The DC/Maryland/Virginia area, affectionately known by locals as the ‘DMV’, has been a solid outpost for hip-hop music for some time, producing well-known talents such as Wale, Pusha T and Pharrell as well as progressive new-age acts like GoldLink, Fat Trel, and Kali Uchis. While not necessarily a hotbed of talent, the locale is consistent if anything, which makes sense that it also birthed current rising star Jay IDK.
Perhaps no single artist has utilized 2015 as effectively as IDK (which stands for “Ignorantly Delivering Knowledge”). Since I had the chance to meet him and premiere his single “Hungry” on The Smoking Section, the well-informed act has emerged as one of the more talented, understood voices from the East Coast in recent memory possessing a powerful voice with lyrical prowess to match. After setting the tone for the calendar with that single, the 23-year-old rapper systematically went about establishing himself as a voice to pay attention to with a series of solid follow-up visuals and singles that played on the stories he encountered from individuals he met between the ages of 18 and 22. His sophomore project, SubTrap, is a collection of said stories that come together to create a mosaic of life on the ground floor of America that has been creating waves of excitement from labels and media organizations across the country. Investigating the viewpoint of everyone from the neighborhood drug user to dealer to the kid in college working to figure it all out, Jay touches on themes that have been a steady, prevalent aspect of Kendrick Lamar’s work. Going beyond just talking of social ills, Jay similarly unpacks the unjust influence of 80s litigation and undercover operatives that resulted in many of the problems we have today. Before he was doing tracks with Taylor Swift, Lamar was chucking rocks at the establishment by shining a light on the systemic inconveniences that have plagued the African-American community since Reagan left office and on his debut project, IDK carefully demonstrates how that effect is felt from the suburbs to the hood as he details all the characters that come into contact with ‘The War on Drugs’ and it’s peripherals. Having seen and experienced it both himself and through the eyes of others, Jay proves he has grown from turn up singles like “Two Hoes” and evolved into an MC deserving of a real national spotlight, focused on the artistry and the message above all else.