Right away, what intrigued me the most about this single was the title. “Ballads” sounds so grand and angelic – yet the cover art features a mystically dark forest, with two hollowed out lids glaring at you like a black cat’s eyes at night.
The only light that appears on the cover art is found from these two outlines of eyes. We can infer this image may be symbolic of JID and Conway the Machine’s energy remaining steady like a torch, despite the shadows and demons trying to demolish it.
The word “Ballad” is defined as “a poem, or song narrating a story in short stanzas. Traditional ballads are typically of unknown authorship, having been passed on orally from one generation to the next as part of folk culture. “
The beat itself takes on the form of the unknown, the most high. The instrumentation is both haunting and whimsical – acting as a premonition to the story JID and Conway the Machine are about to tell. JID starts the single off acapella, as the piano keys follow his voice like a ghost.
Both MC’s allude to their darker days of surviving homelessness and hunger. The folk culture that can accompany a ballad is pronounced in the way both rappers tell their stories of not only survival, but their gateway to success – passing it down orally to their fans as if they were talking to their grandchildren.
JID looks upon himself as a student to the rap game and the MC’s that came before him – while still illuminating the originality he has contributed to it as well. He regards himself as the ultimate archetype to hip hop. His lyrics reflect a sense of both historical and spiritual knowledge that has led to him fulfilling his prophecy.
He spits, N****, I’ve been hungry; for a time I was homeless. I honed in my skill, sharp sword swings along for the moment. Atonement in my tone, ownership is the only shit I’ve been voyaging. Voices in my head and then I go record it. I’ve been ordered by the lord.”
It’s no secret that JID has become a master of his craft. It’s evident in the individuality of his flow, rhyme schemes, and obscure beat choices. He has somehow been able to take inspiration from his idols while remaining grounded in his own unique purpose.
On the first bar, he references what his life looked like before the music took off. His endurance to flourish out of poverty came to him like the strength of a deity. JID’s music is a way for him to not only tell his story, but to rewrite the narrative as well – the messages behind his lyrics come through in the form of clairvoyance.
The last line JID spits before Conway the Machine makes his dramatic entrance to his upcoming verse is, “And we rejoice when real n***** lift their voices for the voiceless.”
The usual eruption of machete and gun sounds being mimicked floods the track, lifting any doubts of Conway the Machine’s presence and overall bravado. He delivers his combative and militant energy to the single. Conway the Machine raps, “I was deep in them trenches, homeless in Atlanta, sleeping on benches.”
Overall, the chemistry of these two on this single is magnetic. The cover art does say in tiny letters right next to the title: Chapter 1 – so hopefully this is not the last we see of this team collaborating on a track. Stream “Ballads” by JID and Conway the Machine below!