There are a lot of things that I have patience for: getting the job I want, a new relationship, a text back occasionally, and music to drop from Top Dawg Entertainment. What I appreciate about this label is that they don’t rush projects one after the other, because there’s a sense of belief in quality over quantity. With Jay Rock being the ‘first dog off the chain’ in 2011 with Follow Me Home, there was a very long extended leave of absence from him, which was populated by projects from Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q, Isaiah Rashad and SZA alike. Jay Rock seems to be the forgotten member because he’s not the more marketable one in comparison to the other members (really Kendrick & Q are the faces), but without Jay, not only does Black Hippy not exist, but TDE as a label. The Watts product is the essence of that gang mentality that is infused with the West Coast culture, and that seems to put people off because where many people’s attention spans are considered, he doesn’t make singles that get people to turn up or throw about quotes on social media, since he’s not exactly a presence on there to begin with. He’s a quiet and humble individual, but it’s as though when he touches the mic, he becomes a different person. As the loose songs & feature verses started pouring out often in 2014, the time had to come for an album from Jay Rock, and here we are. Patience is a virtue and thankfully I have enough of it that I was able to contain the excitement that would come about when it dropped. Enough time has passed, and now that my impatience is setting in, let me just get to the album.
Right off the bat with Necessary, the chanting of “90059” refers to the Zip code for Watts, California, if you didn’t know that already, which goes to show that the album would be more about being at home from when Jay Rock told us in 2011 to follow him back there. This song may sound familiar to some people who happened to hear a clip of the song while Jay Rock & Kendrick were in the studio as this was playing. The beat switch to set the bars off in motion created a stir and it was painting the picture of just when people do what needs to be done in order to survive, because as was stated in the hook,
“You gotta do what you got to just to get over the hill
When you live in America, either kill or be killed”
For America claiming it’s the greatest country in the world, for the everyday Black person, it doesn’t appear to be as great as they proclaim, because of all the odds that are stacked against them. There are obviously more examples of what they go through on a daily basis besides what’s projected in the music, but all these years since the inception of Hip Hop, and it’s still the common narrative of the struggle of living that is the main focus. On such a heavy beat, I’m glad that Jay Rock didn’t hesitate to just getting right down to the street talk that he’s accustomed to. What was kind of off putting on FMH was that some songs sounded like they were very commercial, and with all of the features on it, although it was still a good project, it didn’t feel as though it was in his comfort zone, musically. This would take a different approach to a familiar setting, but as the album moves along, it’ll be interesting to see how it develops. For the first song, this was a good start.
Easy Bake was one of the songs that were anticipated from when the tracklist was revealed because of the features by Kendrick Lamar & SZA. Jay Rock admitted in an interview that he learned to use his voice more with a greater range to give him more versatility (not in a singing way), and it’s evident here as he goes very pitchy in the first portion of the track. Part of that influence could be on Kendrick, who’s known for experimenting a lot with his voice on tracks. That being said, one of the standouts of the song comes when Kendrick & Jay Rock trade bars with each other while their energy seems to build up towards where a static effect signals the change when a new beat comes in and SZA takes over. Her verse was first revealed in the 90059 video, and the beat is very relaxed but with that bass (all about that bass) kicks in to drive it home when Jay flows over it, it’s a perfect marriage that you wish was the beat for the whole song, but thus far production has been solid and Rock’s delivery as he continues to paint the scenery of Watts, has not disappointed.
“We 4 deep at a swapmeet, don’t need a 5th wheel
This bitch steal whoever if situations get real
This that fresh out the bounty, bustin’ knuckles
Get buckled if you ever try to knock the hustle
Show your hands, watch how I shuffle
And show you why they hate more niggas than Uncle Ruckus”
For those who listen to YG, and know that he’s Blood affiliated, you know that for some words in certain cases, words that start with a ‘C’ are replaced with a ‘B,’ and that is definitely the case for Jay Rock as well, which will show up throughout the album as they did within these lines (bounty = county). The little details matter, so I’m just trying to navigate so you understand your listening experience a little bit, you know how I do. There’s not much that I can say about an album that has production that doesn’t stray far from the direction that it’s currently been set in. It’s a little darker, it’s vibrant, it’s heavy with bass, and it’s West Coast influenced to the T. That’s what I’ve been enjoying to this point, but of course there’s more.
When Gumbo came out as a loose track before I found out that it was going to be on the album, I couldn’t stop playing it. Again, production was the cause of this, but also just the song overall with the melodic approach of Rock’s flow that stuck with it & the hook? It begged for me to put the Repeat button on it for an undetermined amount of time. It’s slightly modified in it’s presentation, but he’s actually dropping gems throughout that make it one my favourite songs of his in his whole catalog thus far.
“Have you ever put your hand over fire
just to see what you could tolerate?
And you can find no escape
Life is a Dominatrix waiting for shit to pollinate
To make you mind your mistakes
Keeping my chin down, nose clean, with my guards up
Charged up ‘cause this ghetto got me scarred up”
The environment that you were surrounded by growing up shapes you into the person you are, more times than none, and Rock is giving it from his perspective. Being that he was TDE’s test dummy for when it came to dealing with stuff in the industry before the younger pups got their taste, He had to play with fire to see what he could & could not do. This is just one definition, because that fire could also relate to messing with girls or other people within his surroundings. There are always opportunities around to knock you down in life, but Rock’s mantra has been to persevere and go hard throughout any circumstance, so he adds flavour to the metaphorical pot of Gumbo to make things interesting and more appeasing to himself and circumstances. He has always had messages of positivity within his music to send a wave of teaching, because he’s not the type that’s going to wow you with jaw dropping bars. It’s like street poeticism coming from someone who has lived that life. (Go listen to M.O.N.E.Y from FMH). Towards the end of it, there’s a little skit that has some entertainment value, but brought me back to Kendrick’s good kid, m.A.A.d city with his uses of it, so that was a nice touch. Being a fan of the older Rap albums like a Tribe Called Quest & Outkast (just to name a couple off the top of my head), I have an appreciation for skits and just how they work in with the frame of the album. Considering that the skits weren’t exactly common throughout the album, I was wondering if this one was even necessary, but as it transitioned into Wanna Ride, I could let it slide.
Four songs in, and already there have been three features from the TDE camp. I like that things were kept in house for the most part, so that it all works collectively and sonically. I haven’t been let down as of yet, so that’s a good sign. Isaiah Rashad is one of those gems that have a great purpose in the rap game. Given that he only has 2 official projects to his name and doesn’t really do guest features outside of TDE projects, he’s a bright spot waiting, although he messed around and dropped a phenomenal piece of work with Cilvia Demo that I feel can stand the test of time over the next few years. This track also features a beat switch much like the first two songs on the album – more opportunities for production to shine. The 2nd beat to feature Isaiah on the hook has an Outkast feel to it as it as it serves as what the song title suggests – it’s a song that you can ride out to because it’s that smooth. The purpose of the song, however, focuses on who Jay Rock is, as if people haven’t been familiar with him. Yes, he’s a rapper, but with his whole persona revolving around that inner city mentality from hood politics and the dealings of the struggle compared to even dealing with drugs, he asks the listener if they want to ‘ride’ through his environment to get a sense of what goes on in his neck of the woods.
“I be that nigga they call Jay Rock, I’m a rapper
But if you see me movin’ baggies out the trap, don’t get it backwards
A nigga out here tryin’ to stack that cabbage
Cause if that money’s on the menu, gotta hustle like you famished
You know I gotta eat to feed the family”
Because of songs like Pay For It, Parental Advisory, and YOLA that didn’t make the album, I thought that there would be of an aggressive nature in terms of the songs that were presented thus far, so that’s where it’s surprising that it’s a bit of a different approach and there’s a sense of a more relax laid back feel.
The Ways is probably the only track that I didn’t seem to care much for when I initially heard it, and even listening to it over and over, it still doesn’t stick a lot besides the bounce of it merged with the flow. It’s supposed to come off as giving off a more lustful feel towards the ladies, because you’ve gotta do it for the ladies, right? From explaining himself to court a woman, he goes into detail about how he may come off to be the quiet guy, but he’s ‘bout that action whenever necessary (it’s always the quiet ones – they teach you this in school). Every man from the hood loves a woman who’s down for the cause. A ride or die, if you will, and ‘the ways’ to her heart don’t have many avenues, so Rock is sure he has enough to convince this woman to ride along. The song has bounce so it’ll definitely stick with you because the hook helps push it.
From courting during ‘Cuffing Season’ (if you believe in such thing) to being I a full fledged relationship while trying to shake and duck all distractions, there are many ways in which relationships can appear to be battle tested, and Telegram (Going Krazy) perfectly sums up the attitudes of most people in relationships in this social media age. Trust and insecurities will be the death of them, especially with too much access to outside influences that only serve to break up more than make up. The first verse alone should be praised for its accuracy because every single day I see the debates about going through their significant others’ phones, and because communication between two people turns into 4, 5, and 6, that gets diluted and lost, and that’s what eventually runs them to the ground. Now, take all of that and add to it that you’re a rapper who’s constantly on the road and flanked by groupies and surrounded by temptation? The trust issues go way up.
