Review: JID, ‘The Forever Story’

JID conquers the new age of hip hop with full conviction, delivering the album that takes his status from elite rapper to generational talent.

Dreamville nearly turned into Shady Records. We’ve seen throughout the years that an artist-led label can be a hit or a miss, both for the exec and the signees. The careers of the latter ultimately suffer, unable to earn the success they may deserve. J. Cole’s Dreamville roster has been the home to Cozz, Bas, Lute, and Ari Lennox. While all talented, none have yet become bonafide stars. Enter JID, the American footballer-turned-rapper who had bars for days, swiftly developing a cult fanbase with 2017’s The Never Story and the following year’s DiCaprio 2. It appears that he was merely warming up, coming back four years later with his latest record, The Forever Story.

On his third album, JID unlocks the full package that’s been brewing all this time, delivering a body of work that’s utterly absolute.

Photography: @neri

JID touches every base possible on The Forever Story, marrying each aspect of being a rapper and an artist. His rapping is off the scale, but so is his songwriting and production choices (Christo, BadBadNotGood, Thundercat, James Blake). On the rap side, JID is as athletic as his past suggests, laying immaculate rhyme schemes and flows that keep every second entertaining. Such dexterous performances are paraded across “Raydar”, “Can’t Punk Me” with EarthGang and the flawless “Lauder Too”—the pinnacle of JID’s nimble competence.

It takes a different level of focus to rap at this height while maintaining subject matter, something The Forever Story accomplishes as it delves into the importance of family. The twin tracks “Bruddanem” and “Sistanem” arrive at the midpoint, with the latter’s six-minute performance resulting in one of JID’s most personal tracks (“You know how this shit go when family’s gone / You don’t know what you here for”). These songs help make The Forever Story feel like an album with a larger purpose, which is what the classics of the past decade have possessed. A balance is also in place here, exchanging emotions of personal solemn with euphoric energy, a true testament to the album’s careful sequencing.

But there is more than just traditional hip hop going on. JID leans into R&B territory on the standout “Kody Blu 31”, surprising listeners with his optimal singing vocals. Label-mate Ari Lennox assists on the equally smooth “Can’t Make U Change”. Tracks like these are a testament to the diversity throughout The Forever Story, clutching at classic soul samples, neo-soul bass, sombre strings and brash trap. Even a track like “Money” sounds plucked straight out of a late 90s classic rap album. There’s plenty ideas in the pot, especially when it comes to the numerous beat switches which may be overwhelming initially, but still never disappoint.

If there is to be a new big three to succeed Kendrick Lamar, Drake and J. Cole, JID is the first candidate in the conversation. There is no formula here; simply improvements on all fronts, resulting in JID’s best album to date. Alongside that, it is one of the strongest releases of 2022, cutting no corners to get to its artistic goal. The Forever Story catapults JID to the next echelon, ticking every box required to be deemed a generational talent.

9 / 10

Best tracks: “Lauder Too”, “2007”, “Sistanem”, “Kody Blu 31”, “Surround Sound”, “Can’t Punk Me”, “Just In Time”, “Can’t Make U Change”, “Money”, “Dance Now”