2018 has been a watershed year for Watts, California rapper Jay Rock. The label mate of Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, SZA, Ab-Soul and Isaiah Rashad suffered setbacks in his professional and personal lives in recent years but with this year’s Redemption, Jay reminded listeners why he was an early signee to Top Dawg Entertainment. The album follows 2015’s 90059 (“you know the zip”) and a period of rehabilitation after the MC suffered a serious motorbike accident in 2016.
On September 29, Eastside Johnny electrified Republic NOLA on his Big Redemption Tour stop. Clad in his signature athleisure wear with Nike Cortez and his own merch, he delivered a robust set for a gleeful audience. Fans got to hear a medley of Redemption material including “Knock It Off,” “The Bloodiest,” “ES Tales,” “Tap Out,” “Wow Freestyle,” “OSOM,” “Troopers,” “Rotation 112th,” “Redemption” and, of course, the anthemic “WIN.” For that rousing closer, Jay and his team threw out Mardi Gras beads in a nod to New Orleans. It was a nice touch; rarely do artists passing through town make a point of acknowledging their outsider-ness in such a memorable way. New Orleanians can get Mardi Gras beads any time, but there was something particularly touching about a crew of passers-through taking a moment to connect with fans.
Elsewhere, Jay performed material from past releases, including “Hood Gone Love It” and “Money Trees.” His entire set was hiii energy, seamless and punctuated with moments of gratitude. He frequently addressed the crowd, expressing his thankfulness at being given a second chance in life and music. He’d never know this, but there was a particularly poignant air in the venue that night. New Orleans rap shows are hit-or-miss in terms of attendance and energy. For Jay Rock, the audience seemed genuinely happy. Platitudes aside, it was a beautiful night. It was irrefutable proof that Jay Rock is, indeed, redeemed.
All photos by Laiken Joy.
I’d be remiss not to mention Reason. The most recent TDE roster member had the dubious challenge of releasing an album on the same day as Lil Wayne. There You Have It arrived September 28, just a day before the show at Republic. Representing Carson, California (the same city as undisputed lyrical giants Ras Kass and label mate Ab-Soul) the gifted spitter was visibly eager to showcase the prowess that makes him a contender for greatest rap debut of 2018. He opened with the album’s self-titled track before launching into a rendition of one of the album’s stand-out cuts, “Drive Slow / Taste Like Heaven.” Once the crowd recognized the Kanye West sample, they were sold. The apex of his set was easily “Fuck Wit Me,” during which he was almost acrobatic in his energy. He jumped and lunged, allowing the energy of the moment to lift him high above the stage. As is customary with TDE, there was a symbiosis between label mates, too. Reason donned Jay Rock merch in a sign of solidarity. Rap fans are encouraged to check out Reason’s interview with Ambrosia For Heads.
Offering support at the top of the evening’s bill was Malik Ninety-Five, the New Orleans rapper and producer who recently sat down with OffBeat.com to discuss his forthcoming project, Tragedy’s Under the Sun