This past Saturday I had the privilege of attending the sold out J.I.D. and EARTHGANG show at the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood. Over the past year, from the advice of multiple friends I decided to check out J.I.D.’s debut album The Never Story and I was immediately blown away. In the age of mumble rap and production taking priority over lyrics, it’s refreshing to see a newcomer who oozes talent and creativity both with his lyrics and his subject matter – not to mention the fact that he’s actually a pretty good singer as well. All of this make it especially interesting that J.I.D. is coming out of Atlanta. Not to throw any shade on the music coming out of Atlanta now, but J.I.D. is the total opposite of what we have come to expect from the current Atlanta hip-hop scene with Migos, Future, 2 Chainz, Young Thug, Gucci Mane, and others all dominating mainstream music through the avenue of trap music.
Just listening to J.I.D.’s flow and delivery you can tell that he is simply on another level, kind of in the same revolutionary vein as Joey Bada$$’s, or even in that of his mentor and label owner J. Cole’s. A lot of the same can be said for J.I.D.’s label mates, and fellow Atlantans, EARTHGANG. The duo of Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot are also lyrically advanced with unique deliveries to match. Honestly, the duo reminds me and others a lot of Outkast in terms what they’re doing musically and lyrically with their story telling ability, and you can see why when you look the fact that they are from Atlanta and that their musical influences include: Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scott-Heron, Lauryn Hill, T-pain, and obviously the Dungeon Family. If you haven’t heard of them before, I highly suggest you listen to their two latest EP’s Rags and Robots.
As far as the actual show goes, there were a few openers, but my friends and I got there just as Chaz French was finishing his set, and then there was a brief transition before EARTHGANG took the stage. I was initially disappointed through the first few EARTHGANG songs because it seemed like Doc & Venus were a little too hype, making it harder to hear them clearly through the mic. However, the duo quickly calmed down and kicked it into high gear when they got into performing the songs off of their newer EP’s, mentioned above. At this point they were really moving the crowd and hitting their flows and delivery with flawless execution. Then, there was another quick, almost immediate transition into J.I.D.’s performance, which was, in a word, mesmerizing. His stage presence made you hang on every single word he raps; his delivery and flow came out so effortlessly through the mic with the same sound and clarity you hear on his recorded tracks. In fact, his energy and aura on the stage were infectious not only to the crowd, but also to Doc & Venus of EARTHGANG when he brought them back out to perform “D/vision.” In my opinion, it was the best song the EARTHGANG duo performed all night. They were able to feed off the energy J.I.D. provided from the first verse and hit their verses with ease. On this song in particular they definitely spaz with the lyrics, flow, and delivery, so it was great to see them execute their verses perfectly.
Being that the concert was in LA along with the rapid rise of J.I.D. it was only natural that we expected him to bring out a special guest or two to the stage. It was funny because just before the show my friends and I were joking about what the chances were that J. Cole would come out for the performance. We ended up setting our prediction between a 1% and 10% chance. So, back to the show, J.I.D. first brings out Denzel Curry, which was amazing because of how hype he got the crowd when he performed his huge single “Ultimate.” Then, ironically, and to the shock and amazement of everyone in the crowd at the tightly packed Roxy, a large and familiar 6’4” frame with dreads walks in from the side of the stage… and YES, it was none other than Dreamville founder J. Cole! At this point, everyone started mashing together to get to the front of the stage with their cameras in hand, including myself. Then, J.I.D., EARTHGANG, and J. Cole started to perform their song off the Spillage Village project Bears Like This Too Much, “Can’t Call It.” The whole crowd was vibeing hard, and at this point you started to realize the gravity of the performance you were witnessing. In fact, after the song Cole even went so far as to call J.I.D. “the future” and it definitely felt like that.
The whole night I couldn’t help but think back to this Kendrick Lamar concert I saw back in 2011 - before he reached massive stardom and before he released his debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city - and think that I was seeing something very similar. Maybe it was the fact that the venue I saw Kendrick at, the legendary Whiskey A Go Go, was right down the street from the Roxy Theater where J.I.D. was performing, but both performances felt so similar to me in the sense that I felt I was witnessing the birth of a star right in that moment.