"You have to train, sharpen your sword, and just try to be the best version of yourself": J.I.D on making it in the music industry and adapting to a post-pandemic world

"You have to train, sharpen your sword, and just try to be the best version of yourself": J.I.D on making it in the music industry and adapting to a post-pandemic world

Presented by Vans Musicians Wanted

Despite only officially entering the music industry three years ago, J.I.D is a veteran on the mic.

The rapper first turned heads in Atlanta’s underground hip-hop scene, where he joined the musical collective Spillage Village with EarthGang, 6LACK and many more. He was instantly recognised for his lyrical complexity and his infectiously energetic stage presence. 

After a long series of performances and under-the-radar releases, J.I.D slowly rose up in the ranks of hip-hop. He even gained the attention of highly acclaimed rapper J Cole, who later signed him to his label Dreamville Records in 2017. 

The ‘151 Rum’ act has been well praised for his sonic versatility and precise rap flow. Often regarded as a “lyrical arsonist”,  his albums The Never Story and DiCaprio 2 both received critical acclaim upon release for its array of intricate stories encased in a blend of trap, old-school hip-hop and R&B. 

Most recently, the rapper was introduced as one of the judges in this year’s Vans Musicians Wanted, a global music competition. Joining the likes of Grammy-award winning artist Anderson .Paak, Chinese-born US-based rapper Bohan Phoenix, British singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya, and Vans Global Marketing Lead Tierny Stout, J.I.D is ready to discover the best in undiscovered talent. 

2020 marks Vans Musicians Wanted digital and global debut. The competition, which started exclusively in the Asia-Pacific region, is now open to the entire world. Finalists are competing for a chance to share a stage with Anderson .Paak at the House of Vans, a Universal Music Group-produced and promoted music video, unlimited digital distribution by Spinnup, Fender gear, Vans products, and more. The chosen finalists are set to be announced early December.

As we wait to see who still stands a chance for the grand prize, Bandwagon speaks to J.I.D about his musical process, being an artist in a changing industry and how aspiring musicians can stand out on stage.  

Tell us about your musical journey.

Music, I feel like it was a weird thing for me because earlier in my life it wasn’t my first love. I was an athlete and I was always into sports following my brothers. But at the same time, I had family members that were into music and someone who was very into it at an early age. I saw that, and it sparked something. It showed me a different way, a vision of like you can do this. This is in your bloodline. I always put that in my back pocket until [I needed it] when I got kicked out of school. 

I came back to Atlanta and I was doing shows with the homies who put me on to this whole world of the underground scene there. That started word of mouth like “J.I.D can perform”. A lot of people started taking interest in it and that’s literally how this whole process started.

[Music] just stayed in the picture and became something that just manifested into what it is today. Me being a full-time musician, doing shows and being able to travel across the world [now] came from performing in spaces where it was 7 maybe 10 people in the crowd and no one knew anything…probably came for their friends. But performing at those little shows literally just amped everything and let me be accessible to the people and let me show them what I possess and can do. So, that’s how I became a full-time musician - shows and just falling in love with music later on in my life and becoming serious with it.

What kind of music do you listen to and how does that influence your music creation? 

I feel like I have a very expansive palette when it comes to music. I’ll listen to pretty much anything that makes me feel something. That’s the approach I try to take with music and I try to use that in my music. Just feeling…it’s all about the feeling of something and how it comes off. It could be the ad-lib; it could be the breath that the artist takes. That feeling that comes across is something that’s not hard to tap into, you [just] do it right. But, I’m a fan of music myself, so you can just understand that feeling when the product is right; when you can tell there's a pain in the art, you can tell the happiness, you can tell the struggle, or you can tell that feeling behind it. That’s the music that I [go] for and that’s the same thing that I try to make. So, there's a lot of artists out there that do that and I’m appreciative of that type of creation. That influences [and] helps me push something forward

Who would you most like to collaborate with?

I’m going to do a dead or alive thing. Of course, like, the great Prince and Michael Jackson like those were amazing people that I always wanted to work with. I love Little Dragon, I love James Blake, I love Beyoncé, Chaka Kahn - these powerful singers and voices. It would be more so singers and soul, jazz musicians like Miles Davis, people like that are super pivotal. I would love to work with them.

I’ll say Beyoncé, final answer. 

What would you be doing right now if you weren’t in music?

If I wasn’t doing music right now, I’m sure I’d be doing something in sports or film. [There] were times where I had dreams of being a lawyer, but that faded away quickly. I think something like sports and film…something where I can write or where I can [use] my passion for sports. I’m an athlete still to this day. I love being around football, track, basketball, and all that type of stuff. But. I [definitely] would be writing. I would be writing movies just like I am now. I’ll never stop writing…even if I wasn’t doing this. I’d be writing because that’s a passion of mine. That’s something you can do without having to make music. You can write, so that’s what I’d be doing.

Is there anything you’re working on right now that fans can look forward to seeing? 

Yes, I’ve been working on so much stuff for…no one can tell how long. I don’t know if I should put that out there, but I’m definitely working on an album that will be coming soon and videos and stuff. Just trying to take the artistry to another level. So, the visual of everything and the content pieces that we drop would be very advanced in what our ideas are and how far we’re trying to push it. 

It’s just a lot more music coming. It’s going to be another album run cycle so I just hope my fans are prepared again...like we’ve been through this since I first dropped in 2017. It’s about to be my fourth year coming up in the industry and I’ve been working on a lot of bodies of work. So…I don’t know, I just hope they are prepared for good music and content and just better artistry. Because I’m growing, that’s what it is. Everything is moving forward.

