By Lucas Kaplan
Photos by Lauren Washington
25 Oct, 2019
“This shit really comes from the bottom of my heart,” professed Jason Mills, better known as IDK, towards the end of his Friday night set list. It’s not a particularly groundbreaking statement, and it’s one most artists of any medium would agree with, but the sentiment radiated throughout the night, and turned Subterranean into a genuine and energetic atmosphere.
The small confines of Subterranean (400-person capacity) naturally create a unique bond between the performer and audience, but that bond is also something IDK clearly values and strives to create, which makes his declaration seem all the more genuine; he truly cares about the fan experience. The night started with two opening artists that also each created their own naturally affable stage presence. First up was Qari, a lo-fi hip-hop/R&B artist with a coffee-shop-ish aesthetic, his vocals backed by a jazzy quartet of bass, guitar, keyboard, and drums. Qari did an excellent job of creating the vibe for the night, joking with the crowd between songs, discussing his inspiration for each song, and eventually posting up at his merch booth to chat with any and all comers. His set ended with a few unreleased songs which were the most diverse and intriguing songs he played, including “My Bitch Don’t Love Me No More,” which turned from jazzy R&B to punk-ish noise rock.
Ending with a bit more energy created a nice transition for the next artist, a Bronx-based rapper by the name of Kemba. The one thing to know about Kemba is the man spits straight bars and has a classic east-coast sound (evidenced by his performance of his 2019 single, “Deadass”). While his set was a bit more energetic, Kemba kept up that audience-artist bond, discussing his struggles and come-up openly, not exiting the stage before a group selfie with the audience and inviting us up to his merch booth for some conversation. His music reflected this openness, as he mostly played songs from his 2019 album Gilda, many of which focused on his experiences as a black American, being poor, and dealing with loss in general. However, he approaches these topics with a cool energy, each word spit with both disgust and confidence.
After Kemba’s performance, the building was buzzing for IDK, and when he entered the stage in a bright orange Biohazard suit, it was apparent the energy was only going to increase, especially after he walked around the stage and gave some audience members hugs. From the jump, IDK played songs from Is He Real? that were jam-packed with quick bars and catchy hooks, like “42 Hundred Choices,” “Alone,” “Lilly,” and “Porno,” the last of which mandated a deep breath from both IDK himself and the crowd. He brought out a stool and talked to the crowd about his appreciation for his fans, then slowed the pace down with Is He Real? R&B standouts “December” and “European Skies.”
With the crowd in his palm, IDK played some older, more gritty tracks, inviting a fan rocking his own orange Biohazard suit to perform “God said Trap” with him, another fan to freestyle over the “Pizza Shop Extended” instrumental, and even rapping some of “17 with a 38” after his fans requested it. The spontaneity and fan interactions turned Subterranean into such a tight-knit space for the night, especially after his openers had done the same, and it’s why IDK got raucous cheers when he stopped once more and proclaimed that “this shit comes from the bottom of my heart”. After a few more Is He Real? bangers, IDK gave the audience one more surprise, bringing out Saba to perform “Life” from Care for Me, which was a surreal, unexpected moment.
IDK ended with “Julia,” but not before describing his songwriting process and how he thought to write about his mother, the namesake of the song. It was a fitting ending to an emotional and electric night, where it felt like IDK made all the right choices, from the venue to the setlist to his outfit. The Is He Real? tour is most definitely real, and most definitely worth seeing, because IDK will make you feel right at home.
- 42 Hundred Choices
- European Skies
- Pizza Shop
- God Said Trap
- 17 with a 38
- Michael What TF
- Life (Saba)