IDK – F65

Weaving a cohesive, thematic sonic palette, Maryland rapper IDK has shown skilled proficiency in creating fantastic albums doing so. We’ve seen significant growth from straight rapping to divulging into varying sounds that beautifully align with the strength of his vocals when singing. It got heard poignantly on his last album, Simple, a collaboration with producer/musician Kaytranada. It continues with F65, his latest album, where the influence on the production is more locational as its sounds become more aligned with cultural bravado, boasting IDK’s rapping and singing about luxuries, race, lavished living as opposed to drugs, which was a pertinent theme on SubTrap, an album/mixtape IDK noted F65 was a more matured version of. For fans – one can readily see the parallels, from its thematic construction to similar elements, like interludes and vocal samples, that established more meaning behind the words IDK raps. Unfortunately, F65 sometimes gets lost between directions, becoming slightly bloated with tracks that mediocrely retread themes or losing touch with what’s been a strong suit for it.

Continuing on F65, IDK shows his hand at penning words at his will over any production, keeping his lyrics explorative and potent through metaphoric conjectures. However, after an emphatic three-track run, the album teeters slightly between thematic directions, especially as it loses touch with what he proclaims in the song “Champs-Élysées.” IDK notes how focused he’s been on particular genres and lifestyles. Though specifically, the spectacle of racing in Europe, additionally speaking to the avenue in France known for its inclusion in the Tour De France, luxury cafes, and the Arc de Triomphe. It’s an established sense of grandeur that adds depth to many of the bars IDK spits but an oft-contrasting direction to the more grounded tracks that have a heavier focus on themes of race. It’s like he’s trying to have his cake and eat it as well, with the way he tries to blend these tracks in, further making the album more bloated than it needs to be. It’s all despite coming with some great lyricism that allows it to keep an entwined presence after a first listen, where you will have a curiosity to return to the content.

Though much of F65 speaks to living lusciously and luxuriously, having fun, and reflecting on issues that have come with being a person of color, specifically with law enforcement, it isn’t the most compact. It’s like we’re getting a few more loose, vibrant songs that see IDK getting into his party bag and finding unique ways to express himself to the fullest, like the fun and energetic “Salty,” which has IDK and NLE Choppa performing about neglecting past lovers and live in the now with all these beautiful, big booty twerking women calling them salt shakers. Songs like “Salty,” – “Pinot Noir,” “Elmina,” and “Still Your Man” – bring forth greatness within IDK’s more fun side, and they are real standouts, but others also similarly, even as they tread in a different direction thematically. It’s as if IDK has written two separate albums and blended them; it misses what could have gotten set up if he was more lyrically direct to the aesthetic. There is never a proper balance to keep the transitions clean, but even though these stumbles, like retreads in “Up the Score” and “St. Nicholas & 118th,” which feel like a forced reminder to IDK’s love of racing entrenched in the sound. 

When it comes to that divide in direction, “Thug Tear” becomes an essential point where IDK builds upon his character, adding a hardened shell that allows him to bring these nuanced reflections on race, a life that shrouds them, causing friction where they have to tout and flex guns to create a safe space. It’s a template to the way IDK could have brought more to the tracks, which have that heavy focus on race, in a vague sense, but it’s never as tightly constructed, and more so trying too hard. It isn’t lost sonically, as the production holds a consistent motif, emboldening the drums and wind sections, specifically the flute and saxophone. It allows the music to bring a sense of being without overly tiptoeing away from the slight summery vibes, and more so with tracks where IDK’s flexing and introspection are at a peak, like in the run of songs, which includes “Télé Couleur,” “Rabbit Stew,” and “850 (We On Top),” making up for a lackluster attempt at being more catchy with “Radioactive.”

