I’ll get to JID, let me get my intro off. In many different spaces in life, being someone who can “close” is always a plus. You know, the guy who seals a big deal for their firm. A pitcher who comes in at the end of the game to strike out the side. That makeup artist who turns your outfit from slay to full-on mass murder. Everyone’s favorite friend who convinces the girl to bring her friends over for the party when there was initial apprehension. These people are gems. Reliable, innovative and seemingly always composed despite having a large responsibility.
The same applies to music. In this case, I’ll define a “closer” as an artist who handles the verse closing off a song. It may end up the last verse you hear before a final hook, perhaps. You know what’s about to occur when certain artists’ names find themselves on a tracklist. A breathtaking beat-switch, fluid synchronization with the song’s concept, call and response with the previous verse. Sometimes it’s just a totally off-topic discourse that still works out.
This one’s for you guys. The people who make the endings feel so much sweeter. I will begin with one of my favorite Tweeters and the resident “Atlanta rappity rap nigga,” as Wale so eloquently called him, JID. If rap is NBA 2k, then his Crafty Finisher badge is on gold. Or purple, whatever they measure them as these days. My MyPlayer just got drafted.
Broke – Ari Lennox ft. JID
Just listen to Ari Lennox‘s “Broke.” Okay well first let me get my shit off about that song. It sounds like the song you’ll hear after you’ve been accepted into heaven and the gates open. It’s the bench located near a tranquil lake where, when you catch it at the right time, all you hear is your heartbeat and the soft fluttering of nearby birds’ wings. It’s as soothing a ballad as they come. I’m in love with the greatest girl in the world now, but this song makes me want to meet her over and over again.
Ari’s Dreamville labelmate has this innate ability to adapt to whatever beat is presented to him. He quite literally can mold his verse and voice to a track’s natural movements, and they run parallel. Many try, but most don’t feel as natural. He’s the guy you pass the baton to finish off a race, only he ends up setting a record instead of just securing 1st Place. A musical shapeshifter, but so very adept.
Ari serves up a relatively short verse touching on how even if she was broke back in the day, she was a keeper. Cute, nice vibe, and low maintenance. All she needs is smoke and something to sip on. Plus, the D.C queen is down to make moves on the AmTrak because how else? Surely no slouch, she lays a very solid foundation before JID steps up to the plate and knocks things out the park.
This feature, man. It’s like a three-act play. In the beginning, he’s all about the food wordplay. The 28-year-old has no bread or cheese, but he’s trying to get busy with her eggs. He’s down for whatever though, and money isn’t a factor. Especially because he can just eat her. And then the beat drops.
Act 2 he opens up more about how he’s hopeful but seemingly out of heaven’s focus. JID is seeking guidance in this time of confusion and complexity, as there is a lot working against him. And then after a quick comparison to the ex guy, he just completely bugs out.
“I’m like Amendola height/Trips left, open right, call me over a motion, I’m on your side.” He masterfully uses football references to allude to being down for her at a moment’s notice. Clever king. It’s not so much the words as it is the way he says them. His breath control and ability to flex such a cadence over a mellow beat is mind-blowing.
As if that isn’t enough, he mimics Ari’s melody with his own pre-chorus. The best part is, to me, it feels like that was just him talking shit and having fun in the studio. Which I feel like of all Dreamville does regularly, but JID is definitely among the stronger personalities of that unit. “Holy water, take a gulp/Let me drive the boat/Nah, woah, yeah, row.” If I had to grade this display of “closing,” I’d call it Mariano Rivera in his prime on the New York Yankees. JID wound up, painted the corner with cutter after cutter, and struck out the side.
Fried Rice – Bas ft. JID
And then there’s “Fried Rice” with the boy Bas, who went the fuck off on that and “Down Bad” by the way. Give that man his own article. Hm, maybe I will. There’s something that feels so synergetic about their varying styles in this song. Bas, 32, from Queens, New York brands a flow and voice that very much sounds like an older NYC rapper. And then JID, while equally rapping his ass off, comes off as more of a younger but well-learned rapper on the track.
When I hear the song, I hear chaos. I hear the annoying fuzzy sound when you’re trying to change the HDMI on your TV but you accidentally change to a channel that isn’t active. The fact both of them found the pockets they did is incredible. But JID’s is a bit different because again he found a way to latch onto the beat and not let go despite all of the twist and turns until eventually, he was in complete control. They said we can copy the wave when they drop it this summer, but how? Who is replicating this?
Bas talks his shit, delivers the hook and the beat drops before we finally hear JID. What do we hear? “Block block, uh, block, look.” Am I the only one who pays specific attention to the ad libs leading into a rapper’s verse? I’d need more research to substantiate this, but I’ve found it’s the meaningless chattery prior to a verse that sets the stage for a show-stopping outing.
“You got the gas, but it’s not like mine/She got the ass but she not that fine/Don’t make a nigga laugh.” Oh, okay. That’s the energy. He goes on to demand his money promptly before any show, otherwise there’s hell to pay. More football references come, only it’s legendary game Madden instead. “Spazz the fuck out, all bad, I’m All Madden/I’m on a go route now, but I do all patterns/I’m with your ho right now, and she’s a tall glass.”
JID’s always good for a funny pop culture line, asking “Aw baby, what is you doin’?” From here, his performance is mouth-dropping. As a lifelong stutterer, I take jokes about it very personally. Yet to see how JID pretends to stutter and utilizes it so well leading up to some light speed bars, there isn’t a bone in my body that would allow any negative commentary.
“I’m p-p-passionate, d-d-damagin’ my anatomy/Don’t get mad at me if I pass out while I’m ramblin’/I’m an animal, an anomaly/ Mari-mari-marijuana, it’s the God in me, gotta be.” Take a breath, I know you need it reading this. I hope you’re listening to the song while reading this. No? Go back and start over, silly.
Back to work. After all of that craftsmanship is done, because that’s honestly what JID rapping is, he gets in his singing bag and levitates. Of course, he can’t stray too far from rapping. Also, them fitting that brief smooth interlude into this Royal Rumble of a rap song is just like parallel parking perfectly without using your rear view camera system on a busy main street. You rolled the dice, but you made it happen. And did it well.
If you told me I’d spend over 1400 words talking about two songs, let alone them not being Drake songs, I’d probably laugh. Yet here I am. That’s what a closer does. They create this conversation. In an older piece, I wrote about how J. Cole was the parsley of 2018. His features turned good songs into amazing ones. They were the talk of the year, despite being on some heavy hitters’ albums. You can’t not talk about a JID verse, especially when he’s given the floor like this. Both Bas and Ari gave him longer verses, though not by much for “Fried Rice.”
Beginnings are fun in most situations. Things are new, fresh, and unexpected. Endings you go into with prior knowledge and expectations. You don’t know if a feature is going to match the energy of the host, so to arguably outshine them when one’s verse is near the end can often make things feel more complete. Ari would’ve had a nice cut with “Broke” and Bas would’ve got people talking with “Fried Rice.” Adding JID is like attaching a grenade launcher to an RPG. Boom.