Review: Jay Rock, ‘Redemption’

Jay Rock brings the grit back to hip hop on his long-awaited comeback album.

When it comes to the TDE crew, Jay Rock is the member that represents the streets. His last album, 2015’s 90059, was underwhelming, and Top Dawg have never propelled his career the way they should have. Considering the way the camp focus on one artist at a time – first with Kendrick Lamar, then ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and SZA – perhaps it’s finally Jay Rock’s time to shine.

On Redemption, Jay Rock is completely revitalised, packing as many plates he can in his pockets to serve his hunger. Opening track “The Bloodiest” begins with the finest opening line to an album of the year (“The devil thought he had me, I was on back burners”), a reference to Rock’s 2016 serious motorcycling accident. The line sets the tone for Redemption, a timely comeback fuelled by resilience to the point where Rock refuses to leave this Earth.

Battle scars and tribulations, downfalls from the situations
I bounced off with dedication, accounted for my participation
Gettin’ pounds off, gettin’ rounds off, gettin’ blocks back I facilitated
When I sound off, you a groundhog, that’s a casket and a pillow waitin’

Similarly to label-mate Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., Rock’s Redemption embraces trap production but maintaining hip hop melodies and elite lyricism. Implementing these elements enables Redemption to be fresh and varied.

What shines the most on Redemption is Rock’s definitive contemplations. “For What It’s Worth” is an elaborate evaluation of decision-making, providing a gripping story of what Jay Rock had to elude on his path to becoming a rapper (“Got the streets and these beats right in front of me”). The song “Broke +-” brings up similar worries, representing a time in Rock’s life when he had nothing. His tales are effective because they are believable.

Struggle with who I am and who I wanna be
Got the streets and these beats right in front of me
Should I kill this n^^ga or should I let him slide?
If I don’t, he double back, we got family ties?
If I do, I can’t rap, and that’s suicide

The grit of Redemption is summarised by “ES Tales”, its knocking beat matching the street rhymes of Jay Rock. All it misses is a guest verse by ScHoolboy Q’s to bring the same energy on behalf of Figg Side.

Along with the production, Jay Rock’s performances are sharp as ever. Rock’s flow on “Rotation 112th”, reminiscent of Cardi B’s verse on G-Eazy’s “No Limits”, is undoubtedly infectious, seeing Rock hit every syllable and rhyme perfectly without breaking flow. It’s technical elements like this that Rock has clearly improved on to make Redemption what it is.

Redemption excels in all departments, depicting clear pictures of the low points in Jay Rock’s life while maintaining replay value. At long last, Jay Rock has tapped into his potential.

Rating: 8 / 10

Best tracks: “The Bloodiest”, “ES Tales”, “For What It’s Worth”, “OSOM”, “Rotation 112th”, “King’s Dead”