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Interview | Jay IDK Is Bringing The Hip Hop Concept Album Back

The upstart DC rapper opens up about what inspired and went into creating his big picture album.

Patrick Greenby Patrick Green

Jay IDK is bringing the concept album back with his latest album, Empty Bank. The Maryland by way of London rapper descends from a long line of hip hop artists including Jay Z’s American Gangster, Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, and most recently A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your service, in making albums whose whole are greater than the sum of its parts.

Also: New Music | A Tribe Called Quest Bless Us With Swan Songs

Empty Bank may be focused on making a point in regards to money and the way it pollutes and politicizes who we are as people, artists and a society, but the music is just as powerful and stream-worthy.

I had a chance to converse with Jay IDK over email about the conception of a concept album and how it relates to him as a rising voice in the hip hop community.

Crave: Modern hip hop can be so disposable. It’s about making the get rich hits, not telling the age old stories. A concept album is a bold concept in this day and age. 

Jay IDK: I do music that makes me happy by challenging myself to go the extra mile and not do what everyone else is doing. Making an album that puts you in my world is always needed to understand who I am and what I stand for. I think the best rappers practice concept albums in their work.

There’s a lot of hot button topics out there right now. Why did you decide to use “money” as your theme for Empty Bank? Was there a moment or experience in your life that you realized this is what it needs to be?

When I started my writing process for Empty Bank, everything had to do with money. It was at a time in my life where I started to see money differently. I was so used to not having it and always wanting it, but when it stared coming I realized how much trouble and problems it brought. For instance, I started noticing how much people worshiped it and treated it like it was everything. I was in a room where two people were arguing about something, the immediate response for one of the people was ‘it doesn’t matter, I’m getting money anyway’ as if having money could fix every issue he was going through. It was crazy to me. Situations like this are what caused me to start subconsciously taking my writing in that direction. 

In your opinion, what’s the holy grail of concept albums?

A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders and more recently Kendrick’s Good Kid M.A.A.D City. Both albums sounded like the titles. Midnight Marauders sounds like something you listen to at night while going to bed. GKMC sounds like a world of madness that eventually leads to peace at certain points.

Was there an album which inspired you to make this one?

Just everything I’ve listened to growing up from Biggie’s Ready to Die to Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP. I grew up on concept albums.

Is Empty Bank a tragedy or does it have a happy ending?

I think it has many points. For instance, there are times where I’m happy and feel good about myself like on “Somebody” and there are also low points in the album like “She Blocked Me”. If anything the project ends off with inspiration with songs like “How Long/Last Song 2” which makes you realize that you can be anything.

For more sounds, sights and info on Jay IDK go here. Check out his new video for “Mentality” below.