IDK Discusses Hip-Hop's Money Obsession and Making Trap with Substance on 'IWASVERYBAD'

IDK Discusses Hip-Hop's Money Obsession and Making Trap with Substance on 'IWASVERYBAD'
Photo: Anthony Cabrero
We have a premonition that bigger things lie ahead for Maryland rapper IDK (aka Jay IDK). The enterprising 25-year-old appears to be making inroads in a community that's traditionally been hostile to hip-hop; last spring, he was profiled by Forbes, an acknowledged purveyor of sound financial wisdom.
At 25, IDK is still quite green, but he's become a media darling the likes of which DMV hip-hop hasn't seen since Wale. Among IDK's most visible cheerleaders is animation magnate Jason DeMarco of Adult Swim. In fact, DeMarco (whose technical aptitude and design knowledge were previously put to use by Run the Jewels) volunteered to handle the optics of IDK's fierce new album, IWASVERYBAD.
Precocious, down-to-earth and brutally self-aware, IDK is someone to watch. He spoke to Exclaim! about money management, the follies of youth and the enduring enigma of Chief Keef (with whom IDK collaborated for "I Was 17 With the 38").
Exclaim!: The new record is called IWASVERYBAD. How exactly do you define "bad?"
That was basically something my mom would call me at the time. When I was younger and doing some of the things that I did — if you were to ask my mom how to describe me, that's the description she would use. She would say I was a bad kid.
You've spoken at length about some of your past financial troubles. It seems to me that capitalism is doing much more harm than good for the average worker…
Of course.
What do you think is the biggest problem with capitalism?
As rappers, we kinda think that's all there is: money. We forget our principles, like, the major principles in life, when we start to make money a little bit. I don't even know how anybody could think like that, you feel me? I look at somebody who goes to McDonalds and busts they ass, who works really hard for hours at a time, for not even that much money — but supports their family and puts on the table every single day. I respect that versus — I respect them more than myself. Just in the sense that I have a better-paying job, so I almost feel spoiled.
I'm interested in your use of the word "spoiled." Does your lifestyle cause you any guilt?
No. When I say "spoiled," I mean it in the sense that, now that I'm making a good amount of money, I don't necessarily respect my earnings like I'm supposed to. It wasn't like that as much before. If I had a $20 bill in my pocket, I would know about it [laughs]. Nowadays I take money for granted more, but I hate to do that and I'm tryna break out of it.
Your music has been described as "trap with substance." Who else is in that lane? Which other artists do you associate with substantive trap music?
I think there are a lot. Early on I referred to what I do as "trap with substance," but nowadays I've kinda come to embrace all music as having a message, having a story. I think of Mozzy as someone who's got a lot of substance...
Oh, absolutely.
Yeah. I think Mozzy is one of those artists. I think even Yo Gotti — it's so much substance in that one record, that "Law" record. Someone like NBA Youngboy, he has a message. Or Kodak Black. There are a lot of people in that lane, but I approach it differently. I'm a little more on the lyrical side, so it's more premeditated.
You've built a working relationship with Chief Keef. How did that come about? Did you approach him or vice versa?
Yeah, I contacted Keef's uncle, who was a fan of mine, a supporter of mine before almost anybody. What happened was, early on, I found his booking number in his Twitter bio and saved it in my contacts. One day I got a call, not thinking anything of it, but it was Keef. He was like, "This record is dope, who is this?" That's how it happened.
IWASVERYBAD is out now via HXLY/Adult Swim.