2008–2011: Follow Me Home and signing to Strange Music
Rock released his commercial debut single, "All My Life (In the Ghetto)" in late 2008, featuring fellow American recording artists Lil Wayne and will.i.am. The single was promoted as one of "iTunes's Free Downloads" in early 2009. In 2010, Rock was featured on the cover of XXL's annual Top 10 Freshmen issue. He was also named by MTV one of 2010's breakthrough MCs. Jay Rock was featured on Omarion's song "Hoodie" and was supposed to be featured on Flo Rida's third studio album Only One Flo but was left off the final tracklisting.
Rock's mixtape Tales From the Hood 2 went to iTunes on March 28, 2010 and his mixtape From the Hood to the Cover of XXL was released to iTunes on July 24, 2010. He also toured with 50 Cent, and other rappers on The Invitation Tour. Around the same time he left Warner Bros. due to them delaying his album. Jay Rock then signed with indie record label Strange Music in the Fall of 2010, on a multi-album deal after leaving from Warner Bros. Jay Rock then went on tour with Tech N9ne, E-40, Glasses Malone, Kutt Calhoun and Kendrick Lamar on the "Independent Grind National Tour". His mixtape Black Friday, was released December 7, 2010 to iTunes.
On June 21, 2011 Rock released his second single, "Hood Gone Love It", featuring Kendrick Lamar. His debut album Follow Me Home was released on July 26, 2011 under independent record labels Strange Music and Top Dawg. The album debuted at #83 on the Billboard 200, selling 5,300 copies in its first week. "Hood Gone Love It" was featured in the character trailer for Franklin, a main protagonist in the video-game Grand Theft Auto V. The song is also featured in the in-game radio station Radio Los Santos.
During 2012, Rock also toured with the rest of Black Hippy and Stalley, on BET's Music Matters Tour. Rock's appearance on Good kid, m.A.A.d city, was highly significant as he was the only other rapper from Black Hippy to be featured on the standard edition of the album. He was featured on the song "Money Trees", for which his verse was highly acclaimed. He also performed "Money Trees" with Lamar at the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards, along with appearing in the TDE Cypher. XXL named his verse the fourth best of the night. In November 2013, he told Power 105 that his second studio album would be released in 2014.