You don't have to like Jay Rock's latest single because the hood is going to love it. That's the premise of the Watts-raised rapper's opening salvo from his much-delayed debut, "Follow Me Home," slated for release on July 26.
For those keeping score at home, Rock was previously signed to Warner Bros., where he dropped several street singles, including the Stone Henge-hard minor hit "All My Life," which never earned heavy rotation on Emmis and Clear Channel-owned stations, but racked up 600,000-plus YouTube views.
Released from his deal with WB, Rock regrouped with his Black Hippy cohorts (Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Kendrick Lamar) and regained the momentum that he had lost during the frequent postponements. Another fortuitous event occurred when Tech N9ne decided to sign him to his Strange Music imprint. It's a good fit for the gruff and guttural Rock, who makes gun-under-the-waistband street rap with a deceptive emotional resonance.
Hence, "Hood Gone Love It," where producer J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League combines Lamar and Rock with a symphonic Isaac Hayes sample. Rock sketches a picture of hood life, with "barbecue pits and mini-bikes, mini-skirts and Miller Lites." He raps like a bruising Walter Mosley character, full of tough talk and balled fists. Lamar is all motor-mouthed id, rapping circles around the slow soul. For Rock, widely regarded as one of the best L.A. rappers, it's ammunition for the hype. He shouts out "Thug Life," a nod to his Tupac fixation, while rapping in knotty double time, time like he grew up on lost tapes of Kurupt performing at Project Blowed.
Listen to the single here. (Warning: explicit language.)
The tropes and terrain are familiar -- Compton and Watts rappers rhyming about their roots and their version of old-time religion. But great rap is usually some variation of that theme. They make their own stories synonymous with their hood, and along the way, more than just the hood will love it.
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-- Jeff Weiss
Photo: Jay Rock. Credit: Courtesy Jay Rock