Among the slickest West Coast rappers since he released his proper debut single, “All My Life” (2008), Jay Rock rode the momentum of being named to XXL’s 2010 Freshman Class to deliver the Top 20 releases 90059 (2015) and Redemption (2018). Born Johnny Reed McKinzie, Jr., Rock was raised in the Watts neighborhood — specifically the Nickerson Gardens public housing complex — of Los Angeles, California. With most neighborhood teens joining a gang, he was in a no-win situation, since hanging with any of his childhood friends meant he was engaging in “antisocial behavior” according to the law. Two such incidents found Rock violating the area’s gang injunction and landing in jail. These hard times influenced the rapper’s lyrics, and soon appearances on local mixtapes found him rapping in a hard style reminiscent of local hero the Game. With help from Top Dawg Entertainment, Rock shopped his demos and mixtapes, eventually landing a deal with Warner Bros. In 2008, the major label released his single “All My Life (In the Ghetto)” with guest stars Lil Wayne and will.i.am. By the end of 2010, he had left Warner, but had deepened his connection with TDE as a member of Black Hippy beside contemporaries Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, and Ab-Soul. Additionally, he was named to XXL magazine’s 2010 Freshman Class.
Still with TDE and temporarily supported by Tech N9ne’s Strange Music, Rock released Follow Me Home in 2011. The album contained “All My Life,” as well as Rock’s second official single, the Kendrick Lamar collaboration “Hood Gone Love It,” and reached number 83 on the Billboard 200. Between full-length projects, Rock’s biggest move was an appearance on “Money Trees,” a track off Lamar’s landmark 2012 album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. Lamar returned the favor on Rock’s 2015 sophomore release, 90059 (titled after the Watts zip code). It debuted at number 16 and featured “Money Trees Deuce,” a number 35 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop single. In 2018, after he survived a serious motorcycle accident, Rock joined with Lamar, Future, and James Blake for the number 21 pop hit “King’s Dead,” which appeared on Marvel’s Lamar-curated Black Panther soundtrack. Rock’s third proper album, Redemption, followed that June via Interscope and entered the Billboard 200 at number 13.