7 Reasons We’re Excited for a Jay Electronica Album
Many were already aware of Jay Electronica’s talent when he released his freestyle over the ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ score in 2007. By the time he rhymed lines like “They call me Jay Electronica, f— that / Call me Jay ElecHanukkah, Jay ElecYarmulke, Jay ElecRamadaan, Muhammad A’salaamaleikum / RasoulAllah Subhanahu wa ta’ala through your moniter,” on 2009’s stunning ‘Exhibit C,’ one thing was clear: he was rapping his ass off.
The idea of a man saving an entire culture by simply doing just that was a thrilling one. Unfortunately, the album that was set to showcase that, ‘Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn),’ never came. The New Orleans native had a few great guest verses and a solid mixtape in 2007, ‘What The F— Is A Jay Electronica,’ but the enigmatic rapper gradually faded away from the hype. His debut album became a myth along the lines of Dr. Dre’s ‘Detox.’
So will this be the year Jay Electronica takes his throne as hip-hop’s king? He’s dropped a number of verses in recent months, tweeted about his discontent toward the current state of hip-hop and made a momentous appearance at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival earlier this month. The answer is still a maybe, however. What is clear is that the attention toward Electronica’s activity is a reminder that fans haven’t forgotten about his movement. It’s been seven years since he dropped that mixtape and now we’re waiting for a complete follow-up. Check out 7 Reasons We’re Excited for a Jay Electronica Album.
Exhibit C's Appeal
‘Exhibit C’ may not be the best song of the past five years or even of Jay Electronica’s catalog but his first official single is best viewed as an event -- and it’s certainly one of the most epic in recent hip-hop history. There’s plenty to laud from an objective, critical perspective. There's vivid, passionately expressed imagery and instant quotables (“I make the devil hit his knees and say the Our Father).
But ‘Exhibit C’ feels like it encompasses more than its five-minute length or the Just Blaze intro and outro. The track covers the well-tread, here’s-my-story-up-until-now narrative, except this time it’s prophetic. Electronica comes with everything at once: he’s Rev Run rockin’ adidas in Hollis Ave.; a homeless man in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with next to nothing in his bank account; a man of the struggle and a man of power. There’s a sense of awe as all this is delivered. Once the astonishment subsides and the world feels like it’s moving again, the excitement that this may be what the future is like sets in.
Solid Guest Verses
Sometimes great verses get overshadowed by the blogosphere. Who really thought Jay Electronica was going to get his shine when everyone was dumbstruck about Kendrick Lamar’s 'Control' verse? Electronica's verse on the 'We Made It' remix was solid but Jay Z took a shot at Drake and all of the talk was centered on that diss.
Take a little look past those stories and you’ll find out that Electronica had great guest spots on those two songs. It’s not quite at the level of some of his greatest material, but they at least show he’s still a sharp MC. Electronica anchors Lamar’s madness with a muted, darkly metaphorical verse (“The eyelashes like umbrellas when it rains from the heart / And the tissue is like an angel kissin' you in the dark”). On ‘We Made It,’ he shows he’s so self-aware that even his braggadocio convey complexities (“N---- we made it from slaves on a slave ship / Live from the cotton fields, straight to the spaceship”-- Jay Electronica as the rap game’s Sun-Ra).
Guest spots aren’t a new hustle for Electronica either. His feature on Curren$y’s ‘The Day’ and his resurrection on Mac Miller’s ‘Suplexes Inside of Complexes & Duplexes' are prime examples.
Jay Electronica is different from many rappers in the game not just because he’s dated a Rothschild or made a song like ‘Dimethyltryptamine,' but because the man is generally not associated with any sort of beef. Electronica has generated a lot of respect despite his small discography.
His Rolodex looks pretty big, too. He has Jay Z and Roc Nation on his side, which is a big co-sign in itself. There are those potential collaborations Jay Z could hook up, and then there are the ones that can happen because of Electronica’s past work. You can argue that Nas still owes him for providing the production for ‘Queens Get the Money' -- ‘Untitled’s’ undeniable highlight. Since the rapper has also appeared on tracks with Mos Def, Kendrick Lamar and English indie artist the Bullitts, the high-profile collaboration possibilities aren’t just numerous; they’re wide-ranging.
Songs With Substance
Hip-hop heads tend to pay attention when some sort of structure is being shaken up, so Jay Electronica naturally has some appeal. His emphasis on lyricism and metaphors juxtaposes the general focus on mainstream viability. What’s even more interesting is how he positions himself as hip-hop’s anti-hero on Twitter. The genre has developed a heightened paranoia about culture vultures and watered down material these past few months.
His words detailing the fact "97% of The Artist in music are making songs about absolutely nothing," and tweeting, “Culture vultures. we don’t respect you,” foretells an upheaval and overall shift in musical focus. The latter won’t sit peacefully in a competitive genre where everyone naturally craves recognition. One would have to expect the game’s top guns to step it up if Electronica tries to impose his will.
Erykah Badu's Creative Influence
The Queen of Neo-soul has her relationship history well-documented, and a big reason is the creative changes her ex-boyfriends experience after they meet her. The best examples are Andre 3000 and Common. Erykah Badu’s relationship with the former ended sometime in 1999. Andre 3000 already had a spacy aesthetic, but it was nothing compared to the wigs and outfits he was sporting in the new millennium.
As for Common, look no further than the difference between the soulful classic ‘Like Water For Chocolate’ (made during his relationship with Badu) and the wildly experimental ‘Electric Circus’ (made at the tail end of their union).
Is Jay Electronica immune to the Badu Box? Maybe. Even Badu was astounded when he made that epic freestyle over the ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ soundtrack. But it'll be interesting to hear his creative mindset on a new album after his experience with Ms. Badu.
That Stellar Performance in Brooklyn
Jay Electronica headlining the 2014 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival was a huge deal in itself. The rhymer gave more than what was originally anticipated by bringing out Mac Miller, J. Cole, Talib Kweli and, to everyone’s shock, Jay Z.
The lasting images were Jay Z giving Electronica a Universal Flag of the 5 Percenter Nation medallion and the latter rolling deep with Fruit of Islam followers in uniform. This may not be just an appearance, but the beginning of a movement. It’s even Farrakhan approved.
Owning the Conversation
By this time last year, we had big releases from Kanye West, Mac Miller and J. Cole all on the same day. Then there was Jay Z's 'Magna Carter Holy Grail' and the major marketing ploy that came along with it as well as some new songs from Drake. Plus, there was still ‘Nothing Was the Same,’ Pusha T’s ‘My Name Is My Name' and Danny Brown’s ‘Old’ to look forward to.
This year, we have Freddie Gibbs’ ‘Pinata,' YG’s ‘My Krazy Life,' DJ Mustard's prominence, Bobby Shmurda’s sudden rise and a Nicki Minaj release to look forward to. That’s not much. Compared to the past three years, 2014's new music has been pretty stale commercially and in terms of star power. A Jay Electronica album release is hoped for not just because he’s one of the most hyped artists in recent memory but because a project from him is at least something to talk about.