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‘The Forever Story’ cements JID as one of modern hip-hop’s strongest talents

Rapper / singer JID released "The Forever Story" on August 26.
Rapper / singer JID released "The Forever Story" on August 26.

JID’s ascension to the top of the modern rap landscape always felt inevitable.

Real name Destin Route, JID was signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville record label in 2017 and quickly established himself through sheer consistency. His first two studio albums, “The Never Story” and “DiCaprio 2,” formed a unique persona out of his impeccable flow, tight wordplay and versatile delivery which made him stand out from other artists breaking out at the same time.

JID continued honing his skills through sporadic singles and dominant feature appearances, stealing the spotlight even from respected veterans on projects like Dreamville’s “Revenge of the Dreamers III” and “D-Day: A Gangsta Grillz Mixtape,” along with albums from Denzel Curry, Doja Cat, James Blake and Joey Bada$$, among others.

This increased level of visibility meant that his newest album, “The Forever Story,” launched with the expectations of both its predecessor and JID’s growing reputation for unmatched quality.

It’s safe to say he was up to the challenge.

“The Forever Story” is JID’s strongest artistic statement to date. Tight but diverse, meticulously crafted but loose enough to allow for surprises, the album delivers a more personal side of JID on a tracklist packed with memorable lyrics, features and production.

JID’s specialty is in creating irresistible bangers, a trait on full display here. “Raydar'' and “Dance Now” are trunk rattlers of the highest degree that kick the album off with a bang, bringing an unstoppable energy that demands attention.

JID brings some friends along to share in the fun as well, like on the KAYTRANADA-produced “Can’t Punk Me” where Dreamville’s EARTHGANG come through like a pair of madmen. There are also the inspired inclusions of 21 Savage and Baby Tate on lead single “Surround Sound,” plus Lil Wayne and Kenny Mason on “Just In Time.”

Where “The Forever Story” really shines, however, is in its more subtle cuts.

“Crack Sandwich” is a song about familial ties, where the struggles of growing up in poverty end up bringing people closer together. JID paints a vivid picture of daily life over one of the grimiest beats on the album, ending with a story about his whole family fighting together in a bar brawl.

Family is a consistent theme on “The Forever Story,” most explicitly on the back-to-back songs “Bruddanem” and “Sistanem.” The former brings surprising chemistry with Lil Durk for a laid-back ode to brotherhood, while the latter is a painstakingly detailed exploration of JID’s relationship with his sister accented by gorgeous vocals from James Blake.

Complicated relationships are further explored on “Can’t Make U Change,” with Ari Lennox’s smooth and sultry vocals playing nicely alongside JID’s blunt lyrics about struggling to make romance work.

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By far the most powerful moment on the album is “Kody Blu 31,” taking influences from R&B and gospel music for a heart-wrenching meditation on seeing the lives of loved ones taken away. JID has done some singing in the past, but his abilities have improved as he perfectly hits every note.

It’s a truly beautiful and emotional experience.

“Better Days” is similarly about loss, here focused on a close friend who ended up stuck in the prison system. The instrumental and vocals from Johnta Austin communicate a strong sense of nostalgia, fitting for the song’s title.

“Stars,” tags in underground legend Yasiin Bey (AKA Mos Def) for some lighthearted observations on fame and consumerism. There’s also “Money,” whose off-kilter beat and children’s choir chorus create a nice contrast against the descriptions of how capital corrupts everything it touches, creating inequality and unjust systems.

“The Forever Story” leaves its two most ambitious songs for last. “Lauder Too,” a sequel track to “The Never Story’s” closer, finishes the commercially available version of the album, summing up many of its core themes and seeing JID looking toward an uncertain future.

But this was not the intended finale.

Head over to YouTube to find “2007,” a monstrous seven-and-a-half minute track which was meant to end the album but couldn’t make it due to sample clearance issues. JID’s strongest storytelling shows up here as he travels through his life to where he is today across several verses and beat switches as well as spoken passages from his father and J. Cole.

An impressive way to close out an already excellent album, with JID no longer in the shadow of his idols but standing alongside them. “The Forever Story” is a testament to raw talent honed razor sharp, and signals a bright future ahead for one of modern hip-hop’s most gifted artists.

RATING: 9/10