Back in 2011, Jay Rock was signed to TDE as well as Kansas City’s Strange Music label, headed by Tech N9ne. Since then, Rock has come a long way. He’s worked extensively with the TDE roster as well as other artists such as Trae the Truth.
On his debut album, Rock provides a dark, violent and repeated story told by many gangster-rappers. However, the thing that separates Rock from other rappers of that sub-genre is for his cinematic stories told on some of the records (“Just Like Me”) as well as his ear for gritty California beats.
Starting the album off alike to the influential gangsta-rap album; ‘2001’, Rock begins the album with what can only be described as a news report of a murder then transitions into the piano and synth-led “Code Red”. Sounding like a page ripped straight out of 1990s West-Coast Hip-Hop; Rock depicts a world filled with drugs, violence, gangs and the injustice of the African-American communities. While a lot of the album sees Rock exploiting the struggles of living in the hood, there are some relaxed and party-orientated tracks. “No Joke” is another one of the more conscious tracks. A smooth piano loop and funky bass line allow Rock and fellow TDE signee Ab-Soul to speak up about the commercialism of living in the hood and that what people see on films and music videos isn’t real and that living in those areas and environments “ain’t no motherfucking joke”. Another standout for Rock’s ear for beats as well as being able to diverse his sonic soundscape is the Chris Brown-featured “Westside”. Over glorious trumpets, summer-esque drums and fun-party-to-go lyrics, Rock shows off the talent that is embodied in him. Two of the funkier and less-radio-friendly records “Boomerang” and “I’m Thuggin” are solo stands out as Rock holds down each individual track without losing the interest of the listener.
The last final track that really stands out more across the album is the Tech N9ne and Krizz Kaliko assisted “Kill or Be Killed”. Focusing on the internal destruction of the black community as gangs fed young African-Americans with lust for drugs, violence and money. While Rock kills both his verses with ease and Kaliko provides a soulful chorus, Tech’s verse is the real standout as he spits vigorous bars of living in dysfunctional areas.
In all, for a debut album and the amount of time it’s been out; it’s a solid solo and opener for Rock. While he hasn’t garnered the same success as his peers (Kendrick, ScHoolboy Q), I have little doubt that Rock will not disappoint his fans as he continues to grow as a solo artist.