The afterparty has been under way for some time now. It’s the final night of J. Cole’s ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ tour, and the crew are looking forward to a couple of weeks at home before heading down under for the Australian leg. J.I.D is in the room, but he’s not fully present. His eyes are transfixed on his phone, extracting ideas into his notes, preserved for a future studio session. “I don’t stop writing,” admits the East Atlanta native. “I’ll see or hear something and be like, ‘Oh shit, I’ve got to capture this moment any way I can.’”
Rewind a few hours and the 27-year-old, real name Destin Route, is sat in his dressing room - a soulless space deep in Leeds’ First Direct Arena’s backstage labyrinth. He drags a backpack to his feet and begins digging for his in-ear monitors, revealing a pile of ruled pads filled with notes from the road. “When we’re in a situation like this I can get to a book,” he explains. “I can just write ideas down that way, or I’ll use voice notes. Conversations often lead to an idea for a song.”
The act of writing has long been an integral part of J.I.D’s life. His father has published “a type of autobiography situation,” but he maintains that his way with words is really drawn from his mother. “She’s witty, so I see myself sometimes when I speak to her,” he says. “We have a conversation and I’m like, ‘Wow, you really know how to drive your point home!’ That’s something I try to do with my music: to get straight to the point in a way that people will feel comfortable.”
The youngest of seven siblings, J.I.D - which you can pronounce either Jid or Jay-Eye-Dee - never envisioned his future as a writer until more recently. The majority of his youth was dedicated to playing American Football, for Stephenson High School and later on a scholarship for the Hampton Pirates at Hampton University, Virginia where he majored in entrepreneurship. His promising professional football career would come to a devastating end, when he dislocated his hip six games into a make or break season. As he worked to rehabilitate, he began losing focus, messing around and eventually being kicked out of college just hours away from graduating. While he’s keen to promote the importance of education, he believes that the college system isn’t something that works for everyone.