When discussing the radar for Septembers newest rap albums, it would be immoral not to bring up IDK’s newest album ‘Is He Real?’. ‘Is He Real’ is the Maryland-based rapper’s first studio album following the releases of several mixtapes and EPs dating back to 2014. IDK presents himself as a seasoned and experienced rapper and singer. This is true through his seamless transitions between singing and rapping, as well as the exceptional lyricism he displays on this particular project. Listening to IDK utilize both his talents is like seeing the evolution of Childish Gambino’s singing and rapping abilities, but in one album. Yet, the most intriguing part about the album has to be IDK’s overall theme of religion and the effects it will have on a person such as himself.
IDK opens up the album with a song Cloud Blu, where he immediately answers the question he presents in the album title. This is done by asking another question: what happens when you die? The myopic response about what you see in heaven is followed by a blunt conclusion where IDK controversially claims that God simply is not real. The technique of creating a particular atmosphere, typically a positive one, and bluntly changing gears into something much darker or existential leaves listeners with an eerie feeling. The idea is that listeners will seek elaboration from IDK and that they will need to dig further into the album to see what IDK’s purpose is. IDK touches in religious themes and subjects several times throughout the rest of the album.
Stepping away from the religious themes, the powerful lyrics IDK is able to fit in an album that only spans 35 minutes in total is impressive. IDK does not do this so much through metaphors and wordplay, but more so through storytelling and vocals. In the song ‘42 Hundred Choices’, IDK talks about his relationship with temptation which comes full circle as he uses the imagery of violence right outside churches and committing crimes inside the church itself. The imagery used here makes listeners feel as if they are alongside IDK in the midst of his time spent in these dangerous environments he describes.
To act as a contrast, IDK writes songs in which he relishes in criminal activity through the money it generates for him, specifically tracks such as ‘24’. While IDK sings on several songs on the album and his abilities are impressive as they resemble those of his rap abilities, the more impressive attribute he showcases is his ability to switch between the two and still carry the same amount of power through his words. On songs like ‘No Cable’, for example, IDK opens the song up with a verse about family values and how money can change the perception people around you hold over you. As soon as the verse closes, IDK starts to sing his own chorus where real world issues are shut out by a person telling IDK to “change the channel” as if avoiding the problems brought up in today’s society is as easy as pushing a button on a remote control.
IDK decides to tackle the subject of God and religion on this album. The opening track puts the listeners in the perspective of a young child describing what you see when you die, but then this cute and innocent imagery is disrupted by IDK’s blunt claim that there really is no God. On the song “Porno” IDK compares the beautiful parts of women, specifically what they wear on their lips, to the temptations of the Devil. There’s countless examples of religious bashing in the bulk of the album, but the most interesting and heart wrenching is on the final track ‘Julia . . .’ where IDK regales listeners with the cause of his mother, Julia’s, death to a losing battle with AIDS, which she contracted from IDK’s step dad. Prior to the reveal IDK describes several other truths about sad and ugly truths, with the ad lib “Where’s God?” following each scenario he presents. Peppering the album with these religious references makes the listeners understand why he has a hard time believing there really is a God, one that would allow the events he describes to take place.
IDK manages to produce a very powerful and entertaining album with ‘Is He Real?’. His beautiful vocals and pleasant lyrics make listening to the album a relaxing and thought provoking ride. It says a lot in just a little over half an hour, so it is perfect for that commute to work or ride on the bus, but also worth sitting down and dedicating time to dissect it. It is difficult to pick just a couple songs to give the spotlight to, however Porno and Lilly are the tracks that resonate the most. It goes without saying, but IDK really did set the bar high with this one.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment