Shhh, don’t tell anybody, but there’s something brewing out west. Though the Southern states may still have the game in a cobra clutch, newcomers like Watts-bred rhyme slayer Jay Rock is attempting to shed a little light and show that the sun has yet to set on the West Coast music scene. Having recently released the Lil Wayne-assisted single “All My Life” followed up by his collaboration with DJ Noodles, the mixtape Coming Soon 2 A Hood Near You, it’s safe to say that the secret’s out on the Cali MC. Now generating a healthy buzz, he’s hoping that his momentum will transfer into moving units when his debut LP, tentatively titled Follow Me Home, drops this spring on TopDawg/Warner Bros. Records. XXLMag.com sat down with the left coast lyricist to talk about his chance meeting with Lil Wayne, how he’s bringing unity back to hip-hop and how rap saved his life.
XXLMag: A lot of people are hearing about Jay Rock now but it’s like you came outta nowhere. How did you get started in the game?
Jay Rock: I been rhyming since like 13 [years old], I always had a love for music but it was never actually something that I thought would ever be a job, you feel me? I was into the streets and a lot of my homeboys was in the studio and I’d pass through, but it was just for fun. I lost a lot of my homeboys to the streets and a lot of my friends and family would be pushing me like “you got the talent to rap. Don’t let that go to waste.” So my big homie Dude Dawg, he’s from the same neighborhood as me, he came and picked me up out the streets, put me in the studio and made a lot of things happen for ya boy.
XXL: Speaking of being in the studio, your song “All My Life” featuring Lil Wayne has been getting some burn lately. How’d you two hook up for that?
JR: Basically, Wayne did a show at Universal Studios back home and it was brought to my attention so I just went down and showed my support. I caught him out back and introduced myself to him, let him know who I was, that I was a new artist that just got signed and that I’d love to work with him. He wasn’t on no Hollywood shit and I respect him for that. We exchanged numbers, I reached out to him and he called me right back and we had a chat. I was like, I got this track that we need to do I want you to get on it and he was like ‘cool but can you email it to me?’ I was like nah, I’ll come to you, where you at? I don’t really do the emailing stuff, things can get lost in the computer. So I was like, I’ma come to you, dog. I bought me and my boy a plane ticket, [Wayne] was all the way out in D.C., I hopped on his tour bus like ‘yo, I’m here.’ As soon as he got some studio time, we got it in and made it happen.
XXL: Wow, did you expect that type of reaction from him and that type of outcome?
JR: Man, I didn’t know what to expect, you feel me? As big as he is…but that was one of the realest things he ever did. Most people you don’t get that call back.
XXL: You’ve worked with several East Coast MCs, specifically Papoose, Joell Ortiz and Grafh on your track “East Meets West.” Are you trying to bridge the gap by reaching out to artists from the east?
JR: Of course. I think we all gotta do records with each other, we all gotta fuck with each other. It’s like things have been fucked up since the Pac and Biggie days. We all gotta come back together and get that unity. Let’s all get this money cause that’s what it’s about. Whenever I’m on the East Coast, I’m reaching out to whoever wanna do music with me. Let’s put all the other bullshit to the side and do real music.
XXL: A lot of artists say that, but what does real music mean to you?
JR: Real music is honest music. Anything I’ve been through, seen or even that somebody else spoke up about, I put it in my records. I been out here grinding in New York so you might hear me do a song about that. Just whatever I go through, who I am. Where Jay Rock is from and where he’s trying to go in life.
XXL: In your music, you rep your Blood affiliation heavy. It seems in the last few years it’s become fashionable for MCs to wear red rags and talk about it on wax. Some rappers have been called out for that. What’s your feelings on it?
JR: That’s where I came from so that’s always gonna be a part of me. I’m just telling my story. Snoop and them did it for years, why not rep my side ? I’m not out bangin’ on niggas or condoning people to go and kill innocent people or do drive-bys or nothing like that. I’m just pushing real, positive music. Any real street cat out there is gonna know what I’m talking about. As far as these rappers, I’ll put it like this, just respect it. Because you go to these different places and you better be about [what you say] cause if not these real dudes is gonna eat you alive. It’s nothing to be played with.
XXL: You said earlier that you were “picked up out of the streets.” If you weren’t rapping now, where do you think you’d be?
JR: Man I’d probably still be out there on the block…there’s no telling where I’d be. The path I was going on, maybe in the penitentiary or under the grave. If I didn’t have rap.
XXL: So with that being said, with your voice almost not being heard, what do you want people to take from your music? What kind of mark are you trying to leave?
JR: I want to tell everybody not to let people tell them they can’t do something. I mean, look at me. Who would have ever thought a dude out of Watts from the Nickerson Garden Projects would have a debut album coming out soon. So anything you wanna do, whether it be a doctor or lawyer or a rapper, you can do it. Just stay dedicated and work hard. Real talk. –Anthony Roberts