It took four long years for fans of Johnny Reed McKinzie, AKA Jay Rock, to hear another project by the Black Hippy member, but 90059 was worth the wait. From Watts, CA, Jay Rock was the very first person to be signed under Anthony Tiffith’s label Top Dawg Entertainment, which is now home to some of the biggest names in the music industry. Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Isaiah Rashad, and SZA all populate TDE’s roster. Jay Rock then landed a spot on the XXL Freshman Cover in 2010 and soon after was ready to release his first full length album, Follow Me Home, in 2011. People were immediately drawn to his gritty tone, truthful lyrics, and classic California rap influence. Unfortunately, Rock stepped into the shadows as his fellow Black Hippy partners and TDE label mates rose to fame. Schoolboy Q’s breakout project Oxymoron propelled him to stardom, and just this year, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly received massive critical acclaim. Jay Rock had verses here and there, but the oldest member of the group remained silent on his own. Finally, at 10:00 pm on Thursday, September 10th, 2015, fans such as myself were blessed with a masterpiece.
“90059 be the zip, it be the zip.” This lyric, sung multiple times at the beginning of the first track, “Necessary,” makes it apparent that Jay Rock has returned to the familiar subject of his hometown. About half a minute in, the beat goes for a 180º turn and reminds his fans why he’s one of the best rappers alive right now. The instrumental has the perfect blend of contemporary rap in the foreground, and 90’s West Coast piano in the background. My expectations rise, as the second song features King Kendrick Lamar and SZA. They are not only met, but surpassed. As usual, Jay Rock does his thing on the first verse, reassuring fans that he’s back from where he left off. However, the magic really happens in the third verse when he and Kendrick alternate lines; the chemistry is apparent. To top things off, this track contains a beat switch up as well, and R&B songstress SZA delivers a fantastic verse. One of the three singles off the record, Gumbo, follows, and every aspect is impeccable. The instrumental is far more laid back, and Jay Rock spits some of his most aggressive verses to date.
One of the few low points came with the next song. Not because it was anything was sonically awry, but because Isaiah Rashad, a fantastic lyricist, only sings the chorus. This song is another solid track, but I simply cannot imagine it being any worse with a verse from Rashad. The record stays at a high with the next few songs, and although it took a few listens to truly appreciate it, the second of the three singles is one of the key tracks. “90059” has one of the strangest, most off-beat choruses I’ve heard in a long time, and there’s a clear nod to the great Ol’ Dirty Bastard in Jay’s tone, but he pulls it off. This track transitions right into what is undeniably one of the best songs of 2015, “Vice City.” It features all the members of Black Hippy, and is the longest track on the project at nearly five and a half minutes. I’ve never heard a song combine so many different types of flows quite like this one does. The chorus is catchy, and whether it’s in the car or on headphones, this song is always on full blast. No verse overshadows another because they’re all so incredible. The production is handled by a lesser known producer, Cardo, and sounds like a Dr. Dre take on a Drake instrumental. Busta Rhymes, another high profile feature, makes an appearance on the ninth track and raps just as well as he did two decades ago. Although the songs serve different purposes, his tone reminds me of his track “I Know What You Want.” The sequel to Kendrick Lamar’s “Money Trees,” cleverly titled “Money Trees Deuce,” was the third single released, and it just knocks. It comes with some of the cleanest production on the entire project, and some of the more positive messages from the record.
It’s now clear why it took four years for Jay Rock to come out with his sophomore project. At just 11 tracks, it is incredible from front to back. The edge that 90059 over his debut was that Jay Rock clearly spent as much time on the hooks as the verses, creating a vibe that tells a story and provokes thought. Jay Rock is one of the most original artists in the music industry right now, and this album will go down as one of the best of the year.
Written by Dylan Hardin