Tale of the Tape
Following his most recent release 90059, Jay Rock has found a way to offer one of his most sonically enjoyable projects to date, while discussing the trials and tribulations that he has faced since his last album and the road he’s taken to find himself worthy of ‘redemption’ of his past wrongs and missed opportunities.
1. Bloodiest **
2. For What It’s Worth
3. Knock It Off
4. ES Tales **
5. Rotation 112th **
6. Tap Out ft. Jeremih
7. OSOM ft. J Cole **
8. King’s Dead ft Future
10. Broke +- **
11. Wow Freestyle ft. Kendrick Lamar
12. Redemption ft. SZA
** Standout Tracks
Available on all major streaming platforms
“The Devil thought he had me, I was on back burners, moonwalking fast y’all respect my journey.” Jay Rock begins this album making sure that it is well understood the situation that he was in and simply asks that his story and journey be respected as he lays it all on the table for us all. He tells us of the times before the deal when he resulted to a criminal lifestyle, up to after the deal at times when he had neither an album or dope to generate money from, and then after his album 90059 when he was in the motorcycle accident and referenced the $200k of medical bills that had his mother with the shakes while praying and tending to his needs. His flow on this song is much more electric, fast-paced, and even a little TDE label mate “Kendrick-esque”. In comparison to some of his earlier work, and it’s a great way to set the tone for an album that is set to be heavy with story telling over a large variety of production styles and sounds for Jay Rock to offer a more diverse “bag” of flows and approaches over this 13-track project. This song which is titled “Bloodiest” offers three mins of pure adrenaline from the first lines all the way until the hook and bridge that ends it with production that will definitely have your blood pumping and head nodding throughout.
The ES (East Side) Tales is a much slower, darker sounding beat (that a SchoolboyQ feature would have been perfect on), that sets the table for that authentic west coast gangster storytelling that TDE has taken the mantle for over most of the last decade. Jay Rock brings us behind the curtain of how it goes where he’s from with a story of a man doing a prison stint for murder, all for a gang member of his that was afraid to handle his own business and can’t even get a green card from the man he is doing the time for. Jay Rock states before he dives into the story that he wishes that people weren’t so afraid to fight nowadays, as this situation would have never even had the chance to take place and reveal the lack of loyalty or “balls” of the man that’s allowing his homie to serve time for holding him down without even paying it forward while he’s locked up. Next verse he discusses in even more detail the harsh realities of the hood he is from, with the black-on-black violence, drug dealing, police brutality and murder of black men with no repercussions, only the tears and sorrow of the families of the slain radiating through the city to perpetuate the trauma and stress these individuals deal with on a day-to-day basis. The best times within this neighborhood seem to be when the drugs are flowing from the connect to the dealers within the city and the cashflow that results from it.
Rotation 112th provides a nice change of pace, with more of the hood stories that were told in ES Tales, just more on the tone of street violence with a nice multiple entendre of the word rotation with one referencing the rotation of drugs for use and sales, and doubling back or circling the block when its war, all while attempting to be vigilant at all times to avoid any ill-fated elements of the street life to catch you slipping. The smooth and melodic, yet bass-heavy production on this particular track allows Jay Rock to offer a calm and repetitious hook if meant to almost create a mantra and bring into his mind as he opens his eyes to show you everything he sees which keeps him in this frame of mind and demands that he stays locked in to survive and thrive, even at the expense of his enemies.
OSOM (Out of Sight, Out of Mind) offers a deeper look into the lives of two different people, who are both suffering from the weight of life’s circumstances as they try to balance it all out. Jay Rock starts off telling the story of when he first got signed and the immediate things he was able to change financially—the money he was able to give his mom and buying himself cars, and how people began the perceive him. He illustrates the ascension in his career “Lil’ Wayne on my single now”, as well as the things that came along with it, “bxtches, bottles, dope, and all that stuff”. However, no story is all good, and there are always consequences or opposing effects to actions taken in life. He discusses the downfall and issues he had with the label “freezing up”, and the seemingly instinctual need to result to crime to help him out of his financial hole one the cars were taken away and the bills once again began to pile up and the women and drugs that allowed him to cope previously were no longer available to him. He summed up his plight in one clear and concise line “Cause fairy tales don’t end well when the fame and fortune not here”. J Cole’s featured verse takes us along a different path, although with similar mechanisms used to cope, which also delves into a deeper issue of mental health within the black community (that I won’t discuss in this blog… maybe later). I will for now discuss the picture that Cole is painting, as he details how list of problems, most recently which stem from domestic issues in which he is caught between his woman and the mother of his child. This leads him to call on his drug dealer to provide an outlet to rescue him, temporarily, from the stress and mental strain of his daily life that has him at times fantasizing about committing suicide. As he goes deeper into his verse, he eludes to suffering from Bi-Polar Disorder, hiding it from the people close him, and taking Xanax to compensate for the Zoloft he assumes he would’ve been prescribed had he formally been diagnosed. Then he switches to the tone, in a sense to speak to Jay Rock as if they were both discussing their problems aloud to help each other and find solace in shared experiences through differing circumstances. He stresses to Jay Rock the importance of true friendship and understanding the people who befriend you during successful times, could very well be envious and only around to feed off your energy to eventually leave you drained and left with no one to turn to, and even will get at your girl just to see what its like to walk in your shoes. Jay Rock comes in for a third verse, where he seems to be out of control and on the verge of spazzing out with the slightest push in that direction. He excuses his temperament by stating that the second you put your guard down you could die from that lack of aggressive awareness. This may be the deepest cut on the album, as it reveals so many different stories and elements from both artists over minimal production to provide them full range to express themselves and paint this picture.
Broke +- is another layered track, even the word BROKE serves as an acronym. “Harriet Tubman say she freed a thousand slaves, could’ve freed a thousand more if they were aware of the chains” is a line that reaches out throughout his verse as he declares that he will be a catalyst for change amidst the field of those willing to stare the truth in its eyes and still not accept its cold appearance at face value. Dealing with the ugly truth can have harsh realizations, as it relates to the inner-city neighborhoods that Jay Rock speaks for and represents. He understands the effects of drug sales and usage in his community, but also states it’s a way to dull pain and stress all way providing a sense of hope for financial well-being for those who sell it by saying “You’re either chasing this dirty money… or living righteous broke”. His second verse addresses the accountability aspect of it all, acknowledging no one is willing to face the criticism or consequences for the evils that arise from drug sales and other forms of crime, but are willing to reap their benefits. He places part of the blame on the governmental powers that be as well as Corporate America, stating the money they provide isn’t enough to sustain a decent life all while they poison our water to a point showering is a daunting task (Flint, Michigan). With these “broke” conditions, and no clear-cut influence or advice for help, individuals in these circumstances more times than not result to dealing drugs in hopes of a better life and wearing the mantle of negativity understanding no positive words or actions correct what they’ve done and continue to do to propel themselves further in life.
This album is, without question, some of Jay Rock’s best work, both conceptually and lyrically. As he steps into the limelight to reap the benefits of all his hard work, knowing that he led the way artistically for TDE in the earlier days of the label, it is about time for his turn to shine. From start to finish, he offers a level of enjoyability that the top tiers acts on TDE (Schoolboy Q & K-dot) have come to master to tie in lyricism, story-telling and ear-catching production all into one well crafted package. It is apparent that Kendrick was a heavy influence on this project in some areas, and it does make for a more appeasing project (outside of the singing and some of the excessive adlibs). Overall, this project is a step up and in the right direction for Jay Rock, and I am looking forward to what he will create in the future. Very solid project.