The foundation of Top Dawg Entertainment started with Jay Rock. Firmly aligned with Westcoast Gangsta Rap from Watts, CA and as TDE’s pioneer, he typically brings grimey street lyricism to the table. By stepping out of his comfort zone on his newest album, “Redemption” Jay Rock shows that experimentation does not always pay off.
Jay Rock and labelmate Kendrick Lamar became apart of TDE within weeks of each other. To strengthen the takeoff of Rock’s career, the two toured the country together with Lamar playing the role of “hypeman.” After a deal gone sour with Warner Brothers, Jay Rock joined TDE and his music is about making the most from adversity and discussing real life situations.
It appears as if Jay Rock tried to branch out from his regular style approach. Without any defining moments, Redemption makes its impression as a collection of uninspired and repetitive songs.
The album displays an attempt at commercial success, as Jay Rock teamed up with Interscope to try and make catchy melodic trap tunes. Instead, the songs sound like a forced waste of efforts. Rather than making music that appeals to his core fans, Jay Rock submitted a mainstream bunch of tracks complete with filler material and radio baiting throwaways.
On Knock it Off, Rock fails to connect with lyrics such as, “I’m on 10 I go in, I just pop, I just win, Off the lot, In a win, I am Rock, Who is him? Fuck you doin’? Get a bag, Sellin’ work, In a lab, Smokin’ purp. In a Lamb.” For someone considered as a veteran within the game, this song sounds similar to someone who might have a “Lil” in front of their name and majorly disappointed.
The song, Troopers is a snoozer with weak lyrics like, “Came up and I went back, changed up, never did that, If it’s take off, yeah I did that, blew a half a mil, yeah I did that, On the play girl, is you with that? Ten toes on the pavement, Sell your soul and the days end, shacked up like a caveman.” This song demonstrates that Jay Rock has changed up as he contradicts himself by taking one step forward and two steps backward.
Tap Out (feat. Jeremih) feels like a reach for the radio and reflects a lack of lyrical charisma and vocal impact that Rock’s core fan base admires so much. He seriously stretched it when he said, “Put it in my face, I’ma lurk though, Ass like Bernice Burgos, Capricorn, Libra, Virgo, Slidin’ down your tongue like Merlot.” These type of lyrics lead to fast forwarding, skips and represent an overall lack of quality.
The one redeeming element of this album comes from the song “Broke +-” where the audience discovers a deeper meaning about Jay Rock’s spot on the TDE roster.
“I’m just part of a winning family, call me Marlon Jackson.”
This line sums up Jay Rock’s place upon the TDE family tree as the hardened soldier, who is often overlooked and slower to adapt (like Marlon) but still works hard to improve his efforts as a critical part of the team.
Another impressive line from Broke +- was, “Now, Harriet Tubman say she freed a thousand slaves, Could’ve freed a thousand more if they was aware of the chains.” This provided some food-for-thought by making the listener expand their mind and think deeper.
“Redemption” provides a few highlights, but mainly from the featured artists. Verses from Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and SZA make this album listenable at parts, but overall Jay Rock took a mainstream swing for the fence and completely whiffed.
It’s unfortunate to hear the mediocrity within this project due to the fact that Jay Rock already appears to be behind the eight ball compared to the rest of his TDE family. This is only his third album to date, and his display of vulnerability failed to measure up to success.
Fans of the album will argue that Jay Rock is trying to bridge the gap between his street past and a cerebral future. Truth of the matter is, the raw lyricism and gritty nature is what the fans crave most from Jay Rock. Without solid bars or lively sounds, Jay Rock makes it difficult to replay this nonsense.