By Jacqueleen Eng ’19
Jay Rock’s sophomore album, 90059, was much anticipated following his debut album Follow Me Home in 2011. A member of the independent label TDE—Top Dawg Entertainment—also home to Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Isaiah Rashad, Jay Rock needed to provide an album that could standout, even if its content was questionable.
Jay Rock came to TDE in 2005, after 15-year-old Kendrick Lamar was discovered in Compton in 2003. Rock hails from Watts, CA (zip code 90059), and Follow Me Home celebrates the life of a gang member with a classic west coast feel that is compared to the Game’s The Documentary. 90059, while it still maintains the theme of gang lifestyle, digs deeper. With tracks like “Necessary” where Rock sings, “the struggle is real” and “Lord have mercy, I know I’m not living right, I know I’m not perfect” Rock seems to be countering his previous ideals and exploring more mature themes.
The production for 90059 creates a sound that may become signature to Rock in the future. Unlike the straight DJ Mustard beats west coast companion, YG, is known for, Rock’s beats maintain a heavy vibe along with jazzier components as exemplified in “Fly On The Wall” and “Gumbo.” The beat changes in songs like “Easy Bake” and “Wanna Ride” work well and allow for the tracks to breathe and break from Rock’s heavy flow. SZA adds a dreamy feel on “Easy Bake,” and I wish we saw more of her or other female vocals to lighten up some of the other tracks. Rock’s strange voice change on the title track “90059” is reminiscent of ODB, but the change ends up distorting the song rather than adding to it. “Vice City” is the standout track, as it features Black Hippy—the coalition of Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock—whose fans have been begging for an album ever since their first appearance on Schoolboy Q’s 2008 album, Schoolboy Turned Hustla.
Being signed to TDE cannot be easy. Kendrick Lamar seems to outshine all of the other members, with Schoolboy Q as a close second. Good Kid M.A.A.D City, To Pimp a Butterfly, and Oxymoron are probably the biggest albums to come from label members, not only redefining the TDE label, but the collective rap and hip hop community as well. In order to stand out, Rock needed to provide a standout album, and 90059 just didn’t stand out enough. While the flow, lyricism, and production are good, I question the staying power of this album, (as sometimes I would get distracted listening to it and absent-mindedly switch to Future instead,) and we’ll have to see how it will hold up with other 2015 releases. The album lacked bangers and radio-friendly tracks, and while Jay Rock proves himself in his capability, he needs to step up his game in his next album. While the verses for each respective member are not impressive, it is the flow that is appealing. The members feed well off of each other.