2019 has been good to IDK. The 27-year-old rapper from Prince George’s County, Md. was in conversation with prominent rap labels such as G.O.O.D. Music and Top Dawg Entertainment, but opted instead to launch his own label, Clue, through a joint venture with Warner Records. He scored spots on the soundtracks for “Madden NFL 20” and “NBA 2K20” with his singles “24” and “Digital,” respectively. Through Clue, he released “Is He Real?,” his most thematically ambitious work to date, and is now embarking on a tour, aptly titled “Is He Really Touring?”
The 15-stop tour had passed through New York, Chicago, Atlanta and more before making its way to Los Angeles Tuesday night at The Roxy Theatre. The show sold out the 500-person venue in West Hollywood in just six weeks, despite being added to the schedule after the tour was already announced. Before beginning the tour, IDK posted a list of tour rules on his Instagram, telling fans to “come prepared.”
“Come to relieve stress, leave all problems at home. Forget them, they no longer exist,” the second rule reads.
Bronx-born rapper Kemba opened the night with a 30-minute set. The 29-year-old, who’s been on the tour for its entire duration, primarily performed tracks from his recent release “Gilda.” After opening with his self-asserting single “Last Year Being Broke,” he delivered some a cappella verses and shared touching stories about losing his aunt and mother.
“The energy was really dope,” Kemba said. “I saw people that knew the words, and it was super exciting … It was a good way to end the tour for me.”
Shortly after, the lights went dark and IDK’s voice boomed overhead.
“This is a one-minute warning,” IDK announced. “I wanna see the energy through the motherfucking roof when I come out.”
He came onstage sporting a bright orange biohazard suit, matching orange glasses and a black beanie. Sparing no time, he jumped right into the rapid-fire flow of “42 Hundred Choices,” eliciting cheers from fans. Near the top of his set, IDK freestyled over the beat from “24.”
“Bitch I got my own staff / They make magic like they Moses / Say you choosing, well we chosen / White gold with the bezel frozen,” he rapped.
Considering that “Is He Real?” sees IDK grappling with agnosticism, the biblical references here suggest that this may have been a scrapped verse from the album rather than a proper, off-the-top freestyle, but audience members enjoyed it regardless.
Two songs later, IDK adhered to the third rule from his aforementioned Instagram list: “Be ready to come on stage and freestyle if selected (even if you’re not good.)” Considering that Kemba shared a story earlier in the night about being called onstage to rap by Kendrick Lamar and described it as the “one specific day that changed my life,” Noah, the audience member IDK called onstage, had big shoes to fill.
“Know we going wild / In the city with all this style / You know I’m coming in / One, two with the punch,” Noah rapped.
The true highlights of the show came later in the night, after IDK had shed his biohazard suit to reveal a black muscle tee that offered a good view of his deltoid tattoo of Clue’s fingerprint logo.
During a slew of pre-“Is He Real?” tracks, including “God Said Trap,” “Pizza Shop” and “17 Wit A 38,” IDK made a seemingly nonchalant announcement.
“I haven’t performed this in a while,” he said as the beat for the Denzel Curry-assisted “No Wave” began to play. “I think it’ll be cool though.”
Then, as if from thin air, Curry himself manifested onstage without any introduction. The pair performed their high-energy verses together, hyping up the already-excited crowd. Curry moshed in the crowd while IDK performed his verse and the pair reversed roles.
“Can I do one more song for you?” the Carol City, Fla., rapper asked the audience before playing “RICKY,” the lead single from his most recent project, “ZUU.”
That wasn’t the only surprise IDK had up his sleeve.
“The next artist I’m about to bring out might have broke the world record, over Frank Ocean, for taking the longest to drop an album,” IDK teased. “But, it’s all about quality over quantity.”
“Free Lunch” by Isaiah Rashad began to play and the Chattanooga, Tenn. rapper came out with a smile on his face. The elusive Top Dawg Entertainment artist, whom IDK supported on “The Lil Sunny Tour” in 2017, notoriously keeps his fans waiting patiently for new music. It’s been more than three years since he dropped his album “The Sun’s Tirade,” although to be fair, more than four years elapsed between Frank Ocean’s releases of “channel ORANGE” and “Endless.”
Near the end of the show, IDK gave a tribute to his mother, who passed away in 2016.
“No matter who you’ve lost, you always gotta take the time to mourn and then take the time to celebrate their lives,” he said. “Whenever someone dies, it doesn’t mean it’s the most negative thing in the world. There’s always some type of positivity to gain from that.”
IDK concluded the show with an energetic rendition of “24,” then acknowledged and thanked fans he recognized from his previous shows.
Out of genuine love and appreciation for his fans, IDK creates an intimate experience for his fans at his live shows. His direct interactions with audience members and willingness to be vulnerable with strangers allow show-goers to connect with him more than at a typical concert.
The final two “Is He Really Touring?” stops will be this Sunday, Nov. 10, at Tyler, the Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw and a homecoming show Friday, Nov. 29 in College Park, Md.