Kanye and Friends: Jay Rock's 90059

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The Newtonite

by Adam Clements
In the past few years, West Coast hip-hop collective Black Hippy has rose to power as dominant faces in the music industry, sporting a unique brand of left-field hip-hop with a twist of mainstream appeal. While veteran posse member Jay Rock has been quiet for years, the other three artists have each prospered.. Kendrick Lamar, the group’s most successful member, has released two consecutive albums that have been widely hailed as modern classics, good kid m.A.A.d city in 2012 and To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015. Fellow members Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul have each caught the attention of certain niches of hip-hop culture.
The group’s most senior member, Jay Rock, has kept a relatively low profile since the collective’s rise to fame. After four years of releasing nothing but an occasional guest verse, Jay Rock has returned to the scene as a drastically improved and more interesting artist with last week’s release of his new album 90059.
With his 2011 commercial debut Follow Me Home, Jay Rock showed many signs of promise due to his impressive lyricism and a deep, gruff voice that fit his image perfectly. The album had plenty of inspired moments, but much of it sounded like a formulaic, unoriginal, and outdated West Coast aggressive hip-hop album.
On 90059, Rock has retained the qualities that made him a notable artist in the first place, but now presents them with a style that seems much more his own and less of an attempt to emulate his predecessors. The album is very firmly rooted in classic West Coast hip-hop, but its diversity of styles and fresh-sounding production ensure it does not sound at all out of place in the 2015 music industry.
The starts off on a high note with two of the album’s clear highlights; the hard-hitting opener “Necessary” followed by “Easy Bake,” which features Rock rapping back-and-forth with his younger, more famous counterpart Kendrick Lamar. After these two highly energetic opening tracks, the album transitions into “Gumbo,” the first in a slew of more subdued and sensitive tracks.
Making more laid-back and thoughtful music is new territory for Jay Rock. Although it is great to see him diversifying his style, the multitude of slower songs on the project is the album’s most notable flaw. Although every individual song is respectable at the very least, the long streaks of more laid-back music without interruption that fill much of 90059 could lose the attention of listeners.
With the exception of consecutive exciting tracks “90059” and “Vice City” placed in the middle of the album, the entire project after the first two songs has a very calm sound. The album is very good regardless, but it suffers from this as it creates a risk of impressive standalone tracks such as “Telegram” and “Fly on the Wall” getting lost in the mix.
On 90059, Jay Rock tries out many new sounds and ideas, and most of them work out very well for him. He has not quite found the perfect balance between his various skills, but this album is certainly a step in the right direction. 90059 is no To Pimp a Butterfly, but it is an enjoyable listen and a commendable release from Jay Rock.