Ah, yes, it’s the return of one Jason Mills aka IDK fka Jay IDK, the rapper that most of us on Decibel Boost have had a lot of love for since 2017 when we first heard of him on the Adult Swim Singles program that year. Then his mixtape IWASVERYBAD debuted around that time, and it ended up being one of my favorite albums of 2017. Following that would be the EP IDK & Friends, and we were soon awaiting the follow up, which would be his major studio debut album and the first release under his new label Clue NO Clue, partnering with Warner Records (yes, Warner Records. They dropped the ‘Bros.’ from that name.) and releasing it on the same day as Beyonce’s birthday.
Starting with the album title, you’ll notice a theme going in… “Is He Real?” And yes, he’s referring to that “he” in the sky, questioning the presence of God. The album art does reflect on that according to a direct quote of setting the sheep on the right hand and the goat on the left. I’ll admit, the concept of this album got me thinking about it for a minute, and it’s something that I needed to marinate in my mind for some time after repeat listens. First, I have to say that the concept didn’t have any sanctimonious/obnoxious attitudes within the lyrics, so I’m spared any of that.
The first track “Cloud Blu” is a child-like view of the afterlife, and the first thing you’re thinking is it’ll be like some cute-sounding ideal of it, but then you get that twist near the end. “42 Hundred Choices” talks about where IDK comes from and how savage his city is while living day-by-day in it. Hell, he mentioned that they’ll probably stomp you in front of the church.
I’m from a place where they pull up on you with a Draco and bang-bang-bang
No one warns you, ain’t no time for no play-play-play
When you sleepin’ on that stretcher like lay-lay-lay
I’m sayin’ hey-hey-hey, tryna live day by day
None of these neighbors say nothin’
If you see a gunner then bullets is comin’, they d-d-d-dumpin’
They kickin’, they punchin’, they jumpin’
They stomp you in front of the Glenarden Baptist Church
That concept is on the forefront with the first 3 tracks and including a short interlude, “The ‘E’ in Blue”, which features spoken words from DMX, doing a very rare feature nowadays. However, as more topics come up in further songs like being and growing up an outcast (“Alone”), downsides of the pleasures of fame, money, women, etc, he does lay some Bible references here and there.
For example, the track “24” references the Bible verse Matthew 6:24, stating that you can’t serve two masters as you will love and hate, those being God and money.
Hello? That’s the check callin’ (Talk it)
Let me click over real quick, then let my check talk it (Talk it, talk it)
I eat, ooh, Pac-Man, that’s the way my neck talkin’ (Right)
I ain’t never comin’ back the way the stress talkin’
You don’t make no clap back when you backpack, my bad
But I’m past that, with a NASDAQ, that’s cash
Don’t fret though, as we got some bangers and vibey tracks as well. “Porno” has these crazy beat-switches and has features from Pusha T and J.I.D. who do their verses, and the hook also has IDK interpolating part of “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls (you’ll know what line he’s talking about). “December” with Burna Boy has some dancehall/reggae vibes that I was first caught off-guard by, but after a few more listens, I’m cool with the track. “I Do Me… You Do You” is merely a conversation track between IDK and Tyler, The Creator about how God isn’t the stereotype we always get in religious texts and ending it with “if a man building Noah’s Ark is just as crazy as telling a cavemen exist, we’d build robots to have sex with.”
There are tracks later on that deal with some really heavy stuff, especially the 2 final tracks that touch on some personal things in IDK’s life. “European Skies” questions the teachings of Christianity and looks into the flaws of religion, specifically on what religion is either pure and in the right or sinning/in the wrong. “No Cable” deals with how people need to keep up with the multiple issues going on today but ultimately end up experiencing news fatigue, thus explaining in the chorus of news reports and saying ‘Change the Channel’ at the end of each line. That leads into “Digital” with a ‘good boy’ end up being in sin and while not being a murderer, you still end up being pursued by police, thus the “Cop killing me, that’s not a crime / I’m selling weed, I’m doing five”.
Why all my brothers tryna infiltrate my circle?
Why all my sisters tryna spin my wheel and chase my cheddar
‘Round and ’round like these women turnin’ into gerbils?
Guess the family mattered less when I was more an Urkel
Yeah, but now I’m Stefan’d up
And everything I do is everything that they fond of
It’s funny how I went from paperboy to makin’ that paper, boy
But I’m still tryna throw it at houses
“Michael What TF” and “Julia…..” are probably the most heart-breaking tracks of the album. The former, which was sampled from a James Blake instrumental (not a feature as Blake stated, but he cleared it) is IDK having issues with his stepfather, expressed through lyrics like:
My stepfather text me and told me that mama died
Ain’t have the balls for a call
Now he just taking the house and the wealth
Keep the life insurance bread for himself
Had the nerve to move a bitch in the house
And told grandma and grandpa he kicking ’em out
Yeah, I don’t blame him for having issues (that sounds like a dick move on his dad’s part). Meanwhile on the last track “Julia…..” he goes on how different things would be if he took a different route in his career (or even his life in general), and the second verse hits really heavy as he talks about how his mom was doing at the time with her body shutting down and coming to the conclusion that she died of AIDS, which his stepfather gave her. Now knowing what happened to her and considering what went down in IWASVERYBAD, that makes it even more tragic.
All-in-all, IsHeReal? is a project where I really had to let everything about it marinate in my head and see the bigger picture of it all. Based on the biblical references in the songs and content, this record is very strong throughout, with some parts that could hit you where you didn’t expect. Let’s not forget the varied production that also carries the album, from little-known producers like BLWYRMIND, DJ Alizay, Calvin Valentine to some relatively known ones like Frank Dukes & Thelonious Martin. IDK has delivered another great project and proves once again why he is a rapper to keep your eyes on whenever he makes moves.
FINAL VERDICT: Buy It. Is he real….. great? Yes, this album is real great.
Is He Real? is from Clue No Clue LLC/Warner Records and available on digital downloads and streaming services.