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REVIEW: Redemption by Jay Rock

As a follow up to his nostalgia influenced 2016 album 90059, REDEMPTION sounds as if Jay Rock has finally broken…

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.

7) OSOM

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.

9) Troopers

“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.

12) Redemption

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.

13) WIN

“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!

Currently obtaining my undergrad for Film & Media Studies in beautiful Tampa Bay Florida, I love hiking, biking, rock climbing, surfing, and most importantly: hip hop. My favorite rapper is MF DOOM and my top writer is Hunter S. Thompson.
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Sol Patches’ Album Serves As A ‘Love Letter’ To The Trans Community

Last year on Giving Tuesday (November 27),  New York-based, Chicago-born-and-raised multi-disciplined artist Sol Patches launched GoFundMe campaign to assist with…

Last year on Giving Tuesday (November 27),  New York-based, Chicago-born-and-raised multi-disciplined artist Sol Patches launched GoFundMe campaign to assist with the costs of gender-affirming medical processes.

“Bearing markers of both gender non-conformance and black racialization, my being is constantly under scrutiny,” she wrote about about the campaign. “With increasing anti-trans policy pressure from the state, not to mention the mind-boggling violence endured by black trans women daily, urgency is ingrained into my survival.”

Sol Patches is seeking $10,000 for medical costs, of which she’s raised more than $8,800 in the first two months of the campaign.

“I am endlessly thankful for my chosen family of siblings, mentors and loved ones for supporting me in my transition up until now, and I’m deeply grateful for every contribution,” she wrote.

In early 2018, she released her second full length project, titled Garden City, which she described as “a love letter written in music for trans people, we who dream and live to unlearn-creating in a field that denies our very existence.”

Garden City could call to mind The Garden State, New Jersey, but Sol explained the album title refers to many different things.

“One of those is the idea of a garden city first made its way to the books, in Europe when folks were trying to create utopias – the Utopian Movement,” she said. “One of the cities was supposed to be about gardens and having a city. So like, having the intersections of farming and plants and all that stuff with a city aspect. But eventually it was corrupted. A lot of rich people saw value and profit to be made, and it ultimately crumbled. So it’s definitely inspired in that tradition.”

 

Sol Patches also said the Garden City title has a Chicago connection, as the city’s seal includes the Latin phrase “Urbs in Horto,” or “City in a Garden.”

“I was also working with this brilliant poet and singer and creator (Chaski), and we were talking about the abandoned lots in Chicago and talking about how those deeply have affected us,” Sol explained. “It’s always been so inspiring when I think about growing up on the South Side and the West Side, and there not being many well-put-together playgrounds… And how folks made these lots a place of many happenings. And so that at its core is what inspired the LP.”

Garden City was released in early 2018, nearly two years after Sol Patches’ previous full-length As 2 Water Hurricanes, which boosted her profile in the Chicago music scene – particularly within the DIY community – landing her features in the Chicago Reader and South Side Weekly.

“As 2 Water Hurricanes was first ever project that I released, and I wrote it at a time where there were so many protests and calls-to-action in Chicago,” she said. “I was also involved in those actions and organizing those. And at the same time I was young as hell – I’m still young as hell – and it was written from the perspective of a genderqueer kid, who doesn’t know if they’re gonna make it past 18. And Garden City is more so like the aftermath. And how do I not die for my people, how do I live for the various people, who’ve given all they can to help support me. Like, how do I live for them? So that’s the tone I think, that shows the difference.”

 

Sol said during the time leading up to Garden City, she improved on their technical abilities as a producer and sound engineer. She produced most of the record, with additional production from her sibling Eiigo Groove, as well as Chaski (who also executive produced the album), Eve Carlstrom and Little Bear. The record also features collaborations with artists such as Rich Jones, Plus Sign, Ano Ba, Sasha No Disco and Mykele Deville.

Garden City wasn’t the only release Patches delivered in 2018. In late May, she quietly put out a more experimental project, titled Blue Transitions.

Blue Transitions, even more so than her previous work, is a freeform expression of art and identity. Sol Patches is working on re-releasing that project, which is expected to be released on most streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music.

