J.I.D INTERVIEW: “I FOCUSED ON MUSIC... IT LEVELLED EVERYTHING OUT, IT CENTRED ME'
Words by Christopher Kevin Au // Photographs by Chris Loutfy
On the lineup for Hidden Festival’s first expansion to Sydney was an arsenal of trap contemporaries and bass-heavy producers, but perhaps the most eyebrow-raising addition was Atlanta rapper J.I.D. With his widely-praised album DiCaprio 2 still fresh in our earholes, the Spillage Village and Dreamville rapper proved to be one of the day’s best performers, with an intoxicating mix of charisma, lyricism and genuine storytelling. We caught up with J.I.D at Hidden to chat through his history, relationship with J Cole, and his dream list of collaborators:
I saw you last year when you came with J Cole, it was so good. What was it like being on that tour?
It was cool, it was like, one of my first world tours. I was on the whole thing for the whole year; so I was introduced everyday, most people I ever performed in front of. So that's always cool, like gaining more people and then people knowing others. So its kinda like, if somebody's like rapping all words next to you, you don't know him, its like, "Wow, why don't I know this?" You want to be in the in-crowd. So, that kinda cool, like being of that representation. But a couple of years ago, it was just me, coming out, having an opportunity to perform in front of a bunch of people. It's a duality there but at the same time, its a good thing for my career.
How'd you connect with Cole?
In 2014 I was on a tour with Ab-Soul, EarthGang, Bas - who's signed to Dreamville - he came to one of the shows, he saw me performing and he took a liking to me. EarthGang took a liking to him, and me as well and ever since, he's just built an organic relationship between all of us. It was really simple, wasn't like the miraculous, "Oh you got a call from J!" It was just like a real relationship, you know what I'm saying? Like a slow build, it turned into a marriage when I signed.
Well that's what you want when you sign with someone, you want to trust them.
Yeah, 100%. Sometimes its not like that though, and I feel like I was blessed to have this situation that's so organic. A lot of people just get the opportunity, they see a video they like, think "I like this kid" and they try to sign. But it really happened like he met me face-to-face, he saw my heart, he heard my music, all those processes.
I read that you're one of seven siblings. I'm one of five and I'm the youngest too, and I feel like part of my personality is made up of my siblings. It really affected my taste of music. Is that the same case with you? What did you listen to growing up?
Just like everything. I know people always say everything, but I can literally say everything because each of my brothers and sisters have crazy, eclectic taste for super extreme, super rock, you know what I'm saying? Or it will be super Afro, like D'Angelos, and the Jill Scotts, and the Lauryn Hills, those types of artists. My sisters were digging that, so I'd just take it all in. Then my parents, my mum and dad super musically-inclined, talented, like genius levels of listening. But they don't do music, nobody in my family really pursued music, besides me. I've always been really good at music. I just didn't start doing it until later on in my life.
When did you start?
I started when I was 22.
Because you're an athlete, were you focusing on sport more?
Yeah, I didn't even care about music, I was a fan. I listened to what I loved, but I didn't really want to see myself on top of the stage like I am now. That's a blessing to me. This is a total shock, but that's how I know it was for me, because I didn't plan on it.
When did you switch focus from sport to music?
I got kicked out of school. It started as a necessity, "Oh I gotta get this done, I gotta figure out something." When I lock in on something, its like, "Okay, I really got to focus on it," and I make something happen of it. So, that how it was with football, because if you saw me a few years ago, I was a super athlete. I was a whole different person, I was crazy as hell. But then I focused on music and I found something there. It levelled everything out, it centred me.
It's nice to have another thing to focus on. I grew up playing tennis and took it really seriously, and when I stopped I had a bit of an identity crisis. I was like, "I don't know what I'm doing!"
I had the same thing! I found myself in the music though, I found out who I am, who I was and what I wanted to do. I became more expressive.
So what have you got going on this year?
Just really touring, I'm just going to let myself out with the touring, stay on the road and then a lot of features - I'll try and get like 20 features before the year. I feel like I already did like half of that. And then the Revenge of the Dreamers project with the whole camp should be on the way soon.
Who's on your hit list for the features?
I'm shooting to the sky! I need Beyonce, Steve Lacy, Little Dragon, D'Angelo, Adele, Brittany from Alabama Shakes.