NINE DOUBLE-O FIVE NINE BE THE ZIP...
Another TDE cycle is officially in the books. Anyone who has followed the journey is aware of Top Dawg's strategic timing with releases amongst their artist. It was announced all six artsits would see a release in 2014 but maybe that was a little too ambitious at the time. Still though, it's crazy to witness the first Top Dawg artist to step on the scene get leap-frogged and lapped by nearly everyone else on the roster. But the truth is, there would be no ScHoolboy Q without Kendrick Lamar, and there would be no Kendrick Lamar without Jay Rock. The ground work had to be laid with Rock taking risks and sacrifices to help eventually mold the identity of Top Dawg Entertainment. His first album Follow Me Home took around three years to make, and was so well received that fans have been wondering if he could repeat the same magic again.
I'll just start this off by saying Jay Rock's sophomore project 90059 isn't "great." It certainly is a good display of who Jay Rock has become over the past few years that the label has grown. It's also evident that he is steady searching for his identity in this game, but his first project Follow Me Home was just a better album, plain and simple. He has almost fallen into the same trap Ab-Soul dealt with last summer with These Days... being an extremely poor follow-up to Control System. Now that's not to say that 90059 is bad, because tracks like his collab with Busta Rhymes on "Fly on the Wall," "Gumbo," and "Money Trees Deuce" are undeniable. The problem is, overall it feels like Jay Rock is forcing himself to change before the masses even get a chance to know who he is. 90059 doesn't feel like a proper studio release. I'm a firm believer that if an artist is truly talented, their 2nd album should show growth and really knock it out the park. At the very least, it should not be an enormous step backward when compared to their first. Follow Me Home, much like Soul's Control System were released prematurely in my opinion. These are both albums that essentially embody who they are as artists, and maybe should have been shelved until TDE's breakout party in 2014. ScHoolboy Q's Oxymoron showed such an enormous leap in quality from his indie albums, and Kendrick continues to top himself every time he steps out there.
What I'm saying is, TDE has the world's ear now. So it's a shame to see half the squad not show up like they have the capability to. 90059 is a good Jay Rock album, but Jay Rock is better than 90059, if that makes sense. It's a shame because for the most part only long-time TDE fans and true music heads will ever go back to Follow Me Home. I wonder what things would be like if his albums were swapped? Would he still be seen as the 4th member of TDE, or would he be properly viewed as the the label's 1st? It's silly to think like that though, because the bottom line is Jay Rock just needs to do better. It seems 90059 is being well-received, which bodes well for Rock, but it's not an accurate representation of what he's capable of. Jay Rock has the ability and the ear to craft excellence, and as a fan of the movement it is upsetting to not see him take full advantage of his moment the way ScHoolboy Q did with Oxymoron.