Hyped on social media as IDK’s first intentionally uniform body of work, “Is He Real?” misses the mark.
The album opens with dialogue between IDK and a child who attempts to explain heaven, which sets the theme of the project and explains that its title is referring to God. The rapper revisits this subject over the course of the album but does quite a bit of meandering along the way.
The order of its songs follows the standard banger/melody/banger sequence and goes from speaking of the Bible to speaking about porno very quickly, and with un-substantially explained connections. Though, having Kabri Styles, Pusha T and JID featured probably distracts people from questioning this specific track’s biblical relevance.
Consolidating every big name collaboration on the album’s most stand-out track: “Porno,” rehashes the same tactic IDK used on his popular song “Pizza Shop Extended,” which featured MF DOOM, Yung Gleesh and Del The Funky Homosapien. But for dedicated hip hop heads, this probably isn’t the only deja vu experienced on “Is He Real?.”
Four of the album’s 14 tracks were uncannily similar to other songs from IDK’s favorite artists and influences.
The song “24” is eerily identical to Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble,” with hard hitting piano chords, boosted bass and even similar vocal variations. Where K Dot yells “my left stroke just went viral” IDK gives a simple “oooh,” and while obviously not copying the exact lyrics or rhythm of TDE’s figurehead, the mimicry is too clear to ignore.
Other tracks that mirrored popular artists sonically are “Alone” and “Michael What TF.” “Alone” utilizes the smooth repetitiveness of Childish Gambino’s “3005,” while “Michael” occupies the clunky drum beats native to Kanye West’s “Yeezus.”
Last but not least, the artist chose to include a song titled “December” which follows a snippet of a Tyler, the Creator interview and variates its thematic language only slightly from the Flower Boy rapper’s own song: “November.”
Whether purposeful or not, the lack of contrast between IDK and these artists distracted me from what is really the crown jewel of this record: IDK’s lyrics.
Spilling out metaphor after metaphor and tying bars together in a spiderweb of masterful wordplay keeps IDK’s story pulsing throughout this record. Serving time in prison and losing his mother are themes that have come up in much of his work, but the emcee shows that he’s found solace throughout “Is He Real?.” The anger and confusion that once spilled out of him has been channeled into social consciousness apparent on songs like “No Cable”, where he explores society’s unwillingness to understand other perspectives.
This album was strong, definitely IDK’s strongest yet, but his words and themes would have been more impactful had he been more musically ambitious and original.
“Is He Real?” is currently available on all platforms, and the artist recently dropped a 30 minute documentary on YouTube detailing its creation.