Under-estimate IDK at your peril. The Maryland rapper is truly multi-faceted – a noted features artist, his own work blends old with new influences, remaining at the cutting edge with the force of his character. Set to launch the No Label Academy program at Harvard this August, he’s a figure working on multiple levels, someone whose creativity isn’t about to be contained by genre lines, of stylistic labels.
As a result, ‘USEE4YOURSELF’ is a record that stands apart from his peers. Exceptionally broad – it utilises every second of its 17 track strong run – the album moves from soulful introspection to sly braggadocio, unpicking cliches in order to find something he can truly call his own.
Opening with a bruising run of club bouncers – the one-two of ‘Santa Monica Blvd’ and ‘Dogs Don’t Lie’ – it hits the ground at top speed, incorporating an excellent Young Thug feature on ‘PradadaBang’ and a neat turn from Offset on the Kendrick referencing ‘Shoot My Shot’.
The most revealing, and immersive, elements of ‘USEE4YOURSELF’ come when IDK cuts loose. A singular artist, songs like ‘Cry In Church’ are daring in their honesty, while ‘Peloton’ faces down toxic elements of modern masculinity. At times, this fusion of street level wisdom and academic finality creates a thriving, though contradictory persona – Neptunes might supply the crisp, addictive beat for ‘Keto’ but IDK is able to follow it with the penmanship of ‘1995’ for example, or the devoutly spiritual finale ‘Closure’.
A record that evolves in real-time, ‘USEE4YOURSELF’ finds IDK speaking his truth. An amalgamation of styles that recalls the frenetic creativity of 00s Kanye, the record finds strength in personal revelation, with IDK often at his most individual when surrounded by his peers. Remaining difficult to pin down even after several listens, it platforms a true artist whose creativity isn’t about to be hemmed by the marketplace – he’s got higher goals.
Words: Robin Murray
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