Lead photo by: Chaski

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#IndieSpotlight: Tre Cartel’s Collaborative EP With CashMoney AP Is A Moment For The ATL MC

ATL MC Tre Cartel is someone who we’ve championed quite a bit in the past, which it’s exciting to finally…

ATL MC Tre Cartel is someone who we’ve championed quite a bit in the past, which it’s exciting to finally get his three-song EP Obtain This Grain — as it feels like a moment for him. Produced entirely by CashMoney AP — a platinum-selling beatsmith whose crafted hits for the likes of Lil Wayne, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Ski Mask The Slump God, Tory Lanez, Dave East, Jay Critch, and MANY more — the offering is concise but poignant.

 
It kicks off with “That Guy,” which is a dollar-sign tinged profession of why he’s that catch that “she” has been looking for — featuring a guest verse from YFA King, who smashes the melodic flow. “Knock Your Hustle” is another song aimed at a female, quite cohesively playing off the thematic elements of the first track.

The special sauce though is the absolute banger “Formula,” in which he notes “I think I found out the formula,” adding that he’s just warming up. His evolved Migo-esque flow with his cadence and the gorgeous flute in the bridge of the record make this song almost ironic in it’s prophetic in its overall message.

At three songs, it’s an appetizer at best; yet Tre Cartel appears to have hit his stride over this batch of insanely fire beats supplied by CashMoney. While we may see him open up a little more below the surface when we’re blessed with a larger body of work to digest, Obtain This Grain has a hearty helping of replay value worth adding to your playlist if you’re in search of the next-big-thing to pop from the hotbed that is Atlanta.

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#IndieSpotlight: Reíne Imoan Sets The Tone With Her Soulful Debut “Soul Sista”

Long Island, New York, singer Reíne Imoan is about to make a splash in 2019 with her debut VWR. Her…

Long Island, New York, singer Reíne Imoan is about to make a splash in 2019 with her debut VWR. Her first official single “Soul Sista” produced by Shepard X is out now — and as Imoan recounts to AAHH, the track was fun to create. “It was made off of groove and straight vibes … brings me back to the late 90’s early 2000’s, which was one of my fave eras of music.

“I remember Shepard X introducing the beat to me with the concept and instantly I started bopping and knew I had to have it,” she continues.

She has always been involved in music — and it all started with her father, who used to play his vast music collection constantly. “From Roots Reggae to R&B soul every Sunday dinner,” she recalls with a smile.

“I remember singing the first verse I ever wrote to my friends and they hyped me so much,” she says. That push made me want to keep going and see what else I can do. I searched on youtube for beats and just kept writing. I felt it in my heart that this is what I’d be doing for sure.”

All roads have led to her upcoming project, but she’s not rushing anything. “I want to take my time with this one and give people something they can relate and bump to,” she says adding that the collaborations lined up are worth waiting for. I used to rush things because I saw other people putting stuff out … I was just so eager to get out there. But I had to center myself and say Fuck that, take your time and don’t let others make you feel like you have to rush anything. Quality over quantity, always.”

Ultimately, she’s crafting a first impression that she hopes will be great. “I’m working every day and practicing my craft to be one of the best entertainers in the industry. I plan on writing songs for other singers and artist in the industry, along with working with them on projects,” she says, describing her long-term objectives.

“After I drop my EP, I’m going to keep creating and see where the universe lands me. I plan on doing lots of performances this year and putting myself out there. Later in my career, I plan on dabbling into acting — another art that I’ve always enjoyed. When God gives you a talent, I believe you have to share it with the world.”

Check out her debut single, “Soul Sista,” below.

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Last ‘On The Cusp’ Playlist Of 2018

On The Cusp is a living playlist dedicated to showcasing the buzzing new music on our radar — as curated…

On The Cusp is a living playlist dedicated to showcasing the buzzing new music on our radar — as curated by our writer Riley Wallace. For all inquiries and submissions, hit up the playlist’s official Twitter feed.

This week’s cover artist is EverythigOShaun.

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#IndieSpotlight: Meet Chicago MC Hunnid

Leaning back in a vintage Bryant Park Chair with a ‘life is good’ smile, award-winning Chicago MC, Hunnid was in...

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