IDK Trades Agony For Affection on 'USEE4YOURSELF'
Continuing our incredible hot-streak of hip-hop releases, this week Maryland rapper IDK returns with his newest full-length project USEE4YOURSELF. Following the narrative set forth by his 2019 debut studio album Is He Real?, to say that USEE4YOURSELF is highly-anticipated would be a severe understatement. Thankfully, IDK's most recent effort sees him making massive artistic strides conceptually, stylistically, and lyrically as he meditates on his past in order to understand his present.
USEE4YOURSELF expands upon the conceptual journey that IDK initially established almost two years ago with his 2019 debut. The title of his debut, Is He Real, is a homophone for the word "Israel," which means "to wrestle with God." IDK's first commercial record focused on understanding what God was, and what IDK's relationship to God meant to him as a son, man, and artist.
If you were to note the final letters of every song on Is He Real?'s tracklist, you would be left with USEE4YOURSELF, a record that sees our protagonist leaving the open-ended question in the listener's hands while also deliberating on his own answer. To IDK, love and God are nearly synonymous, at least, before religion is introduced into the equation. While finding this answer, IDK realizes that his traumatic upbringing, familial relationships, and even his connection with women have all heavily altered the way that he perceives and accepts love around him. Previously tortured by the burden weighing on his soul, IDK both illuminates and sheds his baggage on USEE4YOURSELF, an album that stands as an exercise of painstaking emotional catharsis from one of music's most promising artists.
From a stylistic standpoint, USEE4YOURSELF can be bisected into two equally-impressive halves. Though IDK's narrative actually is divided into three conceptual arcs, the first half of his record is full of cinematic Kanye West-level productions that almost eclipse everything that has been released so far this year. With Mike Dean's handiwork all over this project, tracks like the album-opener "Santa Monica Blvd" are restless and explosive bangers where clever writing and infectious low-ends wrestle for the listeners' attention.
From the bouncy and effortlessly smooth Young Thug-assisted "Pradadabang" to the ethereal and soulful "Puerto Rico" with Lucky Daye, IDK places a heavy emphasis on his success using the classic signifiers of wealth, women, and fame. IDK's writing is complicated, however, by a hint of morbid self-awareness. In spite of everything he's earned, there still remains something weighing on his mind. His success seems hollow, as if it's literally just armor to protect IDK from the things that really bother him. Even at his most tender and romantic, there's a hint of desperation for love that becomes more fleshed out in USEE4YOURSELF's second act.
There are still bangers embedded within USEE4YOURSELF's latter half, but for the most part the tracks that occupy this space are much more raw and vulnerable. The listener is privy to tracks that are borderline revelatory, as IDK explores every painful childhood memory from his unforgiving neighborhood to his strained relationships with the people meant to protect him. "Hey Auntie" with Slick Rick stands as possibly one of IDK's most impassioned tracks yet, with IDK reflecting over the surface-level happiness of his strained childhood, even opening up about a trauma that you'll have to hear about for yourself.
To a small group of family and friends in a West Hollywood theater, IDK would tell them that the album was simply just "his life" - and overall, the album is extremely effective in conveying just that. USEE4YOURSELF's tracklist is decorated with high-energy anthems featuring the likes of Pharrell Williams, Swae Lee, Sir, Rico Nasty, Sevyn Streeter and more, but IDK also does not shy away from the more downtempo cuts required for him to tell his story.
On the impact of USEE4YOURSELF, IDK confessed "I don't know what the album's going to do, but I know it's going to change my life", and one listen to this project will show the listener exactly what he means. With USEE4YOURSELF, IDK tells his story, answering the question he posed to listeners less than two years ago in the process.
Listen to USEE4YOURSELF below: