For most artists in the industry, releasing an album years after the first single hit radio would be a total publicity nightmare. For Jay Rock, it was motivation to finally let the world hear his extraordinary story. From the world of street released mixtapes to the smash hit “All My Life” featuring Lil Wayne, Jay Rock’s career seemed to be on the fast track to stardom. Coming up as new MC from Watts, Jay Rock and Top Dawg Entertainment found themselves partnered with Warner Bros. to release his debut album, Follow Me Home. Soon though, Jay Rock and his independent label felt that the movement from Warner Bros. was not what they had hoped for. Later in 2010, Jay Rock’s Follow Me Home found new life as he signed on with the independent giant, Strange Music. The signing was much bigger than just another record deal. It meant that Follow Me Home would have its proper release, and fans who had stuck with Jay Rock through all of the industry turmoil would be rewarded.
Follow Me Home represents more than just a debut album. It’s the triumph of an MC who came up on the streets and broke into the business by grinding harder than most. Follow Me Home takes listeners inside the minds of the drug dealers, gangbangers, and even the victims, all of which are affected by the very streets that made them. Jay Rock sought to not just tell his story, but the story of an entire coast. Highlighted by headlining features from Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Chris Brown, and Tech N9ne, Follow Me Home paired Jay Rock with the best in the game and challenged him to dig deep for lyrical inspiration. The result is a sincere, painful, and even celebratory view into the struggles of an everyday man. Jay Rock’s Follow Me Home is West Coast at its core, but it also has so much more to offer.
Opening with tragedy, Follow Me Home wastes no time dropping listeners right into the brutality of life in Watts, California. To the local news crew on site it may be shocking, but to Jay Rock it’s just another part of survival. With a cold chill, “Code Red” rings in like a warning shot. The Phonix Beats produced track sinks in like a West Coast throwback as the quintessential introduction for Jay Rock. The melodic pianos and opera like background vocals give “Code Red” a haunting landscape, which Jay Rock makes full use of with abrasive verses aimed at any outsiders daring to step foot inside Watts. It’s clear that Jay Rock was looking for a head start as the beginning of Follow Me Home is heavy with charged up production and memorable hooks. The hypnotic production on “No Joke” gives Jay Rock one of the grittiest and sharpest instrumentals on Follow Me Home. Produced by Willie B, the piano and sample driven sound becomes a familiarity on Follow Me Home thanks to the producer’s multiple contributions. Launching into the album’s radio and music video single, “Hood Gone Love It” leads a series of tracks that were built to act as the hood’s summer soundtrack. Kendrick Lamar makes an especially outstanding guest feature on “Hood Gone Love It” with unorthodox flows and completely bizarre timing that somehow comes together for a fantastic verse. As the album enters the party tracks, it’s fair to say that Jay Rock’s strongest moments are on the more emotionally invested cuts like “No Joke”. He’s still no slouch though as “Westside” featuring Chris Brown bursts through with every intention of becoming a smash radio single.
Things get a little more personal as the album makes its way into “Kill Or Be Killed”. Fueled by another Willie B production, the edge of your seat thriller finds Jay Rock teaming with Tech N9ne for a track that executes exactly what the title implies. An especially therapeutic moment, Tech N9ne’s verse on “Kill Or Be Killed” is aimed at the ignorance of people who believe he had any hand in the death of Mac Dre. Jay Rock’s shining moment follows with the eye opening “Just Like Me”. For any critics who believed Jay Rock could not create a thought provoking tale of heartbreak and sorrow, “Just Like Me” redefines Jay Rock as an MC. Taking on the role of criminal and victim, Jay lays out the tales of violence and grief the very way he’s experienced them. The stripped down track creates waves of powerful moments for Jay Rock as he slowly builds up to an aggressive and faster flow. It may not be designated for radio, but “Just Like Me” is easily the biggest victory on Follow Me Home. Black Hippy fans aren’t left in the cold though as “Say Wassup” gives the super group an opportunity to flex their chemistry and amazing timing with each other. Playing off like the Beastie Boys, the four MCs bounce rhymes off each other with so much ease that it sounds more like a playground than a track on a Jay Rock album. Closing out the album, Jay Rock gets a taste of the high life and mobster mentality with the Rick Ross assisted “Finest Hour”. J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League turns on the cameras for this Hollywood made production that brings together eloquent strings and soft pianos. Like a modern day Tony Montana, Rick Ross commands the world at his feet for a spectacular cut. Going out on the appropriate note, Follow Me Home ends with the very single that started it all. “All My Life” allows Jay Rock to ride off with Lil Wayne sitting shotgun for a bright and well earned grand finale.
Follow Me Home may not be re-writing the approach to West Coast music, but it is certainly paving its own path. With clear influence from West Coast legends of the past, Jay Rock puts his own touch of struggle and survival on the often heard tales of gang life. There is no smoke and mirrors routine with Jay Rock. Everything is real and raw, and that’s exactly the way his story is meant to be told.
-Victor Sandoval, Assistant Editor Strange Music
Follow Victor on Twitter: @VicMSandoval
Click here to purchase Follow Me Home on iTunes.