Every artist is a product of their environment, their output is an expression of the life they have lived to varying degrees of honesty. Maryland rapper IDK has lived a life of duality: experiencing bigotry at school and love in the streets (as is made known on the jaw-droppingly frank No Shoes on the Rug, Leave Them at the Door); being surrounded by “spellin’ bee winners”and “PG killers”; releasing a project with features from both Del the Funky Homosapien and Chief Keef.

In a genre that often fragments itself based upon personal, lyrical, and musical backgrounds, IDK shatters these arbitrary barriers with his fantastically dynamic on all fronts project IWASVERYBAD. The record could very well be called “Bad Kid, Worse City” as IDK expertly illustrates the disconnect between the academic pursuits of his parents, and how those pursuits failed him throughout. This is especially apparent in the structure of album and year-end highlight Pizza Shop Extended (produced as a whole by BigKiddMusic). The first half of the song is a collaboration with DC’s Yung Gleesh over nocturnal trap production that is most comparable to the work of Metro Boomin at his darkest. It shifts gears in the second half, however, to a heavy piece of boom bap production that would not be out of place on DOOM’s Vaudeville Villain on which DOOM and Del the Funky Homosapien bring appropriately gritty but characteristically-abstract verses. On both sides of the track however is IDK making his insecurities surrounding the seemingly contradictory aspects of his own life known, stating “Really I’m a good boy, but that Trapaholics tag turned me to a hood boy” on the former half, but acknowledging that he’s “no killer” on the latter.

This duality continues to manifest itself later on the sensual but self-aware duo of Windows Up and Birds & the Bees, the former an ethereal slow-burner that references Ludacris’ “What’s Your Fantasy”, the latter a sexually progressive hip-house track that deals as much with the stigmas surrounding sexual action as it does sexual action itself. The fact that these two cuts naturally transition to 17 Wit a 38 featuring Chief Keef only further illustrates the dynamics IDK expertly navigates throughout.

IDK has released an astoundingly varied listen that nonetheless perfectly communicates who he is as an artist, that is not just his best project yet, but a year-end contender in its own right.