Rapper, IDK (Ignorantly Delivering Knowledge), formerly known as Jay IDK, was raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland. His major-label debut, Is He Real? was released via his record label, Clue and is centered around the existence of God. He questions the existence of a higher power as he experiences a plethora of life experiences. The album is compiled of 14 songs, which is a quick listen with a runtime of 36 minutes. He displays his lyricism, includes moments of humor and keeps listeners on edge with vivid and raw storytelling.
The album begins with “Cloud Blu,” an introduction to a child responding to what happens when you die, an innocent perspective of life after death. Sounds of nature and a soothing harmonic melody play as the child speaks. The narration of thoughts is quite vivid, describing what one will see as they transcend into heaven, through the clouds, space, rivers and finally arriving to the gates of heaven. The excitement is felt through the child’s mood and tone as he speaks, bubbling over with joy as he is getting to the climax of his story and eager to finish his thoughts. This childlike perspective is quickly shattered and his innocence is met with a harsh reality that IDK is ultimately questioning; the existence of God. There is a hard shift into track two, “42 Hundred Choices” were he continues the narrative of questioning God’s existence. He sets the scene by informing listeners of where he is from and the harsh reality of his environment. He reveals that his mother wants him to attend church, but he finds it boring and doesn’t have a relationship with God. As he is sitting ten rows from the front, his mind is racing with thoughts, many of which represent an unholy life outside of church: robbing the lady in front of him, being on a resort, selling drugs, sex, crime, etc. The chorus repeats “No floatation, b*tch, I’m drownin’, I’m drownin’,” which could possibly be him lost in thought, with no spiritual guidance. The chorus fades into track three, “The “E” In Blue,” beginning with the word “Drownin’.” DMX makes an appearance via a spoken word piece or sermon, which suits the project well. “Alone” veers away from the religious questioning and provides insight on how he felt when people doubted him. Simply stating “if you don’t f*ck with me, leave me alone.” Despite the naysayers, he is at a place where he’s appreciating his success and reflecting on what got him to this point in life. “24” features hard-hitting piano keys where he raps about the hardships that a life with money can bring; the root of all evil. This track references the Bible verse, Matthew 6:24, fitting of the theme of Is He Real?:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Track six, “Lilly” plays off of the previous track and fits the theme of lust. He paints a picture of a life of fame accompanied by money and women, representing sin. He adlibs “I’ll say that’s the devil” throughout the track. He is literally chasing after the devil (fast hoes) or one can view it as the devil chasing after him. It seems to be a guaranteed or given lifestyle that’s to follow when a certain level of fame is reached: women only wanting you for what you have, pillow talk, meaningless sex, no commitment, etc. Track seven, “Porno” features JID and Pusha T. “Bad hoes is the devil, like six-six-six” is repeated throughout the track. Each rapper sheds light on a different perspective of sex. IDK flaunts his sexual encounters with women, speaks of being a sex addict with no intent to quit, which is a result of being exposed to porn at the age of six. Pusha T speaks of women who love trappers, rappers and diamonds, while JID shares details on a woman giving him oral sex in the car, also letting listeners know that she lacks morals and does this for many men. She is considered a God-given devil. “I Do Me… You Do You” features Tyler The Creator and IDK having a conversation about whether or not they believe in a higher power, which is significant due to the fact that Tyler The Creator has critiqued religion in the past. He goes on to explain that there must be a higher power, or that maybe the higher power is within us. This is fitting for the religious questioning of the album. IDK ends the track with an important line:
“Tellin’ us today, that a man built Noah’s Ark is just as crazy as us tellin’ a caveman we built robot bitches we can f*ck”
Burna Boy is featured on “December,” an upbeat track about love. It brought joy to the project with a heartwarming and danceable beat. It is playful, flirtatious and details the things he likes about his significant other, but I question the fit on the album. It’s an amazing stand alone track. “European Skies” is light and calming where IDK is questioning the pastor, stating that his theory lacks reason and demands an explanation. The project as a whole sparks controversy, but this track in particular adds fuel to the fire, but stands as a vital piece to the puzzle. The reason being, we were introduced to an innocent idea of what life in heaven is like. That reality was quickly crushed and IDK went on to experience these different themes of money, fame, lust, life and love. It is at this point where he is identifying the contradictions within the Bible and even Google and Siri can’t answer the questions he has regarding these contradictions. Let alone receiving clarity from the pastor. “No Cable” features GLC and references changing the channel on television, but is portraying the issues in society and the narratives displayed in the media such as police brutality, mass shootings, same sex marriage and racism. The adlib “Change the channel” represents the need to keep up contrasting with short attention spans and news avoidance. According to a tweet by IDK he states the reason for track twelve, “Digital”:
I MADE DIGITAL (MINUS THE CURSE WORDS) FOR KIDS IN INNER CITY SCHOOLS TO RECITE.
“Digital” also seems to be a reflection on his earlier life. The Kanye influence on track thirteen, “Michael What TF” is undeniable and appreciated. IDK is transparent and reveals the flawed relationship with his stepfather, how it affected his mother’s health and the bubbling over of hate and frustration. The project comes to an end with “Julia…,” a track dedicated to his mother. In the beginning he reflects on what life could have been if he would have taken a different path. He also ties in the details of his mother’s health, revealing the truth behind her death was that his stepfather, mentioned in track thirteen, gave his mother AIDS, which he learned after her death. The interlude repeats, “Where’s God? Where’s God? Where’s God? Where’s God?” He is still questioning God’s existence, especially in a time where things aren’t making sense for him, a time where God is needed the most. The outro features a conversation about color and how you can’t truly describe a color, visually, without using another color to describe it. Proposing that there’s no logical way to tell if two people see the same color. A comparison meant to point out that if two people can’t see the same color, how can one say that there is no God.
The final track is heavy and the outro for me was a big mind f*ck, in part because of the content of the lyrics, but also the fact that Is He Real? (ISHEREAL) is based on the questioning of God’s existence. We experience a multitude of situations where religion is being contradicted, broken apart and critiqued, but IDK never states whether or not he believes or doesn’t believe. No questions are answered. He toys with the idea and leaves the figuring out to the listener. This makes me question if there is even supposed to be an “answer.” I do appreciate how open ended the project is, allowing a dialogue to transpire. He also offers varying perspectives and I learned that the last letter of each track title spells out “U See 4 Yourself,” so I can’t help but believe that this was intentional. IDK displayed his lyricism, storytelling and creativity with Is He Real? He took a bold approach on a controversial topic. It is well worth a listen.
Following the release of Is He Real?, IDK announced his tour, Is He Really Touring?:
IDK Tour Dates:
10/13 – Austin TX @ Austin City Limits
10/15 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Foundry
10/17 – New York, NY @ Gramercy Theatre
10/18 – Boston, MA @ Middle East Upstairs
10/22 – Toronto, ON @ Mod Club
10/23 – Detroit, MI @ El Club
10/25 – Chicago, IL @ SubT
10/27 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade Purgatory Stage
10/30 – Dallas, TX @ Cambridge Room
10/31 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues Bronze Peacock Room
11/4 – San Francisco, CA @ Slims
11/5 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy Theatre
11/9 – Los Angeles, CA @ Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival
11/29 – College Park, MD @ Milkboy Arthouse