It’s been just over a week since Kendrick Lamar dropped his fourth album, DAMN., and Kung Fu Kenny fever is still going strong.
That shouldn’t be a surprise, as Kendrick’s latest effort is just as philosophically dense and praiseworthy as everything the Compton native has released thus far. As a borderline Kendrick stan myself, I was right there along with the rest of the internet furiously hitting refresh on streaming sites awaiting the moment that DAMN. would grace my ears.
After eating, sleeping and living DAMN. for days after its release, though, I’ve found myself departing from the undeniable greatness that is Kendrick’s latest project in favor of an album I’ve played more than any other so far this—J.I.D’s The Never Story. Considering we’re only four months into 2017 and J.I.D’s debut was released in early March, that’s saying a lot.
I’ve been vaguely familiar with the former Top Prospect for several years now after coming into contact with his Spillage Village cohorts EarthGang, who I’m still waiting for the world to catch up on, though that’s a different story. Frustratingly, after becoming smitten with EarthGang, I didn’t dig deeper into their inner circle and thus my true, conscious introduction to J.I.D was The Never Story.
I recently wrote about Joey Bada$$’ disdain with the new generation’s attention span, and it’s a plight I feel myself on a daily basis. With so much content flooding my receptors, it can be incredibly difficult to decide what to dedicate my time and attention to.
In lieu of an organized listening order (because fuck that), projects that linger in my memory get more spins. There’s no real science behind it—when I’m about to hop in the shower or take a drive somewhere, there's a Rolodex of audio options that scroll through my brain in milliseconds and whatever has recently resonated the most gets a spin.
From the first time I hit play on The Never Story, whenever I hear “Never” or “Lauder” I can’t help but scream “Wooooooo!,” even (especially) if nobody is around. The Never Story’s strongest moments elicit that indescribable feeling of simultaneously wanting to throat-punch everyone in arm’s reach and also wanting to dance like the guy who took too much molly at the last concert you went to (you know, that guy).
The Never Story is so much more than knuckle-biting slappers, though. In the words of fellow DJBooth scribe Yoh, “The Never Story is a true first impression project, showcasing all sides of one artist who could very well become your favorite new rapper by the end.” That statement couldn’t be more on point, as the album bounces between brilliant showcases of J.I.D’s multi-faceted approach.
While tracks like “Never,” “Lauder” and “D/Vision” showcase a lyrical prowess we don’t often hear from Atlanta artists, The Never Story offers just as many moments of experimental, fun-loving jams ("EdEddnEddy") and heartfelt crooning ("All Bad"), yet another point of comparison to TDE’s golden child. The beat switch on “Never” hits me with exactly the same potency as that mind-numbing breakdown on Kendrick’s DAMN. opener “DNA.,” a potency it retains even after double-digit listens.
Not unlike DAMN., The Never Story expertly weaves lyrical ferocity, intense introspection, tongue-in-cheek silliness and sultry seduction throughout its 12 tracks. Sonically, however, J.I.D’s full-length has more in common with good kid, m.A.A.d city than Kenny’s latest opus. In many ways, The Never Story resembles what GKMC might have sounded like had it been birthed from the funked-out pressure cooker that is Atlanta.
The Kendrick comparisons are plentiful both from a sonic standpoint and a career perspective as well. Before Kendrick officially joined TDE, a young J. Cole saw Kendrick perform at a party in LA and immediately wanted to sign him. While Cole obviously missed the boat with Kendrick, I’m of the opinion that if The Never Story is any indication, scooping up J.I.D will ultimately be nearly as impactful to the culture.
So while the vast majority of hip-hop fans are scouring Genius to peel back the layers of Kendrick’s latest offering, I’m still running The Never Story back over and over again, feeling the same excitement I did when I first heard Section.80.