F65 is produced by a platoon of producers who bring a consistent cadence with the tones, keeping you entwined within this love IDK has expressed about this world he lives through and the divide while also expressing virtuosity and pride with his race. The latter doesn’t get lost with the album’s ridge in contextual direction, but there isn’t a significant balance to have consistent, smooth lyrical transitions. It’s a contrast to the production, which IDK arranges beautifully. That arrangement has two fantastic moments with runs that gives us those strengths we’ve heard of IDK as a songwriter. I’ve spoken about that opening three-track run; the second comes after an interlude with Musiq Soulchild, where it notes this lost perspective on attention – it leads into an incredible run of flex raps, which I’ve mentioned prior; flows get switched, lyrics are raw and creative, and the Rich the Kid feature hits hard.

There’s quite a bit to like about F65, specifically its remarkable soundscapes that make going through the album less of a chore. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much with its concept, almost leaving it to the sounds to make it apparent. It’s centering itself in one area but going off tangentially with the context of the lyrics. It makes F65 a slightly jumbled mess but a listenable one that won’t leave you with regrets for spending 50-something minutes on it. I enjoyed it thoroughly, despite wishing it had better-connecting points and cohesion; as it’s packaged, there is no surprise some songs will find rotation, especially with summer approaching as the vibes hit for the season smoothly.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

IDK – Simple: Review

Radiant and vibrant production with fun but complex lyricism; this is the simplest way to describe Simple, the new album by rapper IDK. At 20 minutes, it feels like a breeze, despite each track being an onslaught of depth that is neither over nor undercooked. The marvel backing this is the production, which gets guided by lively and mystifying percussion beats that keep you in a tangential groove. All of this benefits the conceptual-driven album, as it juxtaposes the title by delivering tracks that speak from different aspects of IDK while staying socially consistent. Unfortunately, as excellent as the album is in concept, it feels shortsighted for not expanding a bit more. It’s a perfect loop that keeps you in rhythm, even if its abrupt pace makes you think internally, “that’s it?”

Wholeheartedly, Simple is a near-perfect vibe album that runs short. So when it perfectly loops, you might find it a bit tiring after a few spins as you get reminded that, interludes aside, you’re getting six new tracks. But each of these tracks has great lyrical and vocal consistency, as IDK and his features chime with varying flows that fit the mellow beachy-island, world influence in the percussion and synths. The production from Kaytranada spreads wide, bringing along with his luminous style to back-backends, where the rhythm shines as you find your two feet dancing and your body shaking. That’s part of the immediate strengths of Simple.

Simple sets its tone with “Drugstore,” bringing to life funky vibes which meld with the lyrical content, continuing to blend different styles in a tangential wave of greatness. It is ever-shifting between tracks, ranging with a myriad of topics delivered eloquently through seamless transitions. One minute, IDK is singing about catching his breath as he relishes in his successes humbly on “Breath;” another, he is rapping and bringing the guns, delivering violent bars as he claims his status amongst others without being afraid of the beef on “Taco.” It’s a reaffirmation driven to counteract IDK’s more jovial raps, like “Drugstore” and “Zaza Tree.” They brighten the melodies, acting as meditations for IDK before he shifts to a bleaker zone like “Dog Food.” It allows him to deliver a mental balance with the unique flips.

“Dog Food” is a standout on Simple, though no shock, as the last time IDK and Denzel Curry dropped a track together, their verses were out of this world. That is similarly the case on the best track on the album. This time, we hear both rappers express dismay with the police activity and systematic racism in their communities over a paradoxical jubilance in the production. Later down the album, IDK and rapper Mike Dimes counteract their slight vulnerable states when faced with danger by rapping about being ready and strapped. However, it’s a two-pronged attack of musical bliss; first, it hits you with the incredibly attractive production, then with the various elements IDK brings with a flurry of styles. “Breathe” and “Zaza Tree” takes a tender approach; the former has IDK singing with smooth bravado that you feel like you’re sippin’ on some liquor at a cabana club, while the latter sees IDK giving us a chill stoner track.

Unfortunately, if Simple doesn’t immediately go on repeat in your streaming platform, then you might feel like IDK could have added a little more. The length hinders how long it can stay on loop before it starts melding into one and it’s one cohesive groove. It works better when played on a loop instead of one spin. But it’s a definite listen that I recommend, especially for the vibes. It’s an album I wish I got a little more with, despite hitting notes smoothly.

Rating: 8 out of 10.