IDK Grows Into His Star Role On The Team-Oriented ‘IDK & Friends 2’

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IDK‘s friends are a nice addition to the Maryland rapper’s latest EP, the fittingly titled IDK & Friends 2, but the main attraction throughout remains the man himself. IDK last used the concept of a straightforward EP of collaborations with his closest associates in 2018, offering up a 16-minute, seven-track free-for-all with both fellow DMV area natives like Q Da Fool, Rico Nasty, and Wale and a broader range of fan favorites including Denzel Curry, Domo Genesis, and Maxo Kream. At the time, he called the project a means to an end; having secured a major deal for his Clue imprint with Warner Records, he swore to fans he’d never make another.

Much like the oft-repeated promise of IDK’s fellow rappers to drop an album and retire, it turns out he couldn’t keep himself from snapping this promise himself — and thank goodness. The eight tracks here, which feature an even larger guestlist than its predecessor, are a welcome, low-stakes addition to IDK’s mostly high-concept canon after his heady major debut Is He Real? This time around, the justification he’s presented for returning to the time-proven well is his role as music supervisor on Kevin Durant’s documentary film Basketball County: Something In The Water — for which IDK & Friends 2 serves as a de facto soundtrack.

The song that most ties the two projects together is “495,” a celebration of the film’s titular Prince George’s County, from which both Durant and IDK hail — along with the rest of the posse cut’s roster. Rico Nasty returns, bringing with her PG County staple Weensey, as well as up-and-comers Big Flock, Big Jam, and YungManny, who released his debut project Confused in May at 16 years old. “495” is a heavy-hitting jigsaw of a track, clobbering listeners with its hypnotic beat and caressing them with Weensey’s soulful hook. A fitting showcase of some of the county’s hottest talents, it’s like putting a petri dish under a microscope and watching chemistry in real time.

That chemistry extends beyond the borders of “basketball county,” though. On “Mazel Tov” with ASAP Ferg, the bars swarm like angry wasps over a freaky flute loop, and on personal favorite “Bulletproof,” the goth trap vibes of 2015 come back for a raucous exchange between IDK, Denzel Curry, and Maxo Kream. The tough guy talk is fun, but down-to-earth, with slick turns of phrase punctuating the threats. “That boy the type to spin a n**** block like a dreidel,” IDK quips. “His hammer got him dancin’ up and down like they Ellen.” Likewise, his guests get in their own punchlines, “Stevie Wonder, walk with sticks like Ray Charles,” smirks Maxo, who shows he’s got the chops to keep up with the clever DMV native.

But it’s not all stick talk and menace here. One of the qualities that sets IDK among the most engaging and imaginative of the rising class of rap stars is his competence in multiple disciplines. While the title and beat of “Square Up” might suggest more fight music, instead IDK makes a twerker’s anthem worthy of his rhyme counterpart — Juicy J — on the track. Then, on album closer “Live For It” featuring PG County’s highest-profile non-athlete native, Wale, the two rappers reel off their rags-to-riches stories, humblebragging lines like “Never been ashamed to say my name if they sayin’, ‘Who the best?'”

It’s not a coincidence that the rhymes could just as easily apply to Basketball County subjects like Victor Oladipo, Micheal Beasley, and Markelle Fultz. IDK’s gift for metaphor carries over from Is He Real? to provide yet another set of parallels between hoops and hip-hop, underlining the grind, dedication, skill, and raw talent needed to succeed in each. IDK & Friends 2 proves that its star player is not only adept at racking up highlight plays for himself but also capable of being a good teammate, giving his collaborators the opportunity to shine without being afraid to take over. This time he hasn’t made any pronouncements of his future plans, because he’s learned — as any great player knows — to let the game come to him.

IDK & Friends 2 is out now via Clue No Clue LLC / Warner Records. Get it here.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.