Read Our 1 Listen Review of IDK’s ‘IDK & Friends 2’ Album

On his new compilation album, IDK understands less can be more.
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Maryland rapper IDK has created a consistent streak of noteworthy rap projects dating back to his 2015, independently released mixtape, SubTrap. From that free, sophomore offering, IDK, born Jason Mills, elevated from blog posts and SoundCloud playlists to label offices and state-wide tours. 

After earning his label partnership with Warner Records in 2019, each subsequent release has only increased the recognition around his name. However, the 28-year-old emerging rap star is still in the breakthrough stage of his career.

Back in 2018, before releasing his debut, Is He Real?, IDK delivered a well-curated offering of high-octane rap music with strong performances from guest features Rico Nasty, Denzel Curry, Maxo Kream, and more on his seven-track EP, IDK & FRIENDS.

IDK & FRIENDS exemplifies IDK’s ability to create a musical space where fitting collaborators could co-exist, an approach he’s re-exploring with IDK & FRIENDS 2, a sequel to the original that is also the soundtrack to Basketball County: In The Water, the Kevin Durant-produced documentary on Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Durant, one of the notarized and most vocal co-signs to stamp the Maryland-born rapper, has cast a brighter spotlight over IDK & FRIENDS 2. His association with the nine-track release makes IDK & FRIENDS 2 another crossover between hip-hop and basketball, and one that could take IDK to the next level. 

In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish. 

1. “Omerta”

I like the energy. IDK understands cinematic textures. He’s a world builder. “Who are you? What are you? A news reporter?” “Do you know who’s active?” An important question.

2. “Riley” feat. XanMan

I like these keys. I can feel a banger coming. “Xan got a big forty.” I like this. XanMan’s bars are threatening, but his voice isn’t menacing. You can tell he’ll roast you from sunup to sundown, though. It’s a strong opening verse; he took over the first minute of the song. I’m interested in how IDK is going to come in. Here he is. “Give his family the blues like a smurf.” Do kids these days even know what the Smurfs are? IDK sounds good overall, but I didn’t need that “dyke” bar. Still a good start. I can hear “Riley” ring off in a concert setting.

3. “Mazel Tov” feat. A$AP Ferg

Good production. Flutes are such a standard instrument in a post-“Mask Off” America. “Uncle Sam needs a slap.” IDK is getting his rich rapper bars off. “Get creative with the paper like arts and crafts.” Lol, “Mazel Tov” is fine. The record has a summertime, mosh pit high energy. Ferg is another rapper blessed with new wealth. All the blog guys have elevated into new tax brackets. Good performance from Ferg. An outside record. You get the right crowd, and that bounce will surge through the crowd.

4. “Square Up” feat. Juicy J

“Square Up” sounds pretty otherworldly. I love the contrasts of the violin and vocal sample. Feels like an epic drop is coming. It landed like a baby earthquake. The production is off-kilter. I like it, though. He is going hard on the “fake ass hoes.” “Square Up” has officially become a Juicy J song. “Bad little bitch from the Gram” man, I can’t believe we’re getting Instagram bars from Juicy J in 2020. Throwing tomatoes at that “double D/honor roll line.” Another good record. The breakdown at the back-end is an artistic flex—Kanye West-esque. Nice touch.

5. “End of Discussion” feat. PnB Rock

I got money, I got money, I got issues, I got problems with me,” okay, this is something. PnB Rock usually has good melodies. All the post-T-Pain rap vocalists all have a tone that helps give their songs a unique touch. PnB Rock said he’s their dad, lol. I thought he would sing more; it’s a pretty straightforward rap verse. I don’t love it, but it’s not bad. IDK is here. Lol, he has a voice fitting of this track. Scheming women is the centerpiece of “End of Discussion.” I can’t relate, but it seems to be a common rapper issue. More money, more problems should be an interview series. Focused on the issues an artist faces once they become rich enough to be rich enough.

6. “Tooth Fairy”

I like this melody. An eloquent build up. IDK said he’s only loving 10s, lol. An aggressive verse. His voice got a nice bite on the cadence. “Tooth Fairy” has my favorite bounce thus far. I wonder how this song got its title. “Got something for niggas with they panties in a bunch.” “Like a tooth under the pillow, I get money when I sleep.” The basketball bars at the end were a nice closing touch. My favorite so far.

7. “Bulletproof” feat. Denzel Curry & Maxo Kream

We’re starting with a piano melody building up into a drop. Denzel! That man sings the blues. “Please don’t make him pull up with that Draco.” When did Draco become the new AK-47? All the kids got Dracos as if they gave them away for free at Wal-Mart. IDK with a song full of tough talk. Maxo! His voice is magic. Maxo Kream sounds like he will fight you whenever, wherever. There’s a fearlessness to his charisma. The Bulletproof rapper. “Stevie Wonder walked with sticks like Ray Charles.” Nice. Will revisit. 

8. “495” ft. Rico Nasty, Yung Manny, Big Flock, Big JAM, & Weensey

A big collaboration. IDK got everyone on “495.” Singing to begin. Juicy J production? The drums have that down south kick. “RIP BANKROLL, RIP Nipsey” this is good. Sad to say, we’ve lost a lot of rappers in the last few years. So, so sad. Big JAM and Big Flock tag-teaming the chorus delivery is a fire combination. All the rapping has complemented one another. I like how so many artists can create around one another. Beat switch. From an aggressive battleground to a pure white sanctuary. I can’t lie, I was looking forward to hearing Rico rap on the first beat. She’s ripping it, though. Rico said she doesn’t want to rap when she’s 42, and I felt that. Normalize retiring before 50. An interesting record. My favorite thus far.

9. “Live For It” feat. Wale & Alex Vaughn

Gospel chords. Nice and heavenly. I know he’s about to take us to church. Wale! The preacher has arrived. “Defeat the odds, defeat the odds.” “An angel told me to never fall in love with results.” He’s eating this. This is a strong Wale performance. The chorus has an uplifting tone. “Pick your bitch ass up.” Damn, IDK. Tell me how you feel. He’s getting it off his chest. Good verse. You really feel how he’s going through a transitional phase. A lot of his language on this tape is centered around a life that’s changing and the perspectives that come with those changes. Your life slips into your writing. “Got it out the mud.” A good close.

Final (First Listen) Thoughts on IDK’s IDK & FRIENDS 2

IDK’s IDK & FRIENDS 2 is a solid collection of records. The headliner gathered heroes from his hometown alongside friends from the music industry to shape a compilation full of brash lyricism and timely bounces. 

IDK contributes inspired rapping from an artist on the verge of stardom. He struts with confidence, allowing charisma to ease any shortcomings.

IDK & FRIENDS 2 gives IDK a break from having to concern himself with delivering a body of work featuring an intricate concept. Unlike Is He Real?, an album that requires the listener to consider an underlying message, IDK & FRIENDS 2 only wants the listener to consider the music. 

The project reminds me of the seven-track EPs released by Kanye West and G.O.O.D Music in the summer of 2018. IDK understands less can be more. Here, that approach works.

Listen to IDK on Audiomack.

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