Album Rating System 4 out of 5 records
90059 is a zip code in South Los Angeles that encompasses parts of Watts, a historically black neighborhood once famous for being the city’s center of African-American culture, but in recent years has been marked by riots and gang warfare. Growing up in Nickerson Gardens, Jay Rock has been boxed in his whole life; a 1054 unit public housing stretch in the center of Watts that extends about a quarter square mile, where rival gangs thwart the Nicks on all sides, so to produce anything out-of-the-box is purely a miracle.
While watching his label mates produce cornerstone albums in Hip Hop, Rock has been forced to grow as an artist, because of this he channels a newfound freedom in his delivery. Stepping out of his traditional hard-core rigidity, his delivery has more versatility and inflection than it has in the past. In Easy Bake it almost seems as though he’s having a goodtime on the track. Though I’m pretty sure he has fun making music, the comfort in his voice is very apparent, and oddly auspicious. Usually gangsta rappers sound awkward deviating from anything that’s “gangsta”, but in Rock’s case, he marries his creativity and his gangster-ism perfectly.
Taking a four-year break since his debut album, Follow Me Home, Rock’s subject matter has extended considerably. The third track, Gumbo, is a prime example. “Have you ever put your hand over fire just to see what you could tolerate? And you can find no escape. Life is a dominatrix waiting for sh*t to pollinate, to make you mind your mistakes,” Rock raps. That’s poetry. A rose growing out of the cracks of cement on the streets of Watts is the kind of introspection that Rock is personifying.
Hearing the title track, 90059, for the first time is jarring. His voice disrupts your sanity with a shrill, cacophonous hook in the first few seconds of the song that makes you cut your eyes at first listen. After a few times it grows on you and begins to make sense when you understand that the raucous hook is a reference to the infamous zip code. 90059 has one of the highest crime rates in the city of Los Angeles. To illustrate Rock’s experience more clearly he raps, “Bullets have a name defined by different calibers. Concrete jungle, beware of different challengers. Gotta have the stomach for dookie bags and catheters. Play your cards right or be scratching off them calendars.”
Unlike many albums in this era of music that have numerous collaborations, all of Rock’s guest features are calculated, and even artists with more star power like, Busta Rhymes and Kendrick Lamar, don’t overpower Rock. The long awaited reunion of Black Hippy, the Hip Hop quartet featuring, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Rock, on Vice City doesn’t disappoint, either. It makes you wonder what’s taking them so long to make a Black Hippy album?
In Michael Rapaport’s 2011 documentary, Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, there is a part in the film where Phife Dawg’s emergence as a lyrical force is recognized by everyone on the group’s 1991 album, The Low End Theory. 90059 is Jay Rock’s emergence as a key figure in the house of TDE. Not just a big brother who was the first artist signed to the label anymore, he’s now a marquis strike-up on the wall with the other west coast greats.
Download 90059 here – https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/90059/id1031704250
© Copyright Eddie Savoy Bailey III, 2015
Written by: Eddie Bailey of The Savoy Media Group