Jay Rock + Big Heath @ O2 Academy, Birmingham, UK – 19th February 2019

Review and photography by Robert Barrett

In my opinion Jay Rock is the most underrated member of famed rap label TDE. He produces consistently good albums, but gets easily overlooked against bigger names like Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q. His current tour is titled ‘Redemption’, could this be his moment to truly shine on his own merits?

As supports go, I cannot say I expected anything like Big Heath. The self proclaimed “fat f*****r from Cambridge” seemed a far cry away from Jay Rock’s native Compton. However as soon as he took to the mic he immediately showed his flow and lyrical ability. For me the constant jokes about size and visiting Tesco started to wear a bit thin during an otherwise enjoyable freestyle. This all changed when he introduced new track ‘Bouncy’, a club banger with some serious flow. I could easily see being a breakout track for him.

Big Heath

After a brief interval, the red ‘Redemption’ sign lit up. The crowd got their phones at the ready anticipating Jay Rock’s arrival. Instead a melody of Kendrick Lamar songs played, which got the crowd jumping. Even when Jay Rock’s hype man came out, another melody of TDE greatest hits were played. I almost wondered if Jay Rock was even going to show. Once the warm up tracks had whipped the crowd into a frenzy, Jay Rock took to the stage.

Trap influenced ‘Knock it Off’ opened the set, with Jay Rock’s signature delivery in full force. The set rarely let up, with one of his earlier hits ‘Hood Gone Love It’ causing the crowd to chant the chorus straight back at him. Once again the looming spectre of Kendrick worked its way into the set, with Jay Rock delivering his verses from Kendrick cuts ‘Money Trees’ and ‘Kings Dead’. They were instant crowd pleasers, and Jay Rock brought his A Game in delivering them with all the passion and grit heard on the recorded versions.

The momentum only really slowed down before title track ‘Redemption’ from the album of the same name. A quick run through on the well documented near death bike crash in 2015 that made him refocus his life. It was a sincere moment that added weight and depth to the performance. A triumphant finish on recent single ‘WIN’ ended the set in celebratory style.

Using the status of his label mates, Jay Rock delivered an excellent set that proved his talent. It remains to be seen whether he can follow their trajectory, but this is a strong step in the right direction.


Knock it Off
The Bloodiest
Hood Gone Love It
I Just Wanna Party (YG Cover)
ES Tales
Tap Out
Tity and Dolla (Isaiah Rashad Cover)
Wow Freestyle
Money Trees (Kendrick Lamar Cover)

(The original version of this article was first published on Gigjunkies http://www.gigjunkies.com/band-reviews/jay-rock-big-heath-at-o2-academy-birmingham-uk-19th-february-2019/)

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