Jay Rock's "Redemption": has the man walking in Kendrick Lamar's Shadow stepped out?
This is the second in a month long series on up and coming musical artists. Click the bird at the top for the rest of our stories.
Once upon a time, Jay Rock was the featured artist on an up and coming independent hip-hop label out of Los Angeles, California, called Top Dog Entertainment (TDE) . With a strong underground following and growing buzz from within the music industry, Rock seemed poised to carve a path for himself and forge a solid career. However, TDE signed another rapper that slowly took the rap world by storm. Kendrick Lamar. Although the two have stated, on numerous occasions that they have an incredibly strong bond, there’s no dismissing the fact that Kendrick’s star, while ascending to heights seldom seen, is the very same light which dimmed that of Jay Rock’s. Fans clamoured for K.Dot’s charisma, and artistry, while Rock’s solo efforts flew under the radar, as a result. Albums like “90059” and “Follow Me Home” prove that Jay Rock is a hip-hop giant in his own right. While it is understandable that Rock take a backseat to Kendrick's artistry, talent, and everything else that he has to offer, the lack of recognition that his previous efforts garner prove that he is also criminally slept-on.
Enter “Redemption”. Easily one of the more solid projects of the year and finally earning the kind of praise that, I believe, Jay Rock should have gotten, eons ago.
The album consists of 13 tracks and features artists such as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Future, SZA, Jeremih and James Blake. There’s no doubt in my mind that “Redemption” is one of the albums of the year and, when you listen to it, you won’t be able to deny it, either. One of the things that I've noticed, while listening to this album, is that the cadence in Jay Rock's voice has changed, for each of his tracks. I wanted to be certain of what I was thinking, so I went back to his second album, "Follow Me Home" and, sure enough, I was on to something. One of the more distinguishable traits of Jay Rock's discography was his gravely, smoky delivery. I believe that this new, more alto recitation was altered in an effort to connect with mainstream listeners, and it’s worked. Thankfully, this alteration hasn't taken anything away from the overall product, with regards to his day one fans. He has also simplified his bars. Often times, on previous projects, his 16's seemed cluttered and, although a seasoned hip-hop fan won't find any issue with that, you'll be hard-pressed to get a cosign from any casual rap fans. In years past, this wouldn't have mattered as much but in this climate of waning physical album sales and the increasing dependence on streaming numbers, the casual rap fan is being heavily courted, and adjustments must be made to gain their attention. The impressive part, for me was how TDE was able to modify how the music sounded while not alienating Jay Rock's core following. That balancing act is very difficult to accomplish and, if done incorrectly could have spelled the beginning of the end for an artist as talented as Johnny McKinzie Jr. "Redemption" is, nonetheless, a worthy candidate for one of the best hip-hop albums of the year. With standouts tracks like "For What It's Worth", "OSOM", "Troopers", "ES Tales", and "WIN", and production coming from Sounwave, Boi-1da, Teddy Walton, and Hit-Boy, this album will be in your rotation for quite a while.
Stephan George is a Montreal based writer
This is the second in a series, click here for the rest of our stories.