[Editor’s Note] This is a relatively quick turnaround for us on the review tip, but seeing as this project’s been on heavy rotation this way literally all weekend, it only felt right to air this one up for you guys. Enjoy the read, and if you got something to say, hit the comments or get at me on Twitter (@K1ngEljay).
[Words By | K1ng Eljay]
- “Vice City” (feat. Black Hippy)
- “Telegram” (feat. Lance Skiiiwalker)
- “The Ways (feat. Sir)
It’s hard to qualify the type of music that Top Dawg Entertainment makes nowadays. When they first started appearing on our radars, there was seemingly a pattern for them. The street angle was present, but for the most part, you got dope music without the vibes of heavy experimentation. That changed with the success of Kendrick Lamar (honestly), and each release has been unpredictable – for the most part – ever since. The only person who’s been even more unpredictable to call in the group is, ironically, one of the first people credited for rhyming in the Black Hippy collective. Jay Rock has been the solid foundation for the team, and almost anyone affiliated there will tell you the same thing; the criminally underrated emcee’s trying to make sure that’s his overlooked status is not the case with the release of his latest project, 90059.
Jay Rock’s previous effort, Follow Me Home, was a Strange Music affair that had some incredible tracks present (“M.O.N.E.Y”, “Just Like Me”, “Say Wassup” with Black Hippy) and some admitted duds (“All My Life” didn’t win over a bunch of people, but neither did “Elbows” or “I’m Thuggin”). That being said, the debut album was still a solid piece of work, even if it was a bit too long and full of filler. It seems like being trapped in a bit of a musical purgatory with Strange Music until last year helped him to refocus a bit; 90059 tops out at 11 tracks, with a few of them being spliced into two segments to further the flow of the album.
Jay Rock’s always had a bit of an aggressive tone, so the surprising dynamic here is when he steps away from that to make a song that appeals to other senses, not unlike when he showed his lyricism on the first album with “M.O.N.E.Y” and “Just Like Me.” “Telegram” is a surprisingly layered song that has a vibe-heavy feel to it as Jay Rock raps about his relationship troubles, while “Fly On The Wall” has a bit of a perspective switch that fits as well (even if Busta Rhyme’s verse wasn’t needed). “Gumbo” also just feels good to listen to, and “Money Trees Deuce” is thankfully incredible (because if it wasn’t, the internet would’ve destroyed that one off the title alone, thanks to the good kid, m.a.a.d city album cut it was inspired from). The project has vibes that add a high layer of replay value to it, which shouldn’t surprise (but it will, anyway).
All of that’s fine and dandy, but the initial pull of Jay Rock is gangsta rap. Being from Watts isn’t exactly going to make people forget about your initial street calling card, and thankfully that’s here, too – but not in cliché raps like on the debut album (“I’m Thuggin’” wasn’t a great song to me, man…). The album drops almost immediately into the proceedings, with “Necessary” coming in shortly after the “introlude.” “Easy Bake” has Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar trading bars later in the song, and “The Ways” has an interesting interpolation of the Big Tymers / “Get Ya Roll On” flow that just works. Even the title track isn’t bad – some people like the interestingly composed hook, but “90059” is definitely the grimiest single here.
It wouldn’t be a review, however, if I didn’t mention “Vice City”, which introduces a new flow and has all of Black Hippy (K. Dot, Ab-Soul, and ScHoolboy Q) effortlessly weaving the track to make a dope posse cut with the intention of furthering the song – not out-rhyming each other. That’s one of the clever dynamics of TDE in general; they all can rap their tails off (excluding SZA, but who knows?) but they’re good on that if it means making a song. They excel in that area where other rap supergroups can’t seem to get it together… and Jay Rock seems to be the glue for that, since some of the best Black Hippy tracks have come on his album.
At the end of it all, the project takes a few chances by going for replay value over sheer bangers, but it works out. It took a few plays to truly appreciate the direction Jay Rock went for his second album, but when it’s all said and done, Jay Rock’s carrying on the TDE tradition of quality projects. 90059 is a great entry into the catalog if you’re wanting something more than just aggressive raps for the sake of aggressive raps (although those are there, don’t get it twisted), and Jay Rock’s maturity from then until now has to be celebrated. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait close to four years for another drop from him.
The Quick Recap
- + Mostly forgoing the “bangers” route, Jay Rock laces together a cohesive playlist to represent 90059 in a strong way.
- + No fillers this time! Every track seems to have a purpose, and it all fits here.
- – I completely understand why Busta Rhymes is here, but “Fly On The Wall” could be a much better song without the oddly placed celebratory verse from the OG.
- – Hey, remember “Pay For It” and “Parental Advisory,” right? Because they didn’t… It’s not present at all, not even as bonus tracks, sadly.
4 out of 5