “The J.I.D. babe, Mutombo.” J.I.D. flexes his artistic muscles all throughout the project.
But aside from J.I.D. himself, J.I.D. draws that same hunger and venom out of his guest stars on “DiCaprio 2.” Joey Badass re-enters his “B4.DA.$$” sweet-spot on “Hot Box,” J. Cole holds his own trying to match J.I.D.’s rapidfire cadence on “Off Deez” and frequent collaborator 6LACK demonstrate the mastery of his dark, desolate blend of rap and R&B.
The shining star of the project is “Off da Zoinkys,” an incredibly humble, mature perspective on the current prevalence of drug addiction in the rap sphere of today. J.I.D. understands firsthand the damage and devastation that drugs can inflict internally and externally, and spits his narrative with a sharp candor — “Pure cut / put it straight to your nose / I ain't nosy / but I know what I know.” J.I.D.’s forthright narrative on addiction is chiefly critical nowadays, especially in the wake of the tragic deaths of Lil Peep and Mac Miller — whom J.I.D. was slated to start touring with just 3 days before his death.
Despite its many laudable moments, the album itself feels disjointed — almost as if the track sequencing was decided by a random number generator. Sure, J.I.D. is rapping faster, with more complex rhyme schemes, with more bite. But growth alone does not provide his art with substance. And at this point, “DiCaprio 2” feels pretty unsubstantial. Extreme highs like “Off da Zoinkys” could have held so much more weight on a more focused record.
“DiCaprio 2” warrants a few listens, a few songs added to the aux cord playlist, but falls flat as the individual piece of art that J.I.D. is so capable of crafting — and has crafted in the past. Fans can only hope that J.I.D. can use his evident artistic growth to craft a project worth putting into the rap history books.
“DiCaprio 2” is a puzzle with gorgeously designed pieces, each with its own complex shape, pattern, vibrance and energy. But none of the pieces fit together, however promising the pile seems to be.
Also, someone at Dreamville needs to change the album’s cover art as soon as humanly possible.