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Editorial: IDK Mastered The Art of Creating With Purpose

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

Before I start diving into the purpose of this article, I would want to give a spotlight on the collaboration that IDK has done with Harvard University. The artist and university have formed a ten-day curriculum about the music business that's available for the BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) community. Before you apply online, the site describes the course exactly like this: "THIS FREE COURSE FOCUSES ON BUILDING A PIPELINE FOR BIPOC TALENT TO KICKSTART THEIR MUSIC CAREERS, DEMOCRATIZING AND REFRAMING WHAT IS ATTAINABLE IN THE INDUSTRY." I would highly suggest that everyone in the BIPOC demographic apply for this course and via Twitter, he said if you get in, you'll get flown out.

Watch this unique three-minute visual below explaining the purpose of the course.

The PG County-raised artist, IDK (Ignorantly Delivering Knowledge), formerly known as JAY IDK, is an artist that creates with more purpose than any other rapper, singer, creative, whatever you want to call him, that I've ever seen. In Youtube comments, I see people comparing his artistry and its purpose to that of Kanye West, and that's a valid comparison. However, I believe that he made his way more unorthodox compare to other artists current and in the past.

Ever since the release of Subtrap in 2015, I've been a fan. For those that aren't familiar with what Subtrap is, in an interview with Sway, he said it's trap music with substance. In the fifteen song album, he raps in different perspectives of trapping from the perspectives of:

  • The dealer King Trappy III on God Said Trap

  • The college weedhead Chris on the song The Bio Student

  • Fiends like Matt and Ed on Fiend's Prayers

  • Jon Jon who's struggling to make ends meet on the song Thug's Prayers

  • He even broke down the addiction of pussy on Cookie Addiction and the interlude Pussy Is Power from the perspective of Jay and "Her". He also breaks down the Her character as the dream of being successful in music with songs like Sexy Bartender Parts 1 and 2

In that same project, he talked about how drugs were pushed into the black community because of Ronald Raegan and how he started the crack epidemic. This also tied into the talks of mass incarceration and a crooked judicial system IDK wrote an essay about it on The Huffington Post. The characters from the album are related to individuals he met during his time in and out of the system from 2009-2012.

With the success of Subtrap in 2015, the DMV native had to follow up with something even bigger. Then he announced that he was going to be the first [and to this day ONLY artist] to ever premier an album on Forbes called The Empty Bank. When he was on tour, he had Benjamin Franklin himself doing radio shows and tossing money with IDK's face on the bills. The segment IDK and Ben Frank had on Peter Rosenberg's Real Late show is something to definitely remember.

The cover speaks for itself as he focuses on the unspoken struggles of being an independent artist. In one of the lines from the first song Mr. Mills, IDK stated "I'm spending everything I got on everything I don't need." In his interview on Forbes, he discussed the various ways that he had to pay $300 a month to a private home detention company and the various jobs he had to work to pay that off. To have the interview on Forbes about an album dedicated to being transparent about money and the ever-lasting battle as an artist in the industry. To paraphrase what IDK said in the same Forbes article where the album was first released, he said that rap was always has been a thing where you have to have this look to you. To dress a certain way. To have a certain amount of jewelry and women because the appearance would equate to power and we all know the idiom of money equaling to power.

The brutal honesty of what IDK was going through behind the scenes from dealing with legal fees to financial issues struck chords with listeners. How he opened up on the darker tones of an album discussing flaunting money and lessons with it from songs like I Picture. The hook of I Picture goes like this:

"When I picture selling dope

I picture big fat 'ol asses

Big Cartier glasses

Champagne in my glasses

When I'm wearing FENDI clothes

I picture big fat 'ol asses

Big Cartier glasses

Champagne in my glasses

Hit the club and shut it down

I picture money money

Big Big Big money (yes)

Big Big Big money (yes)

Big Big Big money (yes)

Car got hit with 50 rounds

I picture money money

Big Big Big money (yes)

Big Big Big money (yes)

Big Big Big money (yes)"

I Picture would continue to display the greed that can consume people when they acquire a great amount of wealth and develop reckless habits. The purpose of Empty Bank is to establish the lesson of being financially literate and being careful of how one invests their newly acquired funds when it's obtained. There are even call skits from the Starlion collection agency where Bryon Arsonal warns IDK in aggressive tones of why he needs to pay his debts, becoming more infuriated with each skit. It plays to the continual theme of a financially struggling artist and the journey of finding a balance between sanity and relentlessly working to restore financial stability.

Outside of the themes of surviving financially and facing troubles from collectors, promiscuous women, and the law, there is an upbeat and triumphant song named Somebody where the hook goes "I knew I'd be somebody even when I didn't know who I would be, so know you'll be somebody even when there is a future you can't see." Somebody reflects on his time where he was looked down upon by his peers while growing up for his hidden talent of writing that he didn't pursue fully until during his time being incarcerated.

