Since 2015 Jay IDK, or IDK, whichever name you were introduced with, has been on a steady ascension into a home name in Hip-Hop. His releases, sans a few later mixtapes, have given us glimpses of a consistent tenacity to make his projects as close to his vision as possible. This stands true with his lyricism-songwriting, which has given him a platform opposite of the standardized trap-rap from Atlanta. IDK doesn’t deter from trap conventions, completely, but his grounded delivery and witty writing gives him an edge in being unique and relevant. It made his debut vibrant and auspiciously astute, and it doesn’t bleed completely on his follow-up, USEE4YOURSELF, a lesser entrant to his discography.
IDK has been one to keep a loose construct of a concept lining the base of his albums, usually working them with thematic opinions. His debut excelled in exploring his esoteric style and a sense of realism as we see this rapper make waves without having to fall into pop conventions. Like Kendrick Lamar, who he references on this album, IDK has found a way to make himself marketable without completely changing his identity. He explores this more on USEE4YOURSELF, which causes it to falter here and there; specifically, as the album starts to come to a close.
What IDK explores on USEE4YOURSELF is perceived notions that have stuck with him throughout the years, most of which have been due to an absence of love. He makes puts in the effort to make it known on the intro, which closes on a car accident and all we hear is the rain and the radio talking about love and how a lack of physical and effervescent expressions of love doesn’t necessarily mean there is a lack of love. It’s a mouthful to understand, but your therapist may have explained this simpler in the past. However, this has been a dominating force behind his slightly direct and ludicrously fun nature.
One thing hasn’t changed beyond the fun nature he gives off behind the microphone, and that is the way he delivers the themes. Ranging in styles from introspective to dirty without context, he has his strengths, but on here it becomes a stoppage gap as we hear him reaching, like on “10 Feet” with T-Pain, which is nothing short of an off-brand dirty love track that speaks on the physical aspects of love, but the repetitive and boring melodies, along with “Keto,” makes the lead into the closing underwhelming, albeit the fun “Peloton,” in between the two tracks.
These tracks don’t necessarily fit within the grand scheme unless you’re one to reach and find reasoning, but many of his commercially-driven tracks start to stack on top of each other gathering cobwebs as it barely gets a play. Though it’s an ongoing issue on the album, not every track comes across similarly to the aforementioned. With standouts like “Puerto Rico” and “Shoot My Shot,” featuring Offset of Migos, IDK finds ways to make these tracks work, individually, despite a lack of conciseness within the overarching emotions he wants to emote.
When USEE4YOURSELF doesn’t deter into these random hallways, IDK delivers beautiful and fully developed tracks that takes it upon itself to stick to the direction of the concept he has created since the beginning. It embraces the impacted views, whether he is thugging on the track “Santa Monica BLVD,” to breaking apart aspects of his childhood – deep-rooted and purposely forgotten on “Hey Auntie.” When IDK breaks down these barriers, he talks to his aunt on “Hey Auntie,” explaining things done to him when he was a child, including molestation. It’s directed at her, seeing IDK become conflicted with faith and the relationships he has already formed at a young age. It becomes part of the bigger picture that has made his views on things, grim and lifeless – expressed vaguely.
“Hey Auntie” is followed by, in my opinion, the strongest track on the album, “Cry In Church.” He’s fighting with the voices in his head decrying these ideas behind his weak mental demeanor. IDK has a reaffirmation with the lord; similar to DMX and the way it was incorporated in his music. He samples “The Prayer IV,” off DMX’s album, Great Depression to reaffirm these sentiments deriding him throughout this album. He does so effervescently with the tracks that add to his personification like “Dogs Don’t Lie.”
It’s of note to understand that within this review, there has been minimal talk of the concept on USEE4YOURSELF. And that may be because IDK came about it in different directions, that the notion gets lost. The album is directional arrows deflecting off of each other into a solid, albeit disheveled mess that has substance, even if it isn’t all the way coherent. It’s about the people and the influence they had on his views, but you get little of that. What you are given instead is a lot of solid tracks that standout on two, firmly planted, feet. It lets the album feel like it has enough weight to swim by with its strengths, even if his strokes make him look misaligned.