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IDK is one of the most creative rappers working today. But more importantly, he knows how to apply that creativity to his new album F65. The follow-up to 2022’s Simple expands the sonic palette but retains the incisive focus, pairing IDK’s unique outlooks with experimental production that pushes the boundaries of the familiar.
F65 feels like an evolution of IDK’s 2021 album USEE4YOURSELF, which now seems as though it was a dry run for the kind of eclecticism the Maryland rapper wanted to embrace then, but only recently mastered his impressive well of creativity enough to grasp. While he may never truly shake some of the most common criticisms against him (I mean, he can’t change his voice, but he can certainly use it better than his doppelganger Kanye), he certainly transcends them here.
The binding theme of F65, as you could probably guess from the cover, is Formula 1 racing. However, there’s also an unexpected thread throughout: IDK’s burgeoning appreciation for classic jazz. As he explains in the interlude “Champs-Élysées,” this stems from his grounding practice of “driving fast” playing jazz. The unusual pairing of energies is perfect for IDK, whose entire life and career have been shaped by the pairing of paradoxes.
Contrasting truths and the tension between them are the core of IDK’s personality. He’s a self-declared middle-class kid who embraced the streets in an effort to live up to social expectations of Black masculinity. While he details that experience on his debut album IWasVeryBad, he reiterates and distills those motivations here in the thundering “Paperchaser.”
He also attacks the question of the friction between the above-mentioned expectations of Black masculinity and the fear of femininity on “Pinot Noir,” ceding his spotlight to Saucy Santana and Jucee Froot. This is a duo I’d love to hear more of; Santana defies conventions by being a loudly-out gay man while embracing many of the dynamics of gangsta rap. Yes, he carries a purse, but he also carries a gun in that purse. Watch your tone.
While IDK is far from what you’d consider a “conscious” rapper, he shows his awareness of systemic and social problems in far subtler ways. The F1-themed interludes focus on commentary revolving around Lewis Hamilton, a champion driver who nonetheless feels the strain of being one of the only Black drivers on the circuit. He’s faced discrimination in spite – or perhaps because of – his success, while carrying the weight common to all pioneers in traditionally white spaces.
That isn’t to say that IDK doesn’t address the tribulations of Black life head-on when he needs to, though. “Mr. Police” is a prime example, borrowing the familiar refrain coined by NWA decades ago; in typical IDK fashion, however, he turns the song into a jazzy deflection of the more casual racism involved in his interactions with the law – the most common kind, the ones that don’t end in bloodshed, but cost Black folks in other ways.
If there’s a thesis here, it’s in IDK’s love of his Blackness. From dipping his toes into a dizzying variety of Black musical genres – Afrobeats, Jersey club, the aforementioned jazz – to sampling a cluster of classics from Black canon – Michael Jackson’s “Can’t Help It,” Carl Thomas’ “I Wish” – IDK gives a musical lesson in Black history. He talks up his love for Black women on “Still Your Man” and “Superwoman,” receiving advice on life and love from no less an authority than Snoop Dogg. By the final song, “Freetown,” a four-minute jazz instrumental, the message is clear: It’s all Black, and we shouldn’t be limiting ourselves to any one genre or interest. We are many things.
F65 is out now on Clue No Clue / Warner Records.
IDK is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.