As a follow up to his nostalgia influenced 2016 album 90059, REDEMPTION sounds as if Jay Rock has finally broken through to his final form of artistry and is forging his way ahead. The project came with two documentary-style visuals, Road to Redemption parts 1 & 2, that show the TDE rapper’s evolution since signing with Warner Bros Records in 2007, to signing exclusively with Top Dawg and Interscope. The visuals also portray the extremely positive impact the rapper has had on his community in Watts, California since flourishing in the music industry. This mini-doc series serves as a visualization to many of the concepts on this album and provides insight into Rock as a person and his perception in Hip Hop. There is truly no slowing down for the TDE spitter, who showcases his striking ambition for life and Hip Hop on this exemplary 13 track album.
1) The Bloodiest
“The Bloodiest” is Rock’s opening track. Perhaps it’s name is a metaphor for his past life as a violent criminal, perhaps a prelude for the album’s rawness, but either way it’s a hell of an opening statement. The Devil thought he had me I was on back burners, are the words that start the song. Emanating chills, he continues with ghostly, technical bars before wrecking the beat with quick & agile rhyme schemes he matches with the dense subject matter. The listener cannot help but focus like attending a college lecture. The beat, while fire, is the least important aspect of “The Bloodiest,” because Jay Rock is able to say so much in so little time.
2) For What it’s Worth
Track two. “For What it’s Worth.” I’m not even gonna front, at first listen I skipped this song because of the background singing that is now a staple of “woke” Hip Hop. But I’m glad I went back and listened in depth because it is by far the strongest song on Redemption. It’s mellow- but if you hone in on what Rock is spitting you will literally get chills up and down your spine. Exploring the problems of having a relationship during the brink of success, the TDE MC explains how dangerous pussy can be. That pretty flower will spoil you then it poisons you, is just one quick outtake of all the truth he spits on this male-centric, relationship anxiety inspired second track.
3) Knock it Off
“Knock it Off” immediately lightens things up by upping its tempo while Jay Rock touches on a new and less serious subject. The track is dedicated to exposing fakes that try to be like Jay Rock and TDE. The groove is spit over the now classic flute enhanced rap instrumental. “You ain’t me n*gga knock it off!” The background vocals on this track are saucy as hell but don’t overpower Rock’s energy; showcasing the tastefulness of the mix.
4) ES Tales
“Back in these projects/back in these projects/ I lost it all…now I’m back in these projects,” is the haunting opener to Rock’s next track: “ES Tales.” The tone of the album switches up at this point to a digital sounding, video game inspired upbeat tempo; though Jay Rock sticks to his Watts inspired storytelling rap style. At this point in the album, he has outdone himself in regards to lyrical capacity and rhyme scheme, and this track is perhaps one of the strongest in showcasing how many different flows the artist is capable of.
5) Rotation 112th
“Rotation 112th” maintains an upbeat tempo with the fire flute samples that complement the lyrical transitions from low sing/rap to high energy yelling. This song is impossible not to nod your head to; it’s a perfect filler track in the sense that it fits the mood thus far in the project but doesn’t too much to progress its major themes. A smoke break to Rock’s relentlessly meaningful content.
6) Tap Out
TDE calls upon Jeremih’s soothing vocals for the mid-album radio song: “Tap Out.” I call it a radio song because its bound to be stuck in your head. Not in an annoying mainstream way, but in a way that you don’t even notice until you’re humming the lyrics at random times all day. Other reviewers called this track the token sex song of the project.
I was happy that TDE showed J. Cole some love on this next track; because even if you claim you hate Cole you can’t hate on TDE, especially on this track. “OSOM” (outta sight outta mind) is a tribute to paranoia, as shown in the visuals that recently dropped featuring Cole and Rock together fighting off an overwhelming feeling of dread after a botched robbery. Cole always spits with uncharacteristic rawness when featured and this track was no different.
8) King’s Dead
I don’t even have to go into “King’s Dead” since it was Redemption’s first single. But if for some reason you haven’t heard it yet: it’s fire. K Dot freaked it.
“Troopers” is an ode to loyalty; noting the kinship that comes with drug dealing and crime. “you ain’t gotta question when its brackin’” is a nice line that sums up the unspoken allegiance Rock feels to his closest homies in Watts. The track is ominous in sound and subjects with the chorus continuously warning his momma that he might not make it home from his escapades with the streets. Though not a hype track or a deeply lyrical journey this track is a good Segway between “Kings Dead” & “Broke+-.”
10) Broke +-
Track 10 is the densest of this project. The Black Hippy rapper delves into American history, capitalism, and personal morals before painting a sonic image of what it means to be “broke” in America. B is for the blood/R is for the ropes/O is for oppression/K is for the kush need it just to cope/E is for the evolution. The words are rapped over a slow, gloomy beat and does well to ground the project after taking its listeners up and down.
11) Wow Freestyle
Wooooow. K dot and Jay Rock reminisce on this joint. It’s a fun sounding track that lightens the mood with back and forth from Rock to Dot and back again. Rock also experiments with his voice adding a little crack to his breathier bars; similar to what Kendrick does on songs like “u.” It gives his words an exasperated effect and adds a nice variety to his cadence.
Aaaaaand the title track where Jay highlights his near-fatal motorcycle crash that inspired a lot of this album’s subject matter and sound. He explains how he imagined his funeral would be while hooked up to various machines in the hospital helping him breathe. The track is also a testament to second chances; which is what Rock felt life gave him after he made a full recovery from a broken femur and pelvis among other severe injuries. The song isn’t pushing itself to be too strand out, but includes beautiful words from TDE’s one and only: SZA, making it an objectively fire and insightful title track.
“WIN” is a perfect closer to the album. It’s almost a corny track with the chorus a repetitive Win, win, win, win trademarked with Kendrick’s backing vocals. It doesn’t have as much lyrical depth as the rest of the album but it doesn’t need that because it’s almost like a summation of what the album felt like. A thin slice of tiramisu after a hearty meal; eaten simply as a compliment.
REDEMPTION is one of my favorite albums thus far in 2018. It contains the quintessential components of what makes a Hip-hop album fire; from concepts to storytelling to hype tracks. And for Jay Rock specifically, the album represents his growth and development through life and as an artist. If you listen to Hood Tales and Redemption back to back you can really grasp these changes and see how much ground a rapper can cover with a lucrative career. The crew at Above Average is hyped for what TDE will follow this project with!