The year’s winding down, and yet 2018 still has some surprises up its sleeve. On Monday, an ambitious rap record made its grand entrance: JID’s sophomore effort, DiCaprio 2.
A signee to J Cole’s Dreamville label, the rapper born Destin Route was not exactly an unknown before this album. The hip hop world has slowly but surely been getting to know JID, his nasally, Kendrick-esque voice, his love of dense wordplay and his well-honed skills on the mic. But this impressive record, with its distinctive contemporary production and guest spots from Cole, A$AP Ferg and Method Man, is primed to catapult him to another tier of the game.
While you bump DiCaprio 2, read the skinny on hip hop’s latest rising star.
His moniker comes from a childhood nickname
Folks just getting to know JID probably aren’t aware that his three-letter moniker isn’t an acronym but an abbreviation. It takes after a nickname he says his grandmother doesn’t remember giving him when he was a hyperactive child. “She says ‘jittery,’ but with a ‘d,’” he explained in a recent interview.
Listening to his knotty lyrical flows and rap gymnastics now, the ‘jittery’ description doesn’t quite stick. But JID still gets anxious and sensitive, especially when it comes to his music. That’s the sign of an artist who takes his craft seriously, though.
He was an athlete in a previous life
Like fellow rappers Quavo and Schoolboy Q, JID dreamt of being an athlete as a kid. As a high schooler, he played football as a defensive back, and was also a track athlete. He suffered a hip dislocation in his senior year, but still went to Hampton University in Virginia on a football scholarship. But, as Rolling Stone notes, JID didn’t leave Hampton on a good note—and his future looked uncertain.
“Only person who took me serious was my mom and my sister Rachael,” he told RS of his decision to rap after leaving his collegiate career behind. “Everybody else was like, ‘What’re you doing?’ My dad kicked me out. He’s like, ‘I knew you was going to be a fuck up.’ ’Cause I got kicked out of school.”
Hampton wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. It was there that JID met Doctur Dot and Johnny Venus of EarthGang, who recruited him into the Spillage Village crew they founded around 2010. The Atlanta oddball duo have been supporting him ever since.
He’s been rapping longer than you think
JID’s recent hype belies years of hustle. He cut an early mixtape while at Hampton (it was named after the residence hall he lived in) and has been dropping projects at a brisk pace since, from solo mixtapes and EPs to compilation albums with Spillage Village. And yet, at the tender age of 28, he’s also just getting started: DiCaprio 2 is only his sophomore album.
JID believes entering the rap game relatively mature was definitely to his advantage. “This is what’s lit about me,” he declared in a recent Complex interview. “I didn’t come to the game young as fuck, where I could fuck shit up. I came to the game with a sound mind… I’m making great decisions with my money… I can still fuck with some money, and be crazy, ratchet and do all the fun shit, but at the same time I know how to make my shit triple up.”
He brings the old school into the new world
What sets DiCaprio 2 apart from the rest of the rap coming out of Atlanta right now is its affection for boom-bap and older rap touchstones. Think warm samples, varied skits and tight song structures. Not that the record’s totally devoid of trap sensibilities—its darker undercurrents and crystal-clear percussion certainly owe trap a debt—but discernment and a desire to resist trend-hopping distinguishes the sonics of DiCaprio 2.
JID’s early influences skew old school, like Sly and the Family Stone and Mobb Deep, and he’s been known to champion hip hop traditions that the new wave has eschewed:
Ima keep 3verse songs alive ✊??
— (J.I.D) (@JIDsv) October 20, 2018
Explaining that tweet to Billboard, he expressed his distaste at how culture seems to be making everyone “dumber.” That’s also why lyrics are a priority for JID. “I want people to receive some of [my lyrics], even if it’s a fun song, you know what I’m saying?” he said. “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.”
Atlanta is in his bones
JID’s career would not be what it is today without the support and elevation of other Atlanta hip hop mainstays, starting with EarthGang and his Spillage Village family. Musicians like R&B crooner 6LACK and the rapper OG Maco were also part of the Spillage orbit.
Though he’s since maneuvered into a different lane from the Atlanta trap superhighway, JID very nearly took that route early in his career. Kevin “Coach K” Lee of Quality Control Music, Migos and Lil Yachty’s label, almost signed him years ago. “Coach K is amazing,” the rapper told Clash Music. “He’s got a great ear for talent and an eye for stars. Even when we see each other now he’s hella proud of me.”
Hollywood’s in his sights
Before DiCaprio 2 landed, JID dropped an album trailer that delighted fans of both the rapper and the titular actor. The tongue-in-cheek clip featured JID re-enacting some iconic scenes in DiCaprio movies, from The Revenant to Inception to The Wolf of Wall Street.
But it was a much older Leo film that ignited JID’s imagination: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, which he saw when he was seven or eight years old. He named his 2015 mixtape after the rapper, he told DJ Booth, because he felt similarly under-recognized—remember the years DiCaprio went snubbed by the Academy Awards?
But JID’s not keen to simply stay a fan of film. He recently wrote a song for The Hate U Give, the 2018 adaptation of Angie Thomas’ young adult novel, and he’s increasingly open about his Hollywood ambitions. “I’m gonna be doing movie shit. That’s why it’s DiCaprio, that’s why all this shit is film-based,” he told Complex. “That’s the end goal, me trying to get into film. Writing, directing. I don’t want to be an actor too much.”
JID has yet to put out any music videos for DiCaprio 2, but if his vision is as cinematic as he says it is, those visuals will be a sight to behold.
Stream DiCaprio 2 here.