The “90059 be the zip” mantra is the first line we’ve heard from Jay Rock in a while, and the rapper is back with his own unabashed, gritty and street-savvy side of the Black Hippy story. His sophomore studio album, 90059, opens up hard and stays true to his Southside Los Angeles roots. As a heavy kick-snare pattern fades in and “Necessary” introduces the album, it becomes clear that Jay Rock is sick of waiting around — just coming off a four-year hiatus — and is ready to speak his mind with passion. His passion is unevenly distributed, however, and is spread thinly as the record progresses.
“Necessary” and “Easy Bake” set up the record well, while “Gumbo” quickly switches up the tempo, introducing a fluid, bass-heavy production that is laced with a melodic, strung-out chord progression. When the beat of the album’s third track drops, it is instantly matched by some of the sharpest, most polished rapping Jay Rock has spit since his debut. With lines such as the opener to Verse 2, “Have you ever put your hand over fire just to see what you could tolerate? / And you find no escape,” Jay Rock speaks from the heart and doesn’t care if we can keep up or not.
The album 90059 is particularly remarkable for its cast of guest features. On the record with Jay Rock is the entire Black Hippy collective, SZA (fellow Top Dawg Entertainment label-mate), an adept production team and even the eccentric flow master, Busta Rhymes.
Yet, with such a melting pot of talent, the album quickly begins to grasp at straws after the first three tracks. The production slowly becomes more contrived as the album progresses, and hooks in songs such as “Wanna Ride” and “The Ways” are as repetitive as they are bland. Jay Rock relies too heavily on the album’s feature appearances. He racks up some big names on the record, but they collectively just scrape the surface of their full potential. The album struggles to gain traction after “Gumbo,” and a lull in the record begins thereafter.
There is a stark difference between genre-defining, artful, masterpiece albums and albums that will forever be relegated to the far less respected realm of party rap. Unfortunately, it appears as if Jay Rock’s sophomore release straddles that fine line. After a long hiatus from the game, Jay Rock could have leveraged his creativity, talent and connection to Black Hippy to produce a benchmark album and solidify his position in the burgeoning industry of intelligent street rappers. Instead, 90059 leaves much to be speculated about his trajectory as a player in the rap game.
Contact Charlie Tidmarsh at [email protected].