J.I.D. on Why 'DiCaprio 2' Is the Best Rap Album of 2018: 'It's a Humble Flex'

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Over the course of the next few weeks, Billboard will be allowing artists behind some of the year’s most notable hip-hop and R&B releases the opportunity to speak on why their respective albums deserve to be crowned the top project of 2018. The next artist to speak on his successful run this year is Dreamville rapper, J.I.D., for his blistering album, DiCaprio 2. -- As told to Carl Lamarre

DiCaprio 2 is basically a glorified mixtape. We didn't go album structure. It started off on the road and I was like, "Bro. All of these songs we're making feels like shit that we performed and loved it.” That was whole the basis of the project. Like when we performed "Westbrook" at the Billboard Hot 100 [Festival], it was crazy. Fans lost their minds because we made these records for performances. So, for people to receive it like they are and be like, "Oh, this album is crazy," bro, DiCaprio was a mixtape, why would I make the second one an album? It's like the Chance [the Rapper] thing, kind of like “The Chance Rule.” We're using those kinds of tactics. It's a mixtape. The label is going to call it an album, but we know what the fuck we put into it, we know how we work on albums.

When I was making this album, it was literally around the time that Mac [Miller] died. In the middle of this shit, I was helping him with his project and then, personal shit had happened. It was actually a hard ass year for me, for real, but it was also one of the most successful, financially lit years I ever had in my life. It sucked because of the personal shit I was going through and on top of the Mac shit, my cousin died, it was just a lot of life shit.

Still, I just always knew that my shit was going to be the best.

I remember we had a show in Arizona and we had to leave early in the morning to drive to the next place. But, the night before, we went into the studio and set up all of that shit -- which is the hardest thing in the world to do because you're carrying all of these tools and cords -- but we did a record that didn't even make [the album], but that moment was like, "Alright, we're really making this project right now." That session I locked in with Lute from Dreamville and made a dope ass song, but it didn't make the project because it was on some other shit and it was that good.

Even before [DiCaprio 2] was done, I knew it was [the best]. And then, Kendrick ain't drop this year?! I need that. Give me that. Drake and Cole dropped, of course, but I'm trying to work my way into [other rapper's] top six's. In real time, I didn't put enough work in to be on anybody's list, but like, all this shit is stepping stones. [We] tripled what we [first] did on Billboard. We were like 197 on Billboard last year and we premiered at like 17 or some shit? Shit like that matters to me. I don't be tripping off the numbers and shit, but the numbers did good. Like these are the facts. And we dropped on a Monday, so we lost two days. I had the whole week.

It's just taking over that space right here because I know everybody dropping shit. It's just about maintaining that space and it gave my fans a real voice to be like, "Yeah, we're a good ass fan-base." It made them more powerful. People know who I am now. Now I can drop some shit and it's like, "All right. People are going to pay attention." That's all you really want. Anybody who's in this shit, we just want to have that attention. That's what everybody is fighting for.

Nonetheless, we finna drop this No ID project and we're gonna go crazy. This is the conceptual album, this is the one that's hella musical, hella vibes. This DiCaprio shit, I was just like, "I can rap better than y'all." It was kind of a flex, but, at the same time, it was like some humble shit, like a humble flex.

Billboard Year in Music 2018