Does Jay Rock have what it takes to move to the forefront of TDE?

With a new single and an appearance on the Hot 100, he certainly could, but at what cost?

  /  05.17.2018

In 2013, Top Dawg Entertainment announced its hostile takeover of hip-hop through Compton wordsmith Kendrick Lamar’s scathing “Control” verse, as well as the battle-ready TDE cypher at the BET Hip Hop Awards. Five years later the collective has, without a doubt, delivered on its promise. Lamar has produced at least three classic albums and amassed numerous accolades—including twelve Grammys and hip-hop’s first Pulitzer Prize. SZA has become a source of life and inspiration to black women worldwide, cementing her status as an icon with last year’s monumental Ctrl.

Though these two superstars have put TDE on the map, the remaining members of the group have not received the same shine. Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, Isaiah Rashad, and Jay Rock—all rare talents in their own right—are not yet household names. With his new single “WIN” (listen below) released yesterday, and his Black Panther contribution “King’s Dead” landing the emcee his first Billboard Hot 100 hit earlier this year, Jay Rock has a legitimate chance to shift the narrative and broaden his fanbase. However, the Watts native’s upcoming studio album raises two questions: Can he do it? And at what cost?

Circa 2005, Rock was still—well—pitching rocks. His past life dealing drugs and confronting all comers with violent retaliation is a theme ever-present in his music. His life changed forever when Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith believed in his potential as an emcee and signed him to the new label. Rock’s commercial debut came in 2008, when the biggest rapper in the world at the time—Lil Wayne—blessed him with a feature and cosign on his track “All My Life (In the Ghetto).” The young rapper held his own against a legend, turning heads and creating buzz. Soon Rock was on the 2010 Freshman Cover of XXL and listed as one of the year’s breakthrough emcees. He released two quality mixtapes and went on separate tours with 50 Cent and Tech N9ne.

Since then, Jay Rock’s momentum has plateaued considerably. However, there are a few exceptions. They give us insight on how Rock can make the most impact.

Jay Rock has proven himself to be an exceptional feature artist. The world stood still during his vicious verse on “Money Trees” from Lamar’s 2012 Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. Perhaps the best version of Jay Rock we’ve heard, this dexterous verse is accepted as one of the best on the album. As evidenced by his performance on tracks such as Ab-Soul’s “Black Lip Bastard,” his own “Vice City” and “Pay For It,” and most recently the Black Panther soundtrack contribution “King’s Dead,” Rock is more than capable of upping his game to meet any competitor. This skill has been noted and perfected by artists such as Rick Ross, who often commissions other big-name artists to raise the bar and create timeless classics. Perhaps Rock could also frequent tracks with other talents that can push him deeper into his bag.

In terms of his sound, Rock is at his best when he contrasts soulful beats with his distinctive, rugged voice. We saw him channel his inner-Jeezy on 2014’s “Hood Gone Love It” and deliver a feel-good anthem that also resonates with the streets. And he shares the enigmatic nature that made an artist such as Ja Rule a force to be reckoned with on the airwaves in the early 2000s. Though he is beholden to the West Coast sound, it’s hard not to *Birdman hand-rub* at the thought of Jay Rock working with soulful, versatile producers such as legends No I.D. and 9th Wonder.

Fresh off of the stove, Rock’s new single “WIN” reminds us of the cost that typically comes with radio success. The song features an impressive final verse and an upbeat vibe, but most of the lyrics are largely forgettable. He has erred on the side of simplicity for catchiness, which will no doubt earn him many more radio plays. However, fellow TDE rappers Ab-Soul and Isaiah Rashad are shining examples of how quality is greater than quantity in terms of an artist’s fanbase. Because they do not depend on commercial success, these artists are able to craft the music they truly want without pressure to make hits or conform to trending sounds. We saw this pressure derail the trajectory of Lupe Fiasco—undoubtedly one of the most talented lyricists the game has ever seen—when his Lasers album flopped and alienated his dedicated fanbase. Legends MF Doom, Tech N9ne, and Royce da 5’9″ are also not the first artists to come to mind when someone hands you the aux chord, but they are profoundly respected by hip-hop heads worldwide.

To complicate this further, labelmate Kendrick Lamar has ascended to the top of the game without sacrificing his dense lyricism—though his features have become increasingly less potent overtime.

As discussed earlier, Jay Rock’s talent and presence give him a unique opportunity to carve his own lane by building on previous blueprints. He carries stories burdened with battling his demons while trying to provide for his family—stories the world deserves to hear. The time has come for him to choose how the next chapter in his career will be written. Either way, by any standard, Jay Rock’s breakthrough into the Billboard Hot 100 is a huge, well, win.

More from Raheem Veal:



View More



View More


Walmart has everything you need for the tech enthusiast on your shopping list

Check out our gift guide that highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds in time for Black Friday.

