IDK’s career can be divided into multiple phases. First, there was Jay IDK, the Maryland rapper who introduced listeners to his world of “suburban trap” via his 2015 mixtape, Subtrap. He described the fabricated genre as “trap music with substance,” but the fact that IDK stands for “Ignorantly Delivering Knowledge” could have dispelled any concern that his songs are excessively cerebral. He had an ear for booming production and an ability to deliver ignorant hooks that hit you just as hard.
Two years later, IDK shed the “Jay” from his name, initiating a new image. While his name became more mysterious, his music started attracting more attention. His 2017 mixtape, IWASVERYBAD, may have gotten people to tune in for its big-name features like Swizz Beatz and MF DOOM, but they stayed for IDK’s intricate lyricism and melodic bent.
After seven years of releasing music and honing his sound, IDK dropped his debut studio album, Is He Real?, in 2019. He funded the album’s recording out of his own pocket and then sold its distribution to Warner Music Group, while retaining the rights to the music itself. For a concept album centered on the questioning of God’s existence, Is He Real? managed to find space for both IDK’s heavy ruminations and his joyful tunes. All the time it took him to gain full control of his career allowed him to emerge with a clear understanding of what he’s here to do.
Photo via HNHH.