BOTTOM LINE Top Dawg Entertainment star's third album is full of bittersweet stories
In a drawl from the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles that is somehow both urgent and reflective, rising hip-hop star Jay Rock continues telling tragic stories of drugs and power on his mostly excellent third album.
He showcases guest stars like Kendrick Lamar and Future (together on "King's Dead," from the "Black Panther" soundtrack earlier this year) and he can go full-on cocky, reintroducing himself with a cascade of b-words in the opening "The Bloodiest" and crowing to a triumphant synth on the closing "Win." But his best songs are more subtle, like when he rhymes "sandbox," "padlocks," "stashbox," "mascots" and "mad Watts" over a slow, smoky synth loop in "Troopers" or bemoans not spending enough time with a loyal female friend in "Redemption" (which also stars SZA).
Many rappers over the years have imitated the soft, reflective style of 2Pac's "Hey Mama," but Rock has a way of making these kinds of personal stories sound especially real.