  /  11.10.2023

5 things you need to know about the 2023 Billboard Music Awards

“REVOLT Black News” correspondent Kennedy Rue counts down the top five moments from the 2023 Billboard Music Awards, including surprising wins, historic firsts, and dope performances. Sponsored by Amazon.

  /  11.20.2023

Walmart's HBCU Black and Unlimited Tour kicks off at Central State University

On Oct. 10, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University.

  /  11.14.2023

The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour visited Mississippi Valley State University

The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour made its final stop at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) and left a lasting impact on students and alumni alike.

  /  11.22.2023

Walmart has the home essentials for everyone on your holiday shopping list

Below, our gift guide highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds for anyone in need of a home refresh.

  /  11.24.2023

Walmart continues HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour during lively Virginia State University stop

After unveiling their state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University, Walmart brought the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to Virginia State University (VSU) on Oct. 13.

  /  11.14.2023

Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour brings attention and wisdom to North Carolina Central University

On Oct. 17, Walmart brought the third stop of the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

  /  11.15.2023

Groovey Lew on hip hop style, Johnell Young's industry secrets, BGS salon's wig mastery and more | 'Black Girl Stuff'

Fashion King Groovey Lew on masterminding hip-hop’s most iconic looks. Actor Johnell Young reveals the secret to breaking into the entertainment industry. Celebrity hairstylist Dontay Savoy and got2B ambassador Tokyo Stylez are in the BGS Salon with the perfect wig install. Plus, comedian Lauren Knight performs.

  /  11.15.2023

Pheelz talks expressing himself through music & his biggest inspirations | 'On In 5'

On this all-new episode of “On In 5,” multitalented Nigerian artist Pheelz opens up about waiting for his opportunity to fully express himself through music, his inspirations and emotions, and the musical icons he grew up admiring. Watch!

  /  07.11.2023

Kareem Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke & networking | 'The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels'

On this all-new episode of “The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels,” the host and REVOLT CEO sits down with Kareem Cook. Throughout the introspective episode, Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke and being nervous to be in the South at the time, network vs. education, taking advantage of your opportunities, and connecting with Debbie Allen. Watch!

  /  07.10.2023

Tiffany Haddish on therapy, wild fan interactions & the upcoming 'Haunted Mansion' movie | 'The Jason Lee Show'

On this all-new episode of “The Jason Lee Show,” the one and only Tiffany Haddish sits for a must-watch conversation about wild interactions with fans, her new movie ‘Haunted Mansion,’ bringing her therapist on dates, and being present. Watch the hilarious interview here.

  /  07.12.2023

BNXN talks leaving IT for music, linking with Wizkid, going viral & new album | 'On In 5'

For this all-new episode of “On In 5,” singer-songwriter BNXN discusses his journey from IT to music, finding his voice and originality, linking up with Wizkid for their hits “Mood” and “Many Ways,” and what fans can expect from him this year — including a new album. Watch the full episode here!

  /  08.08.2023

From city lots to lush gardens: The power of urban farming with Karen Washington

This is the inspiring story of Karen Washington, a pioneering urban farmer who has been revolutionizing urban spaces by transforming them into vibrant community gardens and educational hubs. Sponsored by State Farm.

  /  11.17.2023

Investing in stocks in a recession | 'Maconomics'

Host Ross Mac provides useful advice for preparing your personal finances in the event of a recession. He emphasizes the importance of budgeting properly, building an emergency fund, and maintaining discipline when investing.

  /  11.21.2023

Madam DA Fani Willis proclaims, “A lie has been told on African American men”

“Every time I’m in trouble, it’s been Black men that have come to my aid,” Madam DA Fani Willis said at REVOLT WORLD while speaking on the stereotype that they are not dependable or worth dating.

  /  10.11.2023

Lauren London sparks conversation on how Black parents unintentionally give kids negative outlook on money

At the live taping of “Assets Over Liabilities” at REVOLT WORLD, Lauren London opened up about how witnessing the financial decisions adults made during her childhood fueled her outlook on money. 

  /  10.26.2023

Black media leaders stress the space's importance because we're always antagonists in mainstream's storytelling

“I definitely feel those ‘heavier is the crown’ moments. But I also believe that Black entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to be successful in the future,” Detavio Samuels said at AfroTech.

  /  11.03.2023

Machel Montano opens up about life as a child star, new music, and exciting business moves

In an exclusive interview with REVOLT, Machel Montano dove into his musical journey, childhood stardom, and an exciting new chapter in business.

  /  11.03.2023

Halftime Report | Professional athletes who've dropped rap albums

From Master P to Chris Webber, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Deion Sanders, Damian Lillard and more, these athletes got bars. Check out our list here!

  /  11.01.2023

Lauren London says Nipsey Hussle inspired her eldest son’s interest in finances

“I have those conversations with my son about abundance,” Lauren London said at REVOLT WORLD. 

  /  11.06.2023
View More
Revolt - New Episodes