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JID’s ‘The Forever Story’ proves great projects take time

Five long years ago, JID splashed onto the rap scene from Atlanta. In 2017, he signed onto J.Cole’s record label, Dreamville, and released his debut studio album “The Never Story.” The following year, he was chosen as part of the Freshman Class list of up-and-coming rappers by XXL Magazine before releasing his second studio album “DiCaprio 2.” Then, after this impressive two-year stretch, he changed his output strategy: a keen eye scrolling through his Spotify page would promptly notice that his collaborative material from 2019 to 2021 greatly outnumbered any independent songs he released, with his most popular feature being on “Enemy” by Imagine Dragons. His guest verses, though, weren’t the reason I loved his music back then. While I appreciated his output in collaborative songs, I would have rather listened to music with his original voice and perspective. After making fans — myself among them — wait four long years, JID finally released his highly anticipated third studio album, “The Forever Story.”

In name and concept, “The Forever Story” is a sequel to “The Never Story.” While the latter reflected JID’s personal life and upbringing — and the unlikelihood of his success — the former sees JID examine his successes and the realities that Black America faces as a whole. The opening track on “The Forever Story,” entitled “Galaxy,” interpolates the opening track of “The Never Story,” “Doo Wop.” Hearing the same lyrics as JID’s debut project, this new album truly highlights his artistic growth as an artist: “Galaxy” is akin to a butterfly growing its wings and leaving its cocoon. The rest of the album follows suit, with the subsequent 14 tracks contributing to not only JID’s most mature body of work to date but one of rap’s best releases this year. 

One of this album’s incredible strengths is the breadth of styles that JID is able to deliver. I nearly got whiplash when moving from the opening track to “Raydar,” featuring a low-key beat atop a fiery and rapid flow. With the stretch of songs encompassed by “Raydar,” “Dance Now,” “Crack Sandwich,” “Can’t Punk Me” and “Surround Sound,” this album welcomes head-bopping during its bangers. If the entire album consisted of songs of this level of quality, it would already be a solidalbum. However, by the time the album reaches “Kody Blu 31” and takes an R&B tonal shift is when I knew that this album would go down as a classic. In this point of inflection for the album, JID demonstrates his ability to elevate a song with his impressive vocals with the support of his backup singers. This production on “Kody Blu 31” resulted in a vividly beautiful song tributing a friend who died too young and urging the listener to carry on with grace and dignity.

The album from there takes a slower path, allowing itself to take time exploring the melodies. The stretch of songs from “Kody Blu 31” to “Stars” — tracks 7 through 11 — are slow, yet nice and simple to listen to. It’s a pleasant contrast from the non-stop flowing that characterized the first half of the album. Another point to this album’s strengths is that the guest verses all bring something unique to their respective songs with excellent performances. Ari Lennox and Kenny Mason bring beautiful vocals on “Can’t Make U Change” and “Just In Time,” respectively, and Earthgang stands out for their charisma over the beat on “Can’t Punk Me.”

The lead-up to this album was tantalizing, to say the least. The four-year gap between “DiCaprio 2” and “The Forever Story” felt like it would never end. Yet this year, between JID’s album and the five-year gap for Kendrick Lamar’s new album coming to an end, it seems like the reward for patience is albums that have immeasurable quality and definite care put into them. Nowadays we’re used to immediacy when it comes to art, but sometimes this may come at the cost of introspection. How can an artist share new perspectives and analyze their own thoughts on current events and the world at large when they are constantly asked to share their work without much consideration for the artistic process?

With every verse and every beat on every track for “The Forever Story,” listeners can absolutely tell the care that JID put into this body of work. While the wait for “The Forever Story” truly felt like forever, the album is more complete for having been released only when it was ready. Artists run the risk of fading into obscurity or killing the hype when they take too long to release a project. However, JID taking the extra time was necessary to make one of the best rap albums of the year.

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