The Other People's Money Company/Interscope
The Other People's Money Company / Interscope

A stint in jail can throw off an artist's entire career but luckily for Los Angeles native Jay 305, the setback was inspiration for his comeback, which is detailed on his debut album, Taking All Bets.

This new LP lets listeners know more about the West Coast new age G-funk rep than ever before. If debut albums were rated purely on how familiar a fan becomes with said artist, than Jay would score top marks. Despite the short tracklist though, Taking All Bets took roughly two full years to complete, which by listening to it, makes total sense. Jay doesn’t waste one single bar on this album nor does he add any unnecessary filler. Jay made the exact album he wanted to here—or at least it sounds that way.

He kicks things off with “Stay Dangerous,” a declaration of savagery that gets carried throughout the entire 12-song tracklist. The song packs raw energy into a full three minutes of straight bars but “Bubble Up & Double Up” is where Jay really starts getting busy. Cascading distortion keys tumble across a mix of trap drums and hi-hats to create a lush and loopy West Coast bounce. Jay takes a break from the rapid-fire delivery and oozes his smooth bravado with lines like, “Fat boy in some Dickies/Margiela can't fit me.” A seemingly mediocre line actually pulls back the curtain on what Jay really represents. When’s the last time you heard a rapper in 2017 discredit a designer brand like Margiela and throw all praise to $35 Dickies work pants—a signature West Coast look? Not often. And if that wasn’t enough to recognize his L.A. roots, he spells it out on the YG-assisted “All Around the World” by saying “Jay 305, more L.A. than the Rams.”

With “Fuck You Pay Me – Interlude” serving as the transitional track, the album moves from traditional to experimental. The top seven songs are inherently West Coast-inspired, combining flagrant flexing and twanging beats for lowrider cruises and pool parties alike. The second half however is a little slower and pulls from a variety of different hip-hop subgenres, all of which proving Jay’s bubbling diversity and range as a technically sound rapper.

Travis Scott lends his musical talents to "Why You So Nasty?,” which is the perfect combination of Jay’s lyric driven roots and Travis’ spacey trap soundscapes. Jay also gets a top-notch feature from OPM boss Dom Kennedy. It’s obvious that these two have rapped alongside each other more than once as their flows and cadences contain the same ebbs and flows. They both take a step in the creative direction with mellow background production.

The finale “Ain’t No Love Lost” showcases another element of Jay's character. In one fell swoop, Jay sums up who he is as a rapper and more importantly, who he is as a man living in America. Arin Ray provides silky vocals on the chorus as Jay lets his West Coast crusader guard down and opens up about love, loss and the difficult spot that comes with trying to balance both. Lines like, “Looking at your casket only God knows how I really feel inside/I just want to cry” are incredibly sobering to anyone who was still riding the high provided by the gangster jams mere minutes prior. Being able to smoothly transition from one mood to another without sounding corny isn’t easy to do these days, and Jay pulls it off without a hitch.

While the project works to his benefit, what's missing from the album is a notable song with substantial musical endurance, which may seem backwards to say in a world where reaching for singles is criticized. At this point in Jay's career, there needs to be more than just a solid body of work for his stock to rise exponentially. The rap game moves fast and having a track or two that dominates and has the potential to hit the charts is never a bad thing.

Altogether, Taking All Bets will pleasantly surprise both hardcore fans that have been rocking with Jay 305 before his incarceration and those casual listeners directed to his album thanks to his friend Dom Kennedy’s Twitter feed. His sound has definitely matured, his rhyming style has improved drastically since Inner City Hero and his vulnerability is a welcomed turn between his gritty storytelling. "Stay low and keep firing/The streets ain't got no retirement," Jay rhymes on "Stay Dangerous," a notion that solidifies his all-or-nothing outlook on Taking All Bets.

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