Initially, it’s not clear whether IDK recently immersed himself in Netflix’s Drive to Survive series, took an eventful trip to the Grand Prix in Miami, or simply felt inspired to shape his fourth studio album around the theme of F1 racing. In any case, “F65” takes listeners on a ride through IDK’s dynamic life, navigating the twists, turns, pit stops, and burnouts.
In 2023, IDK doesn’t hold the pole position in the forefront of popular hip-hop culture, a fact he would acknowledge himself. At this stage of his career, having released four albums, he isn’t in pursuit of a big breakthrough or the next viral TikTok dance to boost his songs into trending topics. Instead, he’s comfortable conceptualizing his music, infusing it with beats, rhymes, and reflections from his life, all while showcasing his impressive rapping skills.
The album kicks off with “Pit Stop,” where IDK accelerates into the race with robust bars and heavy bass. It’s an assertive state-of-the-union address that continues the trajectory set by his previous album, “Simple,” released in 2022. He maintains the tradition of updated braggadocio, references to upgraded AMG vehicles, but the track’s closing children’s choir hints at a deeper underlying purpose. This is a theme that resonates through the emotionally insightful “Thug Tear,” a collaboration with Fat Trel, delving into topics of love, loss, and street codes, further establishing the layers of subject matter on “F65.”
IDK wastes no time in explaining his album’s racing concept, as he explicitly states on “Champs-Elysees”: “I’ve become infatuated with driving my AMG fast as hell/Coming from a date or like a badass chick, you know?/Speeding to jazz music and such/I like to think of it as a mind trip/Like, that’s sexy to me, you know?” Mystery solved.
And indeed, jazz can be captivating when woven into rap seamlessly. Notable tracks include an upbeat ballad and a pointed critique of the police titled “Mr. Police,” as well as a sultry, smooth track featuring Saucy Santana and Jucee Froot called “Pinot Noir.” While IDK isn’t the first rapper to incorporate rhythmic jazz elements, his execution shines as he navigates the rhythms and melodies with finesse.
Fans of modern hip-hop can rest assured that “F65” maintains a contemporary edge with plenty of booming 808s, trap drums, and hi-hats. Tracks like “Salty” featuring NLE Choppa showcase a seamless exchange of rap verses, reminiscent of Ricky Bobby’s “shake and bake.” “850,” featuring Rich The Kid, amplifies the energy with even more sinister themes of dominating the rap game. A masterclass in rapping arrives with the Benny The Butcher-assisted track “Up The Score.”
While the songs on “F65” provide enjoyment and sound fantastic through car speakers, there’s a deeper significance underlying the entire project. The racing theme represents a full-circle journey in IDK’s life. The starting line symbolizes his childhood environment, where car theft was a survival tactic and evading police was a necessity. The metaphorical finish line reflects IDK’s current status, owning luxury cars of racing caliber.
Beneath the surface, the album’s theme also extends to the race of the transatlantic slave trade. The opening track, “Cape Coast,” references the West African cape where many African slaves were shipped from, while the closing track, “Freetown,” alludes to Freetown in Sierra Leone, where numerous slaves gained their freedom. Throughout the album, IDK cleverly interweaves double and triple entendres that connect history, car racing, and his artistic expression.
There are few criticisms to levy against this album, aside from its lengthy runtime. With 22 tracks, it’s a challenge to fully immerse oneself and appreciate each song in one sitting, despite the high quality of the assortment. In today’s music landscape, releasing a 22-song album often serves strategic streaming purposes, boosting the artist’s numbers on streaming platforms.
Ultimately, “F65” stands as an engaging concept album from one of hip-hop’s underrated talents. While many tracks may not find their way into streets, tweets, or clubs, those in the know can confirm IDK’s skill as a rapper and overall accomplished artist.