Last year, ardent supporters of Dreamville fell in love with J.I.D when he released his acclaimed album The Never Story. Lauded for his masterful wordplay, the Atlanta MC positioned himself as a viable No. 2 option behind J. Cole on his formidable roster of acts. After being named as a XXL Freshman earlier this year, J.I.D tantalized fans with his blistering record “151 Rum” and revealed his plans of dropping DiCaprio 2, a sequel to his 2015 EP.
Not only does J.I.D plan to keep fans enthralled with his punchy delivery, but on his new album, he recruited DJ Drama to sprinkle a dash of his mixtape prowess on DiCaprio 2. “I just write better songs now,” says the nimble lyricist about his sophomore project. “Back then, I would just shoot. Now I can pinpoint some shit.”
Along with the mixtape savant, J.I.D. grabbed J. Cole, BJ The Chicago Kid, Method Man and more for his latest effort. J.I.D even worked with the late Mac Miller on crafting the sugary “Scrawberry,” which is produced by Miller.. “The way [Mac] sectioned my shit off and placed the beat on ‘Scrawberry,’ I was like, ‘Yo you’re a genius,” recalls J.I.D “He was more than just a lyricist.”
Billboard sat down with J.I.D to speak on his new album DiCaprio 2 — set to drop Nov. 26 — discussing why he wants to keep three-verse rap songs alive, what him and a Bhad Bhabie track would sound like, and the genius of Mac Miller. Check it out below.
I love your SoundCloud page bio: “A soft-spoken but intricate lyricist with a cocky side.” Is that how you still describe yourself going into your second album Dicaprio?
Yeah, because I don’t raise my voice unless I got to.
You definitely got your inside voice on right now. I hear it.
Facts. On this project, a lot of the music is three, four years old, just updated. The “Scrawberry” song I started that in 2015 and I finished the verse this year. I’ve just been sitting on it like, “Oh, this going to be special,” you know what I’m saying? A lot of my music is like that. A lot of the stuff that I’m putting out now, it’s stuff that I made back then — and I’m still creating new shit. So these [songs] just gonna have to catch up gradually.
I remember reading in an interview with VIBE that you had over 400 tracks self-recorded, and that was back in July. How does one cut 400 tracks down to 12-15? Because I’m sure you had some kind of attachment to most of them.
Forgetting a whole lot of songs that you love. I always forget shit, like, “Oh, fuck! I wanted to put this on there” — but we already started. I guess when we finished the last one, it started coming around [like], “Alright. This is kinda what I wanna do on the next one” type of shit. You have ideas of songs that probably didn’t make the last project that could possibly make this type of shit. It’s more like, “[DJ] Drama’s on, it’s not an album,” but all that shit is the same thing anyway. I approach this one just like a mixtape type of shit.
How has your pen game evolved since your debut EP Dicaprio back in 2015?
I just write better songs now. Then, I would just shoot. [Make gun noise.] Now I can pinpoint some shit.
You were a sniper.
Yeah! Facts. But back then I was just with the whole fucking service. Now I’m just like, “Alright. This ABCDEFG has to make sense.” To make people live with that shit or ingest that shit is a little bit easier to me.
How did you and DJ Drama link up for the album?
I dropped the “My Name Is” freestyle — the Eminem shit — and what’s crazy, my homie Yoh [from] DJBooth was like: “Drama, y’all need to do some shit” And Drama was like, “I’m down.” So on some Twitter shit, I really said, “We gonna do that shit.” We had conversations about doing it at the BET Awards or something. I had a conversation with him on Bright or whatever shit. We talked about it a little bit. But then on Twitter, everybody saw the shit. So everybody was like, “Let’s do this.”
Ima keep 3verse songs alive ?—-
— (J.I.D) (@JIDsv) October 20, 2018
You made a point on Twitter to keep the three-verse format alive after Pusha T spoke on its absence during The Joe Budden Podcast. Why do you feel that component is still needed in hip-hop?
