After Kendrick Lamar delivered upon the immense anticipation surrounding his third album, To Pimp a Butterfly, the follow-up to 2012's game-changing good kid, M.A.A.D city, it looks like the next album out of the TDE camp will come from Jay Rock, who hasn't put out an LP since Summer 2011. Yesterday (June 2), we got Jay's first single of 2015, "Money Trees Deuce," which happens to be a sequel to a record on K-Dot's GKMC, one on which Jay Rock laid his most noteworthy verse ever. 

Though there's no need to compare the two labelmates' (both stunning) contributions to the original "Money Trees," Jay Rock stole the show with just one verse. What better way, then, for Rock to lead into his upcoming album than by doing an entire "Money Trees" record of his own?

Of course, both tracks touch on the same theme. We can't say exactly how "Deuce" will fit into the rest of Jay's album-- whether or not it will be an indelible part of a larger narrative as the original was on GKMC-- but we can say Jay Rock delivers a worthy sequel, complete with three verses that each stand up to the one with which he blessed "Money Trees" the first time around.

Let's start with the production. It was gonna be hard to top the first "Money Trees" beat, crafted by DJ Dahi. He sampled the indie-pop band Beach House to create a painfully nostalgic atmosphere that puts us in a setting far removed, with birds chirping and soft vocal cries, from the streets in which Kendrick and Rock actually dream of "Money Trees." 

"Deuce" is a similarly melancholic instrumental from the production team of Flippa (who helped on "Wesley's Theory" off TPAB) and JProof. The sound is less dreamy, and driven more deliberately by the 808s, there's a sense of urgency that was missing on the original. 

One of the reasons Jay Rock's "Money Trees" verse garnered so much attention is how it stood in opposition to those of Kendrick. K-Dot rapped slowly and thoughtfully, attempting to channel his teenage mindset when he was first introduced to gang life and the according high-risk, high-reward temptations. His memories are fiercely personal, mentioning his first time (with the now-famous Sherane) as well as local Compton establishments such as Church's Chicken and Louie's Burger, where his Uncle Tony took two bullets to the head.

Jay Rock followed Kendrick by transporting us right into the present. Gangbanging is his day-to-day, and there's no time to focus on the right or wrong of it all. The excitement ("Got that drum and I got them bands / Just like a parade, bish") and the ever-looming defeat ("Hope them boys don't see my stash / If they do, tell the truth / This the last time you might see my ass") go hand-in-hand in one visceral depiction of his tenuous environment. Where Kendrick described "Money Trees" as temporary antidotes to constant suffering, Jay Rock sees them as representations of an ultimate end: "In the streets with a heater under my dungarees / Dreams of getting shaded under a money tree." One day he'll escape all this, one way or another, but until he does, the grind continues. 

On "Deuce," Rock does slow down, at first. He begins with a softly-sung hook, and though he's clearly in a contemplative state, the end game remains in tact. "Money Trees," being his only known (or imagined) escape, come before everything. He apologizes to close friends who might end up challenging his mindset; no hard feelings (yet); that's just how it is.

His opening lines immediately show "Deuce" as a sequel-- Jay began "Money Trees" by telling the listener to "Imagine Rock up in them projects"; now, he raps, "Imagine Rock up in that field where the options ain't so audible." He's less urgent on "Deuce," and though his description of Nickerson Gardens is just as fearsome, he's more confident in his job within the system he's been placed in: "Been about the money, fuck that damn lotto." The track is less of an intuitive reaction to his surroundings than an official commitment to his own intentions. He's hardly scared or excited anymore, but he knows exactly how he has to keep going. 

In his last verse, Jay explains the prisoner's dilemma in which he finds himself. If you're already a target, you better know who's gunning for you, and be ready to shoot first: "They wonder why we steady glockin' out here / Cuz niggas they ain't really lockin' out here." In his neighborhood, he can grab a "switch," his only form of protection, and he knows it'll hurt. If only he had "Money Trees" from which he could reach for branches. He'll never stop dreaming. 

Now, let's keep the discussion going with a Kendrick remix...

Which version is your favorite? Vote below!