“I rap to try to better our situation
Wanna scroll through my text message for vindication
You Judge Judy, I’m comin’ home to litigations
Stimulate your lil’ ego and I got you patient”
“Stay off that social media, it’s the devil, I’m tellin’ ya
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, it’ll tell on ya
Keep your feelings inside, tell me what’s on your mind
Don’t show your hands for the world, have me out in the blinds, girl”
Many people have their own views in terms of broadcasting their relationship stuff online for the world to see because of the “if we don’t see it, it’s not happening” attitude that makes reality TV so popular these days. From having experienced that whole flooding of public affection from years prior, I can definitely connect with this. There’s an evil towards Social media where you really have to ‘stay low and build’ because you don’t need everyone all up in your business since they’re not going to do anything but pray on your downfall and laugh at the jokes when it eventually happens. I appreciate this song and it was left on replay for a while (still is, in all honesty). The honesty of making the effort to not fall into temptation because of the willingness to keep the home happy is not something that’s often respected enough from many listeners. I certainly enjoy the song for the messaging and the beat itself makes it the perfect song on the album.
There’s a name called Lance Skiiiwalker that I have no idea who is, until finding out that it’s Jay Rock’s alter-ego. That makes the video for 90059 make a bit more sense because having him dressed up like Hannibal Lector and juiced up by a Doctor to get his rush going, the outside-of-the-box approach that Jay Rock went with on the hook serves as him wanting to experiment as more than just a Rapper, but stepping into a different lane of his artistry. In an interview (I think The Breakfast Club), the comparison that was drawn from this song, connected Jay to the Late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, because of the unconventional way that the hook was delivered, much like ODB did throughout his whole career, because that’s just who he was. I could understand the comparison, but because ODB was just a natural feel, Jay Rock doing it was peculiar and took time for me to warm up to the hook. The beat is menacing, and it felt like something I would have thought to hear more of throughout the album. This is Jay Rock’s ode to Kendrick’s m.A.A.d city, and ScHoolboy Q’s Hoover Street breaking down the surroundings of their respective environments by adding their own styles to bring them to life. There’s nothing pretty about them, but they’re raw and concrete with the descriptions of just what happens to plague their neighbourhoods that are much more than just some gangbangers & drug addicts populating them.
“No one’s exempt, weak or strong they do bleed
Candle light vigils, closure if they do leave
Bullets have a name defined by different calibers
Concrete jungle, beware of different challengers
Gotta have the stomach for dookie bags and catheters
Play your cards right or be scratching off them calendars”
This is also a song that is one of his better ones, and when he gets aggressive, that’s when I feel that he’s at his best, not to exclude that he can’t do the softer stuff, but when you look at his verse on the Black Lip Bastard Remix, it’s clear that’s where he shines most. He came back to form with a new aggressor, so he shined again.
Speaking of that BLP Remix, that was one of a few tracks that features Black Hippy as a whole (Kendrick, SBQ, Ab-Soul & Rock included). Rap groups aren’t a thing anymore and Black Hippy is the closest thing in this decade that we’re going to get to ATCQ, Wu Tang, NWA, De la Soul, or whatever rap group you want to throw out there. Although they have their standout collective songs like Zip That Chop That and Say Wassup, they don’t have a full project amongst them, and that’s what the demand is. They don’t miss when they come together, and that’s why when it was announced that they’d all come back together for Vice City, it made it one of the most anticipated songs to be heard on the whole album, hands down, no argument. If you’ve been following each member of Black Hippy for a while (or even TDE as a whole), they discuss vices a lot in their works, and that’s the emphasis on this track here where it comes off to be a fun & let loose song that still holds some form of concrete context. I think the best thing about this song is that they all use the same flow to keep consistent with the Cardo laced beat. The video also serves justice in connecting most of their bars visually while merging their chemistry together. There’s not a lot of the playful back & forth like their older collaborations, but it fills the void of Black Hippy fans as they get a dope track that they can leave on repeat for a while, like I did.