I feel like the world is getting dumber. I don’t necessarily think people are stupid, but I think we’re getting dumber. I think jobs like Uber and fucking Uber Eats is trash to me. Like, what do you do, my n—a? You can drive your car and grab our food? That shit is trash to me. So literally things are making the world dumber, bro. Like, literal conveniences that we use is taking away from the n—as that used to go to trade school and college to make shit happen, you know what I’m saying? Now it’s just like, “N—a, you got your license? Oh, Uber? N—a, you got a job.”
You’re acting like you wouldn’t order from UberEats.
I do order from UberEats.
So it’s a need for you.
They just got a lot of time on their hands. [Laughs.] I feel ’em! I don’t wanna knock anybody’s hustle. Everybody gotta get it how they gotta get it. But I’m just saying, realistically, we all getting dumber. So I don’t want to take that shit to the music. I want to make people work for this shit. Not work for it, but I want people to receive some of [my lyrics], even if it’s a fun song, you know what I’m saying? I love all the fun shit, and all that shit stands a place in the industry, but I want to keep that [real hip-hop] shit.
I don’t care who on the charts 30 times. Whatever, my n—a. The n—as who are winning, we know the n—as is winning. And is the same n— we been saying not dropping goddamn whatever whatever, they dropping the music that’s genuine to them, and people can feel that shit and that’s why [fans] are buying all this shit. And n—as doing arena tours. The top n—as [are] the Drakes, the Kendricks, the Coles. Them the guys, like, facts. The big three. Wait, JAY-Z! I left out Jay. [Laughs]
You obviously are considered the strongest lyrically in this year’s XXL Freshman Class. With that being said, do bars matter in 2018 and if so, why?
They do, they got to.
‘Cause that’s what’s the stats are showing. Like I just said, the big n—as in the industry, Kendrick and shit, like he selling everything. Drake is out there making all fucking types of good music and putting out projects and shit like that. I think bars, I think all that shit has a place in the industry, you know what I’m saying? I feel like the shit that is not so bar-ed up — the shit that is fun, the shit that’s emo, the shit that’s goddamn, the new waves — there’s like sub genres of hip-hop going on right now that people are not even used to it, but they accepting it.
Like Juice WRLD, that fucking first song he got [“Lucid Dreams”], is not pure hip-hop — as a hip-hop purist would say or some shit like that — but its like, us, you know what I’m saying? It’s the generation, it’s the goddamn sub-genres of some rap shit that somebody else probably would have digged.
A lot of people sleep on Juice WRLD. He can rap a little bit. He rapped for an hour twice on Westwood.
That shit cool, but you give me a fucking xanny and I’ll rap for three hours straight. Like, I’m not wasting my time. I’m not doing that shit. And I fuck with Juice. I can make hella songs in an hour. I’m not doing that. I’m finna give you this crazy-ass 32, and you gon’ have to run that shit back.
How do you feel about the art of the freestyle in today’s climate?
N—as don’t freestyle. I don’t wanna hear about no n—a freestyling. The last freestyle that I literally saw was Vince Staples, when he went on Flex and you can tell it was a freestyle. You can literally tell. Freestyle ain’t the same shit. Who really freestyles? Like, saying some shit? You was talking about shooting guns, you’re talking about fucking bitches. Who gives a fuck, for real? I don’t know. I think that shit is just a waste of time.
I remember at the Billboard Hot 100 Fest, after your set, you wanted to go see Bhad Bhabie and you told me that you’re a fan of hers. You even said you would have included her as a XXL Freshman if you could. What is it about her that intrigues you as an artist?
She just seems authentic. She reminds me of a Florida girl. Ratchet, funny, cool as hell, and she got some talent. N—as not making “Gucci Flip Flops.” Anybody else could rap that song, but it wouldn’t be what she did. I just think she fire and she raps. She like a little wild n—a, and reminded me of like a little sister or one of my little cousins, something like that.
Can you see y’all collabing?
What would that track sound like?
I’m crazy, bro. So I’ll rap about anything. I’ll make some shit happen! Her voice is fire. When I was in L.A., she came and we hung out. She a cool person. She a little-ass girl. So, no disrespect to that, but she is cool as fuck.
You were originally going to go on tour with Mac Miller until his untimely death. Did his death shift the project’s development in anyway?
So if he was still here, it probably would have been out. Facts. Would have been out. A lot of records, even some of the shit I just played you, wouldn’t have been on there.
Because I had more time when he passed. I had more time to go back and be like, “All right. I ain’t gotta rush it because we ain’t going on tour right now,” you know what I’m saying? I got time to think. I ain’t really go back and change like too many lyrics but I touched on them, gave them a little inflections, make the project better type of shit. Added the Method Man record and finished the shit with Drama.
He touched on like five or six songs on the project, you know what I’m saying? Before he passed. Like “Scrawberry,” he’s the reason that shit sound like that. Produced by [J.] Cole, Masego played on it, Ron Gilmore and Elite played on it, BJ Chicago kid sang and Mac Miller arranged it.
That sounds like a Mac Miller kind of arrangement.
That’s why I said it took three years for me to have all the pieces to put that shit together. It’s beautiful, you know what I’m saying? And it’s gonna take time for shit like for that to happen.
Obviously we knew Mac can spit, but what would you say was the most underrated aspect of his game or his arsenal?
Bro was literally a genius. Like, he played everything. I don’t know if people understood how deep that shit went. I came in the studio — I feel like it was the day he was working on “Self Care,” the record that’s on his [Swimming] project — and bro, he brings other people in, but he kinda plays and does all of his shit and adds all types of inflections.
That shit is just like the best thing about it ‘cause its like, “oh, you really invested into the music outside of just the lyricism. You’re like a composer. You like bringing in different people on some Quincy Jones shit, and making them bring out the sounds you looking for. And then you know how to layer tracks.” The way he sectioned my shit off and placed the beat on “Scrawberry,” I was like, “Yo you’re a genius. ”
He was more than just a lyricist. He was like a genius, composer type shit.
One of my favorite tracks on The Never Story was “Hereditary.” You said a relationship “will make you have a revelation.” What’s the biggest revelation you gotten from a relationship that helps you move in straight path today?
That was a revelation! “Hereditary” was a revelation. Facts. That’s why I made that song. This ain’t even your fault. Like, you just a ho cause your mama a ho. Facts!
Do you still carry that mentality today?
Sins of the father shit? Yeah. I dealt with that shit myself. It was about a girl in high school, who I can’t say her name, ‘cause she’ll probably know I’m talking about. It was her, her sister, her mom and her sister had a little baby, all grown women living in a house. So it’s not bad, that’s not a bad thing.
Bad part was when I seen why it was like that. Went to her dad’s house one time for Christmas, everybody came over, her dad married a new woman, started a new family. But her mom came over. Mom just talking crazy to him, about anything, about what he doesn’t do for his daughter, in front of the other family and just being a real like, “Oh, you like a maneater.” Even the way she used to talk to me, bro, she used to treat me like dirt, you know what I’m saying?
Someone who would get off on that type of shit.
Yeah, and her daughter was on the same shit. She was mean as hell. She always got her way. She was not a daddy’s girl – she was a momma’s girl. You know, momma’s girls are different. They are intense.
So I’m arguing with her, I’m arguing with her mom, I’m arguing with her sister. If I’m arguing with her in the room and somebody hears, they come, like, “What’s going on?” and now I’m talking to three different women about some shit we going through. That shit was just corny, and I always thought that was some hereditary shit. You getting this shit from your momma and she fucking up your life.
If you can pick a song or album to serve as a soundtrack to your life right now, which one would you choose and why?
“As” by Stevie Wonder. It’s the greatest song ever written, bro. It’s definitely top five. And just because the way he was describing love and shit. I like being in love, and I think that shit makes the world go round. Boom. Got love, probably won’t need money. The way he explains shit talking about love and how much you gon’ love somebody. You saying all these things to explain one simple fucking method, and that’s just a genius thing to me.