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Telling ‘The Forever Story’: Christo pulls back the curtain on JID’s masterpiece

Photo courtesy of @bxlyfe

When JID proclaimed “Me and Christo got it poppin’ like it’s Crisco,” on The Forever Story’s “Dance Now,” he certainly wasn’t bluffing.

Earning production credits on 11 of TFS’ 15 tracks, as well as its intended outro “2007,” Pittsburgh’s Christo goes way back with the Atlanta rapper. Both sharing the same management team in SinceThe80s’ Barry “Hefner” Johnson and Zeke Nicholson, Christo and JID have collaborated on all three of the latter’s studio albums.

After mostly giving input through phone calls and emails for 2017’s The Never Story — although he produced its hits such as “NEVER” and “Hereditary” — 2018’s DiCaprio 2 is when Christo’s chemistry with JID became undeniable.

“I grew to be an ear to just bounce ideas off of, and he always liked how I composed,” he said. “If he ever needed a skit with some music behind it or if he wanted to end the song a certain type of way, he was hitting me up for that. I was always giving my opinion and input on stuff and he’s always appreciated it.”

That appreciation eventually bled into the “moments” the pair strived to capture when making a full-length project together. Letting the experience speak for itself is what made their work on TNS and DC2 special, but TFS is what lifted them to even greater heights.

“I always think in terms of a span of an album, not just moments or songs,” he said. “I’m really good with conceptualizing projects and it’s exactly what he needed at the time. I was the one he was coming to to really put it together, and that started around The Never Story, but really came to fruition with DiCaprio 2.” 

As much as his versatile skillset of soothing harmonies and lighting-fast lyricism has set the tone for his career, Christo’s help on production has been nearly just as important for establishing JID’s multi-faceted sound. This evolved, yet vintage hip-hop feel within JID’s music has come from this duo honing their instincts and not fearing failure.

“JID’s such a versatile artist and I’m such a versatile producer, so we always stayed with the trial-and-error mindset of ‘let’s just try it and see what happens,'” he said.

Going into TFS, its two pre-released tracks “Surround Sound” and “Dance Now” were the main contributors to the hype surrounding the project. Both containing a potent combination of soul samples, trap drums and Christo production, the Pittsburgh native explained that the legends from his hometown had a huge hand in molding this sound. Rappers like Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa, as well as the producers they often worked with like ID Labs and Sledgren, were pioneers of this technique that Christo gravitated towards and that JID now utilizes.

“They were some of the first people I heard really put modern drums, not like boom-bap type drums, on soul samples,” he said. “It just made me want to make beats and make my own sound.”

This elite and versatile ability that Christo wields is surely why JID entrusted him to executive produce The Forever Story, currently considered to be his magnum opus thus far in his career. Although he was only responsible for crafting the actual beats on three of the LP’s songs — including the opener “Raydar,” the crowned jewel of his career in the soulful “Kody Blu 31” and the aforementioned “Dance Now” featuring Kenny Mason — Christo’s contributions in post-production, mapping out the track list and assistance composing the album are evident in the LP’s impressively cohesive final result.

“Most of it was making sure JID felt good about the album being complete,” he said. “It’s not worth putting it out if you don’t feel like you’ve done all that you could on it. The most important thing was just making sure that every song felt right because, of ‘The Forever Story’ narrative, every song had to really fit that story and fit that theme.”

What earns you the honor of being attached at the hip with JID for nearly half a decade — and being a main consultant for his projects along with Barry and Zeke — is having a vested interest in bringing his ideas to life, which sometimes includes intense late night conversations.

“The most important thing was making sure that JID felt as best as he could about the album before we released it,” he said. “We would have talks at any time of the day. He would call me at 4 a.m. like, ‘Yo, I got this new sequence, what do you think?’ Or ‘Yo, I’m thinking about putting a skit here.’ Or ‘I want to add some music at the end of this song.’ Stuff like that.”

Another important attribute needed to succeed with JID is knowing when to simply “let him cook.” Historically throughout his career, JID has employed the chic idea of beat switches far more often than other mainstream rappers, who tend to make it feel like it’s Christmas whenever one of their songs transitions to a different instrumental.

In TFS, there are a whopping five songs that feature beat switches — as well as “Raydar” which contains two different switches — and Christo has credits on them all. However, the humble producer refuses to take responsibility for the ingenious beat switches heard on “Stars,” “Surround Sound,” “Better Days” and “Can’t Make U Change.”

“100% (of the beat switches) are his idea every time,” he said. “He’s like, ‘I want a beat switch right here,’ and I’m like ‘Bet. Let’s do it, let’s figure it out.’ Time after time, every beat switch idea is his, he’s just that sick in the head… I don’t even try to spend time anticipating what he’s going to do on (a beat) because you just never know. As soon as I feel like he’s going to attack it a certain way, he’ll come with a whole different style.”

Originally meant to release on the five-year anniversary of The Never Story (March 10, 2022), this new project had to endure tough sacrifices. Songs like the Dreamville D-DAY mixtape hit “Stick” from earlier this year and the emotional, sample-heavy YouTube exclusive “2007,” which Christo now calls “a story before The Forever Story,” both did not make the cut. But, JID, Christo and the rest of the Dreamville collective could not have asked for a better outcome, as their AOTY contending LP put an end to a grueling four-year wait for fans.

“Since it had been so long since DiCaprio 2, we definitely had to really come with it,” he said. “But at the same time, this is his family’s and his life’s story. That goes beyond trying to make catchy songs or trying to just be the best rapper alive. We really just wanted to make a timeless piece of art, and that comes before any type of clout or recognition. We just tried to stay patient and craft these songs the best way we possibly could.”

Check out ‘The Forever Story’ by JID below!