Without question, Hip Hop from the West Coast has really taken a hold of this year’s summer. From Dom Kennedy’s fun mix of street smart party outings to the critically lauded Section 80 from Compton wordsmith Kendrick Lamar. Even with Mann’s crossover appeal, there’s still space for some more from the sunnier side of the USA and Watts resider Jay Rock looks to fill that void. Bringing vintage gangster tales and heavy piano-injected productions, Follow Me Home aims to strike accordingly with fans of the no-nonsense brand of cold cuts and hard hitting rhymes.

Uncompromising from the beginning, Jay Rock establishes his brand of gangsta rap early with his Blood gang affiliated opener ‘Code Red’ opener, which stomps through a haunting, piano driven orchestration. Rock’s delivery is somewhat vintage, with hoarse, gritty barks which narrate the many occurrences in a Watts neighbourhood.

Teaming up with Ab Soul on ‘No Joke’ the intimidating lyricist’s gruff delivery and hard on the ear content are given a little sophistication in the guise of a more polished production. But it’s these attributes which give Jay Rock his appeal, as his channelling of the more vicious performers will be welcomed in a climate of rappers deemed ‘emo’ due to their softer stance.

An early standout track comes when teaming up with current XXL Freshman Kendrick Lamar, where their tandem on ‘Hood Gone Love It’ is an unapologetic, proud acknowledgement of their Justice League produced anthem finding favour with the hood ruffnecks instead of the music aficionados.

Where Jay Rock falls short is firstly on the single ‘Westside,’ featuring the rapper’s choice hook handler Chris Brown. With the likes of T.I., Big Sean and others also bringing the VA vocalist to bless their own choruses, Rock’s efforts sound rather lethargic and unoriginal compared to the rest.

Also, regardless of there being a cry for a no nonsense type rapper in today’s field, Jay Rock’s style is somewhat predictably on the lazily executed ‘I’m Thuggin.’ For all its rehashed gangsta motifs, Jay Rock’s performances are still solid, depicting the many evils money can bring on ‘M.O.N.E.Y’ and even appearing on a typical OG’s mellow waltz in the form of ‘Finest Hour’ which features Rick Ross and BJ the Chicago Kid.

18 tracks deep, Follow Me Home is powered by carefree, crotch grabbing material instead of the overused hood survivor narrative. The track which takes the top prize is ‘Say Wassup’ as the new school Black Hippy lineup of Ab Soul, Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar bring their own unique offerings to Rock’s rough house delivery, making for an excellent quartet of rhymers.

Follow Me Home marks a more than decent offering from LA’s Jay Rock. Its in-your-face approach and hard as hell exterior makes for a welcome addition to the recent renaissance in gangsta rap and displays enough vigorous performances to command a second and third listen. Jay Rock may not yet have the formula for a breakthrough hit, but possesses more than enough street merits to ensure it’s a favourite to those shunning the flamboyant offerings of the mainstream supremos.

Jay Rock – Follow Me Home
Released: July 26, 2011
Label: Strange Music
Buy: iTunes US / iTunes UK / Amazon US / Amazon UK