[Art by BokkaBoom]
It’s Friday night at 9:22 PM. My download for Jay Rock’s Follow Me Home won’t finish for another 36 minutes, I only found it after scouring the deep trenches of the internet for a link. This comes after a lengthy search battle with both Spotify and iTunes, both of which turned up no results. Multiple attempts to reach Punch lead me to a number that the TDE President apparently hasn’t used since late 2014, and contacting Strange Music proved unsuccessful.
This was a perfect representation of TDE's original star in 2015. His life is lived in the background, you never know what he’s thinking or doing. Jay Rock doesn’t have a voice on social media like ScHoolboy Q or Ab-Soul. Instead, Top Dawg speaks for all things relating to Jay’s career. Previews of his forthcoming album are projected through tweets alongside of any hyped-up announcements for new singles.
While Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q are used to seeing six figure album sales numbers, Jay Rock has so far only seen four. Yes, Follow Me Home, his long awaited debut album that dropped in 2011, sold 5,300 copies in its first week. Very few hip-hop fans really cared about Jay Rock that long ago, except for truly early supporters (myself included). Rock was an opener on two Tech N9ne tours, but a solo, headlining show by the emcee could qualify as damn near unicorn status over the past few years. In an interview some years back, I remember asking the Watts native who he felt was next to blow on the West Coast and he shared with me the exact answer I expected: Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q and Ab-Soul.
Though unsurprising, it felt like an odd answer. At the time Jay Rock was far more famous than his TDE brethren, Kendrick got his start as a hype man for Jay Rock, but looking back it was a sign of just how committed he was to the idea of TDE as a team, a collective more important than himself. So while everyone else on the label has skyrocketed past him with project after project, Jay Rock sat back and waited, playing a supporting role, riding in the backseat. Unfortunately, for his fans, he’s still waiting. Scarce appearances on K. Dot’s “Money Trees” and YG’s “I Just Wanna Party,” along with a scattering of loosie releases, have kept anticipation for new music high, but days have turned to months have turned to seasons and we still don't have a Jay Rock sophomore album.
Rock's caught in a strange position, so it's understandable if he wants to erase the past. He’s technically a veteran, TDE's oldest artist, but to the vast majority of TDE fans, he's essentially brand new. As I mentioned, Follow Me Home isn’t readily available, except for an over-priced $100 copy on Amazon. The project has become a sort of legend, one that only exists for less than 10,000 people walking this Earth, and so even TDE's most loyal followers have likely never heard an album from their favorite label's charter member. Jay Rock didn’t neccesarily mean to hide in the shadows while the rest of his team bathed in the definition of success, but in reality maybe this was the best path for him. He's now free from his record contract with Strange Music and anticipation for his 90059 album is high thanks to recently-released heat rock singles like “Money Trees Deuce” and “Gumbo.”
It may have been an unintentional mastery, but Jay Rock has mastered the art of anticipation. It's finally time for TDE to come full circle, returning the focus to the man who started it all, a man who's remained the label's most loyal soldier all these years, a man who's finally ready to step into the spotlight.
[By Sermon, aka The Randy Savage of VMG, aka @SermonsDomain]