The route to your calling isn’t always direct; sometimes you just have to go where life takes you. There are few rappers who can relate to this more than 2018 XXL Freshman J.I.D, who went from college football to rap in his mid-20s, with aspirations of being a lyrical big dog.

“I can really spit, bruh,” the 27-year-old Atlanta rapper tells XXL. “It's a line drawn in the sand; I feel like everybody, notice a change or a shift going on right now.”

Committed to making the best music he could, J.I.D signed a deal with J. Cole’s Dreamville Records, around the time his two friends and rhyming partners EarthGang did. Spurred by the strength of his live show and the strength of his 2015 debut EP, Dicaprio, J.I.D was now ready for the big time, on a label spearheaded by one of the biggest stars in lyrical hip-hop.

After officially joining the Dreamville team, J.I.D released his debut album, The Never Story, lead by the menacing single “Never.” The track is a four minute trip through J.I.D’s mind, covering both his come up, while mixing in clever pop culture references, deftly bouncing between flows and a beat change. “Never” is his biggest song by far, racking up over 21 million plays on Spotify and a video with nearly four million views. His later single, “EddEdnEddy,” also helped him pick up more fans, and was a strong showing of his sense of humor and pure rapping ability.

With his upcoming DJ Drama-hosted mixtape, Gangsta Grillz & Dreamville Presents Dicaprio 2, on the way, J.I.D’s goals haven’t changed; he wants to become a superstar. “I'm tryna be the biggest artist I could be,” he admits. “Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen level, like dead-ass serious.”

Debuting this summer, expect J.I.D to rap like his life depends on it on the new tape. He’s well-aware that he now has a chance to make his impact even larger, and it wouldn’t be smart to bet against him.

Watch J.I.D talk about the road to the 2018 XXL Freshman list, and watch him shred his freestyle below.

See Photos of J.I.D Behind the Scenes at the 2018 XXL Freshman Class Cover Shoot

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