Multiple metrics point to USEE4YOURSELF standing at the pinnacle of IDK’s career thus far. The early streaming numbers are strong across the tracklist, he’s landed a hit with “Shoot My Shot” featuring Migos rapper Offset, gathered around one million new Spotify monthly listeners in only a week and earned his first entry on the Billboard 200.
But despite the accolades, the DMV rapper’s latest offering is void of the soul and quirks that initially brought him into the spotlight.
IDK has always been an ambitious rapper. He consistently opts for grand sounds and long-form narratives, which take shape across his projects. From the illustrious storytelling of “Pizza Shop Extended” on 2017’s IWASVERYBAD to the controlled chaos of “ONCE UPON A TIME (FREESTYLE)” found on 2018’s IDK & FRIENDS, the 29-year-old rapper has shined with his versatile style and a do-or-die hunger, attacking beats with eager ferocity.
The palette of sounds IDK used for USEE4YOURSELF doesn’t stray drastically from his previous work, but it sounds polished to the point of monotony. As the PG County native tries too much to fit into pre-crafted boxes and flash-in-the-pan trends, he sets aside the individuality which lifted him above his peers on past songs, instead falling into exhaustive rap tropes. “Santa Monica Blvd,” produced by IDK, Blue Rondo, Bobby Raps and ATL Jacob, carries the energy needed to start USEE4YOURSELF on a strong note but holds tired bars which sound as though IDK is explaining his emotions instead of actively showing them.
IDK’s rapping capabilities aren’t being brought into question — he’s versatile and can drop a 16 on a dime if needed, which is evident on “Shoot My Shot.” But as he aims for mainstream appeal, he sacrifices his abilities for tepid, cookie-cutter verses, apparent through tracks such as “Dogs Don’t Lie” and “Truth.”
The inclusion of specific, often personal lyrics serves as moments where the monotony subsides and IDK’s vision is fully realized. On “1995,” IDK explores the trauma of losing his mother, while also battling the lingering discomfort of how she treated him during her lifetime.
“Hey Auntie” featuring Slick Rick continues IDK’s journey back into his childhood, disclosing his identity as a survivor of sexual assault through devastating verses.
“Maybe bein’ hurt so much will send a couple blessings/Maybe I could learn from all the pain and get a lesson/I hope that all this pain’ll start to lessen,” he laments before the devastating revelation. “Never felt this feelin’ and now I’m feelin’ neglected/Wishin’ we got to bond but instead, I got moles…”
The introspection demonstrated on “1995” and “Hey Auntie” should’ve served as a blueprint for the rest of the project, but those moments are instead watered down and lost in a sea of throwaways and what sounds like banal attempts to chase commercial success.
Even “PradadaBang,” which isn’t necessarily intimate, sounds fresh, partially thanks to delectably oozing verses from Young Thug but also because of the specificity and authenticity the “Digital” MC inserts into the lyrics.
The hooks might be the greatest sin on USEE4YOURSELF, as IDK repeatedly includes cringe-inducing, half-baked choruses which add nothing to the album and actively sabotage the project. The beauty of “Puerto Rico” featuring stellar assistance from R&B singer Lucky Daye is lost to mediocre metaphors in the opening lines of the chorus.
Similarly, “Red,” which includes an all-star roster of features from Westside Gunn, MF DOOM and Jay Electronica, quickly loses steam each time IDK hops on the mic to sing, “Roses are red, violets are blue,” an insufferably trite line that sounds like it could’ve been penned by a middle schooler late on their poetry assignment. Despite the ongoing trend of lengthy Hip Hop albums, IDK would have been better served paring away the excess of USEE4YOURSELF.
IDK has demonstrated he already holds the keys to his own success through past releases and, in fleeting moments, on USEE4YOURSELF. The skills are there — the confidence just needs to follow.
it’s crazy how much better is he real? was than usee4yourself
— rico gilby (@stvprince) July 20, 2021
Hey Auntie (TW) sounds like @IDK was in the middle of some trauma work and the therapist asked him a miracle question.
— Yungn (@yungtherapeutic) July 15, 2021