J.I.D turns Pauley Ballroom into perfectly haphazard moshpit

J.I.D./Courtesy

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J.I.D’s concert on Jan. 25 subverted any preconceptions of what a concert at UC Berkeley can be and set a new standard for entertainment on campus.

J.I.D is an East Atlantan rapper, crooner and wordsmith whose music sounds like a combination of the intense Kendrick Lamar and comparatively laid-back Isaiah Rashad. Signed to Dreamville Records, J.I.D’s music brims with talent and style with his verbose lyrics, effortless delivery and diverse production highlighting that talent. His charismatic personality and undeniable skill earns him a spot in the highly competitive rap game.

During SUPERB’s Spring Welcome Week concert, opener Lou the Human left much to be desired as he failed to connect with the audience at the surprisingly crowded Pauley Ballroom. His set was followed by supporting act and Top Dawg Entertainment artist Reason, who gained more of the crowd’s attention than Lou the Human was able to. It was evident throughout the night, however, that the majority of concert-goers were impatiently awaiting J.I.D’s arrival.

As A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” played and J.I.D entered the back of Pauley Ballroom opposite its main doors, the relatively peaceful yet cramped crowd instantly transformed into a carmagnole of bodies. Diehard fans, first time listeners and everyone in between rushed the stage and created an energy unprecedented for an environment like UC Berkeley. Although J.I.D performed with a strained voice, fans bounced, jumped and screamed while violently pushing each other to get as close to him as possible.

Although its concerts primarily caters to the college student demographic, past SUPERB performers like Vic Mensa and Smino have failed to grasp the attention of their crowds. Impressively, J.I.D managed to keep his crowd engaged for the entirety of his forty-five minute set. Dedicated fans screamed every word of every song he played off his recent project “DiCaprio 2,” from bangers like “151 Rum” to more laidback songs like “Skrawberries.”

It seemed that a lack of familiarity with J.I.D’s music would not have detracted much from the experience. Friday night at Pauley Ballroom saw attendees from all walks of UC Berkeley life, all majors and all years come together as one crowd and turn a simple room into a rap show one might attend in a cramped Bay Area venue.

J.I.D and his masterful performance were to blame for this undeniable success. Unlike most of his peers in rap music today, the rapper performed without the assistance of any vocal backing tracks during his songs. He elegantly glided through verses like those on the introspective, revelatory “Workin Out” from “DiCaprio 2.” Bars about J.I.D’s disappointment with his newfound success reverberated across the room and into the ears of a crowd comprised of overachieving students plagued with impostor syndrome.

“Off Deez” is perhaps J.I.D’s most eyebrow-raising song. The rapid-fire, J. Cole-assisted track sees the two artists tirelessly attempt to outrap each other on the same track and results in an eardrum-shattering collaboration. Not only did J.I.D perform this track to near-perfection live, but he kept the crowd on fire even as he let J. Cole’s verse play through booming speakers that filled Pauley Ballroom in a way no lecture could ever hope to do.

Students could forget their stresses and worries as J.I.D commanded them to open up a mosh-pit before performing “NEVER,” a two-part neck-breaker from his debut album “The Never Story.” Crowd engagement is integral to the success of any concert — the mass movement of bodies that closed out the show as “NEVER” switched its beat midway through the song was a testament to the fact that UC Berkeley students will show up to turn up if placed in the correct environment.

Justin Sidhu covers music. Contact him at [email protected].