Jay Rock is so hot right now not even a money tree could shade him. With a few record releases, a listening session and an album that we may be able to hashtag and pre-order into existence the Jay Rock train is picking up steam. It’s is a big moment for the Watts native.
Though Jay Rock was the first TDE emcee, a trailblazer, he doesn't have the same mystique that Kendrick does and isn’t as popular as the other original top dawgs in the litter. It’s most likely because he hasn’t released an album since TDE really blew up; he’s been hanging back in the shadows, only emerging a select number of times.
One of those times, however, came on Kendrick's “Money Trees” and, holy shit, his verse is amazing, right?
For a casual hip-hop fan "Money Trees" might be the only verse they know from Jay Rock. It was, after all, a major song on one of the biggest rap albums of the past five years, but it’s a good one to know. That growling flow. The vivid imagery. The passion. It’s the kind of verse you rewind over and over. The kind of verse that begs the question: Did Jay Rock murder Kendrick on his own shit? Someone joining K. Dot on his own record and dropping a memorable verse is rare. It’d have to be a big verse. The kind that develops a cult following. The kind of verse that gets mythologized and, dare I say it, deemed a classic.
We have to be careful about treating Twitter as a reflection of reality, but those tweets do reflect a large portion of the rap population that does, in fact, idolize Jay Rock’s “Money Trees” verse. The verse has moved into that rare air where calling it anything other than an unquestionable classic is considered hip-hop heresy. But does it deserve that kind of untouchable status?
I listen to GKMC a lot. Like a lot a lot, and "Money Trees" is up there for me; especially when I’m all out of fucks to give and feel like playing music at window rattling levels. The way those drums clank, the way the bass socks you in the mouth (hey, Geno Smith). It’s a banger no doubt, but it’s also perfectly crafted; it’s a complete effort. DJ Dahi’s beat is incredible, Ali’s mix is exquisitely balanced, the hook is an instant catch phrase, and Kendrick’s flow has a little bit of lean to it, which is an interesting juxtaposition to Jay Rock’s more aggressive style. And if we are talking about who murdered the song I have to mention vocalist Ana Wise, who really adds that extra element of pizazz. Sure I quote “ya bish” and “got the drums and got the bands like parade,” but it’s nothing compared to how that bridge makes me vibe out. (Also, have you ever noticed that towards the end of the record (right around the four minute mark) the gunshots from “Cartoon & Cereal” are tucked in? It took me a long time to notice because I was always focused on that little chant.)
Also, did somebody say dominoes?
There’s no question “Money Trees” is great, but while Jay Rock is part of that greatness, he’s only just a part. It’s not a great record because of him or in spite of his contribution. It’s not about Kendrick either; they are two sides of the same coin. “Money Trees” is phenomenal because everybody came in and did their job: Jay Rock’s verse is the great block that frees up the running back for a touchdown run, the incredible catch that’s only possible because of the quarterback’s incredible throw. Kendrick took a more laid-back approach, which ultimately set off Jay Rock’s more virulent style. Even if you want to compare Kendrick and Rock’s verses, again, I love it, but murder? Homicide? Radio would completely skip Big Sean’s verse when they played “Control,” that’s murder. Jay Rock simply dropped a great verse on a song that would have been great without him, but is that much better for having him.
If you want to do the “Did someone murder Kendrick on his own shit?” thing, “Cartoon & Cereal” is a much more interesting debate. “Money Trees” works because everybody played their role to perfection. It wasn’t a “hop on the beat and hammer each other with bars” kind of approach, but a puzzle where everyone fit in perfectly to complete the picture. If you took out any part of that song, Kendrick, Anna, Rock, hell even Ali, I don’t think it’s the same. But take Gunplay off “Cartoon & Cereal” and it’s a dramatically different song.
Ultimately, Rock’s “Money Trees” verse gets this reputation because if you say something enough times it becomes the truth, and over the last three years so many people have said that he murdered Kendrick because so many other people have said it’s just not worth disputing. Who has the time and energy to go against all those people? Someone who writes about music for a living, that’s who. Take another listen to that verse with as an objective of an ear as possible and you’ll find out it’s not jaw dropping, it’s certainly not murder. He did exactly what was asked of him - no more, no less - and what gets lost in all the screaming about JAY ROCK’S VERSE is how many other individuals came together to make that song great. So all praise due to Jay Rock, let’s just make sure we’re praising Kendrick and Dahi and Ali and Anna Wise too.
Jay Rock murdered Kendrick on his own shit? No way. And that’s just how I feel.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]