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It’s been four long years since Jay Rock’s debut album Follow Me Home dropped in 2011. But now, after a long hiatus, the TDE rapper released his sophomore album 90059 last week, a surprise release that fans didn't see coming. The OG of Bick Hippy first opened the door for his brethren Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar to succeed and now, finally, the spotlight is back on the Watts native.

“My thing, I just want people to take it in,” Jay Rock told XXL while in New York City recently. “This is one of the hardest things I worked on. I was really more hands-on with this one than my first album. Far as everything: beat selection, concepts; it means a lot more to me. I’m really excited about it. I just want the true fans who have been waiting for Jay Rock to enjoy it.”

With his new album now in stores, Jay Rock spoke to XXL about the process of creating the album, why he waited so long to follow up his debut and the best pure lyricist in TDE. —Emmanuel C.M.

Photo Credit: Michael Fequiere

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XXL: Tell me about the process of making 90059.
Jay Rock: It was just a process of going in here and starting stuff and bettering myself. I might do something today and listen to it, come back tomorrow and say, "Okay, I’m going to change this." I was always critiquing myself. That’s what took a minute. Basically, I got a gang of material, it's just about putting the best material out. I don’t want to put just anything out. I could always saturate the game with a gang of songs, but you going to listen to the songs and forget about it. I want something to stick to somebody’s ribs. That’s what it was basically about.

So why the four-year hiatus?
I got a life to live outside of music, but like I said, through it all when we first started off, I was one of the first dudes that kicked the doors open for the camp. It was never all about Jay Rock. Jay Rock was in the front and I did that for us. I just got the time, sat down and... Anything with music, you got to have inspiration. You got to have inspiration to do good music. You can’t just go in there. That’s what I used to do; I would just go into the studio and just rap. But it's all about coming up with dope concepts and dope hooks. Anybody can rap, but it’s all about making a dope-ass record.

What was the inspiration for this album?
The inspiration for this album was my brothers, my family. It could be my homies that been through some shit we went through, or still going through. Just day to day shit. I talk about all that shit and that’s what gives me the inspiration, that real shit.

When did you decide to name the album after the area code for your hometown Watts?
I named it that because it just seemed like, me growing up, I was always confined to this box. Like, my whole life I’ve been right here in this zip code, 90059. Regardless of wherever I go I always end up in the same spot. And it’s the neighborhood, it's my hood. Basically what I did is, I’m reppin’ where I come from. We always hear Compton and Long Beach, but Watts is always overlooked. I’m just trying to solidify Watts. 90059 is not just Watts. It’s still parts of South Central and certain parts of Compton, too. It’s really like a box. And this album is me showing people it’s okay to step outside the box and do something different, because at the end of the day we’re all trying to make it out.

Do you still feel confined there?
Yeah, I’m always going to be there regardless of if I have a $100 million or no millions. I’m not going to ever forget where I come from. That’s what made me who I am today. But a real street nigga would tell you; niggas don’t want to be right here forever. Because it's only two things: death or jail. Don’t nobody want to die right now, we still want to live and be successful.

There are always different roles on a team. For you in TDE, I feel like your role is the OG, the big brother. I feel like you bring everyone home.
Everybody is spread out. But when we come together, we can be a force. That’s what it's about. We all come from the same kennel. That’s like when you have a pit of puppies, you keep them in the kennel. Even though they might go different ways, they always come back home, especially if somebody tries to mess with them. They are a team.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised that the new Black Hippy song is on your LP.
We always been like that, since the beginning, All we used to have is one studio. We were all recording in one studio trying to get our [individual] stuff done. But when we came together to do one song, it's nothing because the energy and the vibe [is good]. We’re all brothers.

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I love the story of how Kendrick Lamar used to be your hype man in the beginning.
You know what’s crazy? Everywhere I went, and my niggas was behind me, they were with me rooting. It’s the same way. I kicked the doors open, I was that big brother who took all the hits, got knocked down but they came through and did what they supposed to do. Now I’m back, healed up. Yeah, big bro is back now, what y’all want to do? That’s what it's about. A lot of people don’t understand that type of logic. They are on the outside looking in or saying funny shit that don’t make sense.

That’s the role of the oldest siblings. To take the lumps so the younger siblings can have a smoother path.
In the same way, if your little brother gave you some advice, you got to listen. If we take each other's advice, we listen to each other.

In this four-year hiatus, what was the hardest thing you had to endure?
It came to the point in time when it got rough, but that’s life, period. My one thing that I always kept is [to] never give up. Never fall down. You get knocked down, just get back up. Never quit. That’s basically what I'm pushing on the album, just motivation. Make the best with what you have. Don’t never feel like you lost, because every day you get up you got a new opportunity to go even harder. That’s what its about. Keep your head up and keep pushing, because once you look back and go back, it’s a disaster.

What’s the difference between you now and the Jay Rock back then?
I’m just getting older. In the process of growing. That’s just like a butterfly or any type of animal, it don’t ever stay the same. Just like plants. Flowers grow into all type of shit but it endures the storm. You got your rainy days. That’s basically me. I went through so much trial and tribulations and certain situations... Lesson learned. That’s what's building me up. I learned a lot business-wise and just still being a student of the game. That’s what helped me a lot to change a lot since back then. I’ve been going back and working on my craft. Every opportunity, I’m trying to think of new flows.

What are the specific trials and tribulations you went through?
Just going through shit in the neighborhood, little court issues. Everybody goes through shit in life. But like I said, you can't let that shit stop you on your real mission.

Who is the best pure lyricist in TDE? If there was a power ranking, where do you see yourself?
[Laughs] I’ma keep it 100 with you, I'd probably put myself, on a scale of one to 10, like a seven. I can rap, but I’m not that guy to drop big philosophies. I can't do all that. I'd give it to my nigga Ab-Soul. To me, he is one of the best niggas out the camp. He comes with some shit and he’s off the top with his shit. Some shit that will go over your head.