2017 rolls around and so does his album IWASVERYBAD. That album described IDK's path growing up in PG County as a middle-class suburban black teen that had parents who went to college, choosing to divulge into the street life and the consequences he faced of taking on a fast-paced dangerous lifestyle. Throughout the album, he covers topics of being lustful as a teenage boy to the thrills of being reckless to his on and off relationship with his mother, who had passed in March of 2016.

The transition from 17 with a 38 featuring Chief Keef discussing robbery to No Shoes On The Rug, Leave Them At The Door being an apology to his mother from jail was very heartfelt. The final song Black Sheep, White Dove is honestly one of the best closing tracks for an album I heard yet. He had a partnership with Adult Swim where they partnered up to leak some songs from the project in their commercials in a three-week span. In an interview with Billboard, IDK said himself that he had the Adult Swim logo as his screensaver prior to even reaching out for collaboration to push IWASBERYBAD. It wasn't the first time an artist has done it but following the success of The Empty Bank, it was another way to push his music in a very unorthodox manner. He even had a film series with the Noisey platform that played the first half of the album. It gave a visual journey of what he was going through within that first half of the album from break-ins to robberies to partying as a teen waiting to bag his first bad bitch.

After a seven-track feature-loaded project, IDK and Friends, the artist released IsHeReal?. Prior to the release, IDK created his own label called Clue and partnered with Warner Bros. Records to release the project. On the rapper's Instagram, he had a tracklist but with no features listed. Somehow, someway, the features were leaked and it had names like DMX, Tyler The Creator, Pusha T, JID, Burna Boy, and more. Back in 2012 & 2013 he was incarcerated and was facing legal fees. In 2015 he was an independent artist trying to make a name for himself. 2019, he formed a label. In an interview on Genius and on Twitter he said the album is going to be like the Da Vinci Code of rap to where it's cryptic with its messaging. The tracklist itself spelled the release of the album following it up with the last character of each track name.

Cloud Blu, 42 Hundred Choices, The "E" in Blue, Alone, 24, Lilly, Porno, I Do Me... You Do You, December, European Skies, No Cable, Digital, Michael What TF, Julia...


The album dives into an introspective viewpoint of religion and how IDK questioned the existence and purpose of God. The cover art itself even plays towards the Parable of The Sheep and The Goat that derives from The Bible via Matthew 25: 31-46. It's a parable where the shepherd separates the goats and the sheep in order for Christians to understand what judgment will be like when one goes to Heaven and one group goes to Hell. The parable itself also encourages helping others in need. Although the album could be a bit sporadic within moods from the flamboyant Lilly to the gut-wrenching song Julia where he discusses losing his mother to aids, it's still a thought-provoking album that's worth some spins.

2020 arrives and IDK releases the sequel to his collaborative project series IDK and Friends 2. What seems to be like a project to take a break from solo works, IDK and Friends 2 is actually the soundtrack for the Kevin Durant documentary on Showtime, Basketball County: In The Water. It's very fitting that a well-known DMV rapper would make the soundtrack for a well-known DMV basketball player.

Almost every project that IDK releases always has a bigger purpose other than to add to his discography and get streams. There's a mystique to how he presents his works and why he'll drop certain visuals for songs or covers whenever he feels like singing. It allows fans to get into the mind of IDK along with having some relativity towards what he is saying. Prior to the announcement of the ten-day course iterated at the start of this article, he spoke at Harvard University about his experiences of getting to where he was at that time by saying going to jail was the best thing that ever happened for him and giving advice on how to find your own path as a musician. Please watch the four-part lecture series below.

This article is to give IDK his roses, plain and simple. The way he strategizes his art to withstand the test of time and also curates impact outside of the rap game. How he makes decisions to move with precision is something to be idolized. Hell, when I met Sway Calloway back in 2016 when I was a young college student studying health and exercise science, I thanked Sway for putting me onto my idols like G.L.A.M., BIG K.R.I.T., and [Jay] IDK. Below is a screenshot of Jimmie Thomas, the executive director of The Curators of Hip Hop documentary series that IDK was featured on just so people know that I really meant it.

The influence of how IDK plans what he says and how he wants to deliver it definitely is an inspiration when it comes to my poetry and journalism. If IDK does read this, I just want to say thank you. It's still a dream to meet you and just chat about life. Thank you for creating such an opportunity at Harvard University for the BIPOC demographic. That's the definition of a power move to open doors for people who really need it. I'm sure the fans can't wait to see what'll happen when USEE4YOURSELF drops on July 9th. You can follow him on all social media @idk .

Written by: Jay Guevara. @justinhisprime on all social media.


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