Jay Rock has always been the overlooked member of TDE/Black Hippy. Obviously, Kendrick Lamar towers over everyone else, but you also have Schoolboy Q, Ab Soul, and Isiah Rashad in there, who have all released pretty popular and well-received projects. But Jay Rock’s lone album was the long ago forgotten “Follow Me Home” from 2011, and since then, he’s been extremely quiet, save for a verse here and there. However, given his contribution to one of my favorite songs ever, “Money Trees,” and affiliation with Kendrick and Black Hippy, I was expecting a big breakout album that finally got Jay Rock his time in the sun. But alas, I came away heavily disappointed.
Really, the disappointing nature of this album comes down to one thing: it’s boring. At 11 tracks, which is a pretty short length, “90059” drags on forever because Jay Rock does not prove himself to be a very compelling album or even song-length MC, and the production of this album is aimless and nondescript. It can’t really decide whether it wants to be trap and just bang, or present more soulful and jazzy sounds, and instead of doing both and presenting awesome variety, it just kind of falls somewhere in between those sounds and just ends up sounding middle of the road, beatwise. Some beats do stand out, like “Vice City” and “Gumbo”, but that’s because they go for a trap sound and really do it justice. Unfortunately, many of the other beats here just do not stand out at all and are messy in structure, like “Easy Bake,” or just plain old boring, like “Money Trees Deuce” and “Telegrams (Going Krazy).”
The subpar beatwork is especially problematic given the fact that, like I previously said, Jay Rock just is not a very exciting rapper to listen to. Lyrically, he’s nothing really special, as he doesn’t really present anything as thought provoking as Kendrick Lamar, and doesn’t make up for that with a zany personality or wit like Schoolboy Q, so like the beats, Jay Rock just ends up kind of middle of the road. I’m not saying every rapper has to blow me away with every word they spit, but nothing on this record makes me say,
“You know what? I’m going to listen to Jay Rock rap.”
I would just have no reason to, and the weak production certainly isn’t doing him any favors. With how skeletal and airy it often is, it only highlights Jay Rock’s deficiencies as an MC.
But for all the complaints I have with “90059”, there are two killer tracks: “The Ways” and “Vice City.” “The Ways” is a Drake inspired banger, and in fact, Jay Rock employs a “Back to Back”-esque flow on this track, and it goes over well, as does the trap inspired beat. This track knows what it wants to do, and commits to do just that, and as a result is catchy, fun, and immediate, which I wish I could say for the rest of the album. But “Vice City,” featuring Kendrick, Schoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul, has to take the cake as the best song on the album. The beat is similarly trap inspired, in many ways calling back to “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” showing off more Drake influences, and rapping wise, as expected for any song with these guys together, it passes with flying colors. Over this beat, they all employ a weirdly syncopated and strung out flow, seemingly effected by the titular vices they’re rapping about, like “big booty bitches” in Kendrick’s case. This flow makes the song infinitely interesting and catchy, and once again, this song knows what it wants to and does it with conviction, and as a result, the song is great.
On the whole though, “90059” was thoroughly disappointing. Save for two tracks and a few sparing moments peppered throughout the record, this album was the worst thing it could have been: nondescript. Beatwise it wasn’t bold, and Jay Rock definitely wasn’t doing much on the mic for me, so all I was left with was a below average album that couldn’t exactly decide what it wanted to do. Here’s to hoping Jay Rock finally comes through with a killer album next go around.
Standout Tracks: “The Ways” “Vice City”
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