TDE has come a long way, especially since its humble beginnings as a small blip on the radar. Led by Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith the label has only 6 members; Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, Isaiah Rashad, and SZA. All said label mates are wildly talented in their own right and ever since 2012 there has never been a shortage of music, nearly every artist has dropped something or two within 2012 to now. After being released from Tech N9ne’s label Strange Music in September 2014 he is finally fully TDE’s asset. His long gestating project that every TDE fan has been craving since 2011 is finally here. So how is his second studio album?
The record starts off with the song “Necessary” fading in with an upbeat and catchy chorus “nine double O five nine be the zip” and then suddenly, the beat ceases and cuts out. The song changes into a dark, hand on your nut sack lyrical exploit of Jay Rock’s neighborhood as well as the everyday hard ships he faces.
“This sh*t is fresh out the oven!” Rock exclaims as track two begins, and boy is he right. This one being called “Easy Bake” featuring the likes of label mates Kendrick Lamar and SZA, is another hard beat with a grimey and unsettling sample, serving a perfect segue into Kendrick’s verse. But the beat change is really the best aspect and easily an album highlight, turning into a funk heavy sample with reversed voices and an especially keen sort of bounce to it. SZA delivers a nicely written verse and Jay Rock adds his two cents as well before the song abruptly ends, if only it was just a bit longer. But it doesn’t stop there “Gumbo” another good track with a very easy going beat with a small funk influence while Jay Rock raps about his hard times, a clever juxtaposition. It’s almost like eating the sugar coated truth or in this case hearing it.
Yeah, and that’s only the first three tracks. Track four “Wanna Ride” features another label mate, Isaiah Rashad and is just purely awesome. The beat is a Southern influenced calm beat that really just makes the listener want to sit in their car and drive for hours on end. It’s sad to see Isaiah Rashad only taking hook duties on the song, considering he hasn’t really put anything out since January 2014 with Cilvia Demo (excellent by the way). But it seems like it’s a glimpse into the new type of style he should be using from now on. The hook is very bluesy and sounds aesthetically appealing, it’s delivered so nicely and fits almost seamlessly, so it really isn’t all that bad that he got hook duties. It’s intriguing to see if this will be his new sound as well. Track five “The Way” features Sir, and is maybe one of the albums weaker tracks, it’s not necessarily bad and certainly it is listenable it just doesn’t really sound all that good compared to the album first four tracks. It’s just very meh. Track six “Telegram (Going Krazy)” features Jay Rock’s alter ego, Lance Skiiiwalker, and is a pretty good track also. Although the sample in the beginning is somewhat irritating at first it slowly fades into the beat and mixes just fine. Nothing sticks out as much but it’s a good song no gripes here. Track seven serves as the title track also featuring Rock’s alter ego and is a weird, ODB inspired tune dedicated to his neighborhood. Jay Rock questions why the gang members and cops keep messing with him and why they wont just leave the guy alone. It took a few listens but the track grows on the listener and is so perpetually weird that it’s appealing.
Track eight “Vice City” is easily the albums highlight featuring Black Hippy (Rock, Kendrick, Ab-Soul, and ScHoolboy Q) as they showcase all their weaknesses aka vices and trade verse after verse with a hypnotic hook sang by Kendrick over an incredible beat by Cardo. This song is a gem and one of the very few Black Hippy collabs, and only one question remains after this and that is WHEN IS THE BLACK HIPPY ALBUM DROPPING???!!! Track nine, “Fly on the Wall”, features somewhat of a wild card found in Busta Rhymes. One would think the song would be fast paced considering Busta Bust is on there but nope, the song is a slow and calm ode to being just another everyday person and wondering if you matter. Busta Rhymes comes through with as solid verse and talks a little about him and Jay Rock’s relationship, a really good song and something introspective to boot. The last two tracks “Money Trees Deuce” and “The Message” are perfect ways to end the album, one feeling like an ending and the last song feeling more of an encore. Deuce again features Skiiiwalker served over a great sample that speaks on how money controls all of us and what we do, and how it can lead to our downfall. Also a nice spoken word outro is thrown in there that is pretty inspiring as well. “The Message” is a pretty solid song not much to pick apart just sounds pretty appealing and Rock spits some nice bars.
This was definitely worth the wait; it really shows the amount of time and care put into the record itself, showcasing some incredible beats and his best wordplay and rhymes yet. He takes risk on the record that is a triumph and really just work in his favor. For years he’s been underrated and slept on but after this album that’s going to change for him. Another great album from TDE this year and most importantly another great album from Jay Rock.