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A few J.I.D verses floating around with some amazing artist, check them all out tell me which ones u like.. and b even more ready👀more me stuff coming. LuhYall

A post shared by J.I.D (@jidsv) on

What are you looking forward to the most as a Vans Musicians Wanted judge?

I love talent. I love being around music. I love musical beings. I love spirits… I love souls, clashing and being expressed through vocals, through rapping, production, through art, through any type of artistry. You just don’t have to be a musician to be an artist. There are different levels to artistry or being an artist. Any person that’s giving their full expression and it's truthful...you can feel it. I’m going to love that. I’m a big fan.

I’m [not] for music when it doesn’t feel genuine but when it’s super real and you can feel it, that’s something you can’t beat. And I’m hoping to interact with that type of...that soul, that one person, or those people that have that feeling that can make them express, and you get the feeling as a judge. I’m looking forward to that.

Technical skills aside, what else would you want to see in a winning contestant?

Real vibes. Real energy and presence. Presence is everything. Diction..verbiage. I’m good on the way words roll off your tongue or the way something is said in the course of music. Even the breath that you take. I pay attention to all of that. It’s super important and I don’t know, it’s the feeling that comes out of it. It could be the breath you take between the next line that could make everything. I don’t know, there's a very fine line between it. I just hope that the person has presence. Just presence and good verbiage. Or maybe not, maybe you slur all through it and we just feel it, because we understand where you were coming from in that mindset. I just want to feel it, that’s all. 

How do you draw the line between personal preference and talent?

There's a line between personal preference and talent because you can basically see…you can say “hey” with talent…"this is talent,I can see this right here". You don’t have to necessarily love the talent, but you can see something in that. Personal preference is just “this is what I like…this is me specifically, this is all in my realm of things that make sense and that attracts my ear and makes my ears perk up when I hear it”. Talent is just "ok, you’re talented", it’s just what was gifted to you from a higher power.

What personal preference is...what makes you fall in love with an artist itself. It can be the person they are. It can be the way they wear their clothes. The way they carry themselves or anything about them. Personal preference is what attracts you to the artist. And I draw the line at that. I just know the talent...you can see talent, you can understand it. Anyone in the world can see if you hit 300 three-point shots in a row you’re talented...like shooting a ball. But, personal preference is "oh I like the way his game comes together, and he can shoot as well, or he can do a lot of things". That’s just a basketball reference.

What’s the next big thing? What should we look out for?

It’s more music. I’m trying to put more music out into the atmosphere. I’ve never really done it before. I want to just give everything that I’ve had as far as...it doesn’t matter from what time period I’m going to be working on. All music just to put out for my fans. I need to celebrate for my fans this year and this time because we’ve had a rough year being 2020. Moving forward, I just want to make sure that I celebrate them…and enjoy the music…share the music. It's therapy for me as well, but it’s not made for me to just sit and listen to. So, I’m going to make sure that I just get more music out and be more available in the artist aspect of it.

What are some hard truths that aspiring musicians should know about?

The hard truth about being a musician is probably that it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. Your ultimate goal or maybe...it’s probably not your ultimate goal but it’s to, on some level, make everybody love you and your music. You are your music. So, what you produce, what comes with that, how you bear fruit when you produce your music is...you. That’s your seed. You put it on the table. Everyone has to accept it...or you at least want them to resonate with it to some degree. 

And it doesn’t stop. The creativity and the streamline of ideas don’t stop. You have to train, sharpen your sword and just try to be the best version of yourself. The best version of your truthful self [that] you can be, there’s strength in that. There’s always going to be somebody who can do something you can’t, but nobody else is going to have your story and nobody else is going to have your truth…and nobody else is going to see it through your eyes. So, that’s the big realization about being an artist, you [can’t] stop. Artists die for this. Some artists literally put their soul to this...this world can eat you up.

Things have changed a lot in the music community due to the ongoing pandemic. In what ways have you been able to adapt?

I’ve always been a reclusive person but a people person as well. When I’m in my space I can be comfortable in my space, alone in my own skin. So being in a pandemic, it just basically made me adapt where I was going to go musically because [last year] I was not at home. Even though I am reclusive, I was out on the road 10 months out of the 12 months last year working. I plan on doing the same thing for however long until I’m satisfied and until my itch is scratched as far as my goals in music. So, I had to adapt with music and wanting to perform it...and understanding my strength is performing and the music is my strength as well. 

But I want to perform for my fans. I want you to see me, I want you to understand what’s coming behind the music more so than you just hearing it. So, I adapted as far as just adjusting timelines so I can get back to the fans and rage like we have been for the past whatever since I got on the scene.

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The First Dreamville Fest was one for the Books, Thank you to every single person that came out and showed love,, You guys are the real stars, love always 👖

A post shared by J.I.D (@jidsv) on

Where do you see the scene going post-pandemic?

I do not have any idea of where the scene is going. I know what I’m going to do to prepare myself, not sure where anything is going right now. You know, in a truthful tone, it’s noisy outside. It’s not a lot of true information being passed around. So I’m just going to prepare on my end and make sure me and my team are working as hard as we can…diligently on each project so even if we don’t come out of this how we expect we still can push forward with ideas, messages, albums, film..a lot of stuff that we’re involved with. [Which includes] reaching out and volunteering in stuff for underprivileged people and kids, and black women, and black kids, and just people all across the world that’s dealing with poverty or any type of discrimination in any sort. So, I’m just putting my foot forward as far as being a good human and making music. It’s literally time for that.

Finalists for Vans Musicians Wanted will be selected to perform in an online concert on 9 December 2020. Stay tuned on the official Vans Musicians Wanted website.

Listen to DiCaprio 2 by J.I.D here: