Five years after his breakthrough release The Never Story, Atlanta–born rapper JID has been praised for his undeniable potential. His ability to effortlessly flow and tell stories on any given beat earned him a signing to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records, with hip–hop fans noticing the move as an endorsement of the highest level. 

Shortly after, the aforementioned Never Story and his DiCaprio 2 mixtape characterized JID as a rapper who could be technical without an air of pretentiousness. Now, on his newly released album The Forever Story, JID does more than show potential; he delivers an intricate and stunning work that reaches not just within himself but to his family, his experiences, and the hip–hop world at large.

The opening track “Galaxy” continues a trend of short mood–setters to open JID’s albums. The intro sounds like a storybook opening, with enchanting vocals and light synths inviting listeners into JID’s world. The lyrics also mirror “Doo Wop,” the intro to The Never Story: “Everyone’s a star, every day’s the move, everywhere you are,” he sings. It’s an introduction both familiar and new to his listeners, indicative of the music that follows.

Throughout the album, JID taps into his upbringing in several different ways, nodding to his time playing football and growing up with hip–hop music. Some tracks contain some of his most transparent and vivid stories centered around his family and how they impacted him. 

The first half of the album focuses on aggressive lyrics, elastic flows, and textured instrumentals in the two–sided “Raydar,” and the catchy singles “Surround Sound” and “Dance Now.” Couched in between these bursts of bravado is “Crack Sandwich,” a cinematic track that details JID’s childhood and upbringing as one of seven siblings. The song paints a raw image of a troubled, yet resilient family, eventually culminating in JID raising his cadence to recall standing up for one of his sisters in a New Orleans street brawl.

JID’s ruminations on family come to a peak in “Kody Blu 31,” the emotional centerpiece of the album. After a sample of his family singing gospel songs at his grandmother’s funeral, he enters the downtrodden percussion and choir vocals with a well–sung opening and a stirring verse about perseverance through life’s challenges, emphasized by his closing words: “I'm gettin' older, so when the world's feelin' enormous on your back and on your arms / And your feet just as heavy you been draggin' through the storm / Starin' at the city, but you trapped inside a hole / Get your back up off the ropes, keep swangin' on.” JID’s improved singing from previous albums demonstrates a further improvement on his artistry, not only settling with his excellent lyricism, but also pushing himself even farther on arguably his most important artistic moment.

The second half of the album takes a more introspective route, delving into themes of JID’s past and how it affects him now. The tracks “Bruddanem” and “Sistanem” work in tandem to continue his exploration of his childhood. The former is an off–kilter glimpse into the hardships of brotherhood, not just for biological brothers, but close friends as well. JID recounts taking beatings for his siblings while also sticking by them for any struggles they faced. Lil Durk further develops those ideas with an appearance that jumps between images of poverty, trouble with law enforcement, and reflecting on the death of his friend and fellow rapper King Von. “We slept by the window, bein' hungry a issue / Power knocked out, slept close to a window,” he describes early on, later ending his verse with a tribute: “My brother gon' slide, but two of my brothers had died.”

Following that track, “Sistanem” is a rich examination of a failing sibling relationship. Between surreal choruses by James Blake and Yuli, JID raps about his sister who slowly fell distant as he grew more famous. He expresses regret and frustration as he moves through three verses, with the last trying to reach out to that sister through some kind of in–person communication instead of infrequent text messages and calls.

Outside of his family, JID also pays tribute to the hip–hop music that influenced him. The aforementioned lead single “Surround Sound” echoes Mos Def with its sampling of Aretha Franklin’s “One Step Forward,” a song the New York rapper famously interpolated for his 1999 song “Ms. Fat Booty.” If the Mos Def praise wasn’t obvious enough, the elusive rapper himself (under his real name, Yasiin Bey) brings a kaleidoscopic verse on The Forever Story, referencing Egyptian mythology and materialism in the last half of the song “Stars.” Lil Wayne also shows up as a testament to JID’s influences, appearing on “Just in Time” to deliver an impressive feature. Right after his verse, JID suddenly comes back in with the same flow that Lil Wayne ended on, as if he’s trying to channel Wayne’s energy into his own art.

Lauder Too” is a frustrated closer, as JID raises his voice over a driving beat and delivers a message to “come feel the love.” He urges others—and himself—to not lose sight of themselves and their families in the midst of struggles, whether those problems be from poverty or fame. Ravyn Lenae’s vocals layer over each other at the end of the song singing “forever more,” as the song and album come to a close.

Interestingly enough, despite “Lauder Too” serving as a good ending, it wasn’t meant to be the final song. Due to a problem with sample clearances, the intended outro “2007” was released on YouTube but shelved from streaming services. The song ties the album’s themes perfectly together, blending Kendrick Lamar samples, hip–hop and football references, and dense storytelling about the years leading up to his Dreamville endorsement. The song’s limbo status on streaming services gives it an unintended significance; it’s the story that wasn’t supposed to be heard, but, through years of JID honing his craft, it’s here for everyone to listen. 

“2007” is a powerful close to a powerful album, a unique and exciting blend of influences that will impress hip–hop fans both old and young. However, with or without the presence of the “true” closer, The Forever Story stands as a phenomenal testament to JID’s roots, who used all his effort and more to present his upbringing to the hip–hop world and give it the credit that it desperately deserves.