There is no question that money is the driver of everything we do in our lives. Whether it be to simply put a roof over our heads, or to make ourselves look more valuable in our social lives. The different effects money has on the outcomes of our daily lives is an endless topic that has the potential to be broken down and analyzed. While the idea that “money is the root of all evil” is one that has been discussed by rappers before, it has not been done quite to the extent that Maryland rapper, Jay IDK, has done on his newest project, Empty Bank. Jay is not foreign to making concept albums. In fact his last release, SubTrap, was an excellent example of a concept album done near flawlessly. In SubTrap, Jay took numerous identities of people he knew in his daily life and told their stories through lyrics that were straight to the point, yet carried a heavy message. The acronym “IDK” in fact stands for “Ignorantly Delivering Knowledge“. By taking this lyrical stance, Jay is able to appeal to a larger audience, while still delivering some food for thought. On Empty Bank, Jay continues to use this style, and makes one of the best concept hip-hop albums of the year in the process.
One of the most successful parts about this album is the way it managed to cover a variety of topics, but yet still stayed rooted to the concept of money. One of the hardest tracks on the album, “Boy’s Innocence”, reflects the perspective of a young black man in the ghetto trying to make end’s meet. In this track, Jay identifies the fact that money plays a significant role in one’s decision to go out and start robbing. Unfortunately, when there is an urgency to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head, AND you’re left with no safe, quick options to attain the money needed, robbing becomes the only method left to acquire money. In the track Jay states “I am really not a thug but when that money call, it make a n**** turn to something that he not at all…”, which depicts the unfortunate reality of many of the situations young black men experience in the ghetto. On “La Groupie”, Jay talks about the effects having money has on his relationships with women. He discusses his encounter with a woman who essentially only wants him for his money. He also discusses this on the track “Nudes 4 Cash” in a little more explicit detail.
One of main topics Jay covers is the vice of spending all of your money once you actually have it. This is expressed excellently on the tracks “Mentality” and “I Picture”. “Mentality” features what is probably the catchiest hook on the album. It also features one hell of beat. Through some surging bass and rattling high hats, Jay braggadociously spits about his money, chains and watches, perfectly reflecting the cliche rapper mentality of boasting about how much paper you stack. “I Picture” is similar in tone. Trust is also another issue when it comes to acquiring money. The tracks “Who’s Looking” and “Trust Nobody” discuss the hazard of having people who are only around you because of your money, and then proceed to ask you for handouts as a result.
As I said, Jay covers a variety of issues that come with having an abundance of money, as well as having a lack. A recurring skit throughout the album is a series of phone calls Jay receives from a bill collector telling him that he owes money for various things (Sallie Mae, studio time, etc.). This album doesn’t really come to any solutions for the problems it depicts. It simply states the dilemma as it is. What makes this album so great is not only Jay’s complete awareness of the issues, but how sonically diverse, yet cohesive, the project turns out to be. The album manages to collide trap bangers and boom-bappish tracks with ease. And flow-wise, Jay does not miss a beat. He manages to surf through every type of production thrown at him almost effortlessly. Combine this with the varied content, and you have a very entertaining album that will keep your attention all the way through the end. Jay IDK is rare talent. One that has seemed to go under the radar for quite some time. With Empty Bank, Jay only makes it more obvious that he is a unique rapper that needs to be recognized by fans and critics alike.
Don’t sleep on this guy.