I was surprised to see that Busta Rhymes was going to be a feature on this album, but It also touches to the fact that many of the older heads in Rap have been messing with TDE rappers for a while. ScHoolboy Q has collaborated with 50 Cent & Raekwon, Lupe & Ab-Soul have linked up, and Kendrick was given the King of the West by most of his peers, which has led to him being praised by the forefathers. It only makes sense that Jay Rock’s mentor administers his thoughts on Fly on the Wall, and it was very refreshing to hear Busta Rhymes with a vintage feel, because once he cut off the braids, it’s like he lost the power in his hair like Ludacris and was only putting out subpar music ever since (I mean, he signed to Cash Money/Young Money at one point). This song gets Jay Rock on his storytelling mode as he plays a watchful observer within his own neighbourhood who details the story of a young kid who is keen and observant in his hood just trying to make it, and throughout the running up and down & getting caught up with the ‘vices’ that the area has to offer, the boy gets into a situation where they could lead to unfortunate endings – Dead or in Jail. It’s descriptive, the beat serves as the fine tone to present the narration, and Jay Rock does justice in 2 lengthy verses until Busta takes over for the conclusion and his assessment of Jay Rock’s progression. It’s like when Jay-Z had those words of wisdom for Drake on Light Up that are expressed here with Busta Rhymes towards Rock, and I honestly didn’t know that they had such a strong connection, which would explain why Busta is proud of the way he’s handled his career thus far although it was pretty bumpy.
I love how the ending of Busta’s verse flowed right into Money Trees Deuce because it kept the energy up although, again, it’s more eased at pace. Because of the popularity of Jay Rock’s verse on Kendrick’s Money Trees from gkmc, it didn’t surprise me that he would have his own take on the song, since he did provide a very memorable verse that can speak directly to most of the themes expressed on the album at this point. I find that it was a smart decision to make this the leadoff single for the album because people still have that verse in mind when they listen to Money Trees. I love the feel of this whole song, from the beat the flow & the hook. Most importantly, the context of this song is about getting money and just doing whatever it takes to getting it, from all sides, whether it’s about hustling on the streets or in the studio.
“Gotta get it ain’t no options out here
Her nigga just killed my partner out here
They wonder why we steady glockin’ out here
Cuz niggas they ain’t really lockin’ out here
And we ain’t worried ’bout them coppers out here
Do anything to try to stop us out here
No 9-to-5’s but we clockin’ out here”
There are so many different ways that people make their money on a daily basis, and because of the limited options that many people face, they find any and every way to get what they need. It’s a positive track that Jay Rock even ends off with a speech to encourage people to make their money by doing what they love or doing what they feel is necessary for survival. In a functioning society, the rules of the road go: get your education, get a job, make money, live, etc. Well, not all of the rules apply, because there are struggles that come with the process of getting to where you want to go. With the obstacles that come to face you, you just have to push forward. It’s a good vibration to send to someone or for you to receive. It goes a long way.
With The Message that Rock left off at the end of Money Trees Deuce, the final song provides as the extension to what he was saying in terms of him wanting to provide change not only for himself but the environment that he came from. There’s a reason why he constantly gives back to the community and stays involved with what’s going on, because of the fact that he wants to be a force for that change. It’s a leadership move that was emphasized by Kendrick’s mother at the end of Real when it came to “giving back” that was important, no matter what status you’re at in your life.
“Now we have to get whatever we after
See past the regular shit that we master
Learn to survive through love and Jezebels and street pastors
Live as free as we can cause Hell on Earth is being recaptured
I’m caught in this ghetto rapture, spirit detached”
It’s easy to get trapped within the hood environment because there aren’t many positive influences to push someone in order to make it out. Along with the distractions and the vices that can tear someone down, Jay Rock is looking at them and telling the listener to see through it and be an effective change to their surroundings if they can help it. He’s preaching while looking at the mirror to ask why it’s so difficult to get past, and I feel that’s what a lot of us do when we’re in a space where we don’t feel like we can get out of it.
“Gotta survive these conditions, vengeance is like a tradition
If you practice what you’re preaching might just get what you wish”
For as long a wait that Jay Rock held out for, he came back with much of the same hunger that he left with initially with Follow Me Home and displayed in guest verses. This album got away from some of that aggressive nature to show the other side of his artistry that’s more laid back, if you’ve been unfamiliar with his music at this point. Fans of rap that like the more nostalgic sound of Rap will appreciate this album because it has an old school feel to it for more tracks than others, but I find that if you’re looking for that high octane energy that comes with tracks that can be served as major head bangers, you won’t find them on this album, and you may find yourself to be bored. I appreciate the honesty that Jay Rock provides that delve into just what he’s been observing during his absence, and also opening up about Watts, California. People know about South Central L.A and Compton, but where Watts is concerned, it’s pretty much forgotten although that area is responsible for the much of the gang affiliation that started off in L.A to begin with. Production was melodic and was consistent throughout, and with the minimal amount of features & tracks compared to his debut album, 90059 feels more inclusive and intimate with the listeners. Over time, more people will come to appreciate Jay Rock’s presence on TDE, which will mean more people will gravitate towards this piece of work, because he wasn’t given fair justice with promotion. It’s one of those projects that will fly under the radar amongst the amount of great work in Rap that has been populating 2015, so don’t sleep on it. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX