How JID Turned Family Drama Into One Of The Year’s Best Rap Albums With ‘The Forever Story’
“I was the Tagalong little brother for a period that was kind of ignored, so when I do something artistic, I don’t bring it to anybody like, ‘Hey, that might hurt you a little,'” he says. “No, you’re just going to get your feelings hurt.” Ask for forgiveness instead of a permission type vibe.
The Eternal Story follows JID’s biggest hit to date, “Enemy,” a hard-hitting arena-ready single with Imagine Dragons that peaked in the top five on the Hot 100 and has been streamed over 850 million times on Spotify. “All the while I wasn’t falling and time was passing, I knew we had the Imagine Dragons disc in our back pocket,” he says with a sheepish smile.
He laughs when I point out that he released songs with Sheck Wes and Mos Def in the span of six months, which would seem like a total tonal boost for most MCs. It’s simplistic to say that he tries to bridge the gap between rap trap and more traditional lyrical hip-hop – it’s more that he tries to make the latter style work with the spirit of collaboration that has been the Atlanta brand over the past decade. That’s why he pairs up-and-coming Georgia artists like Baby Tate and Kenny Mason with 21 Savage and Lil Wayne, respectively.
“Kendrick and Cole, we’ve been waiting for them for years to do a project. Why do you think that is? If it was Lil Baby and Gunna, they would have done it three or four times already, but because it’s still a little competitive vibe with lyricism,” he says. “I was like, I don’t really care about that. I feel like I’m better than everyone anyway.
This ability to move seamlessly between styles belies a common criticism of JID that he approaches rap like a running back with only one speed (he played defensive back at Hampton University and says that he “always makes the connection between things and the sport”). There are times on The Eternal Story where he still raps like a prospect breaking records on the agility ladder, but now he’s also added a refined, quietly revealing singing voice. “Kody Blu 31” in particular is a track Christo says they never could have done before JID made that vocal leap.
JID has always been able to carry a melody (he sought out a professional vocal coach when his vocal cords swelled while touring in 2019), but here he sings with confidence and weight, trading blows with his label mate Ari Lennox on the hurt love song “I Can’t Make You Change. The first notes of The Eternal Story include an interpolation of a melody from The story ever “Doo Wop,” but now, instead of Sean McVerry singing, JID leads the mix.
“I just wanted to be able to have that on my Swiss army knife. I’m still working on it, it’s something that continues,” he says. “It’s like being an athlete and having speed. You need to continue to maintain that speed and reduce some things that keep you running at that high level.
After our breakfast, JID stopped by his hotel suite to pick up props for his MTV awards package, including a pendant depicting himself as a character from the beloved 2000s cartoon. Ed, Ed and Eddie. Rappers who have their own diamond faces are nothing new…Rick Ross literally has a chain of himself wearing a chain of himself– but JID says it’s the only blockbuster jewelry purchase he intends to make. Though he’s proven he can go bar for bar with the best of them Eternal story, he’s not interested in the traditional cues of rap stardom.
“People want me to say rappers and be that type of artist, but I say, like, companies, family members. Stuff that really bothers me, other artists don’t,” he says “I’m just starting to get over it dissolving my sister. She’s the real beef I have in the world.”