When Jay Electronica Casts Stones at Rappers, Here’s Why You Should Pay Attention
Hip-hop and religion have been pleasant acquaintances for quite some time. Whether it be Christianity, Islam or even devil worship, they've made their way into the genre countless times. An MC's rhymes are to listeners what hymns are to the average church-goer. Verses from the likes of Rakim, Nas and Jay Z are regarded as scripture by the staunchest rap purist and regarded with an air of reverence that is reserved only for the most talented urban griot. But recent remarks by enigmatic rapper Jay Electronica have caused a bit of a stir.
Last week (Aug. 19), a clip surfaced of the "Exhibit C" rapper directing some loose words toward a few of rap's most bankable names at the moment. The moment went down during a performance in London. “Jay Electronica is the God of hip-hop,” he said, which was captured on video inside the XOYO club. “You might be the 6 God, but I am the God." Many hip-hop fans perceived the statement to be a jab at Toronto native Drake.
Jay Elec also threw a shot at fellow Roc Nation signee J. Cole, sarcastically apologizing, “I’m sorry, but J. Cole ain’t got bars like this. I’m sorry. Whoever your favorite rapper is, they all know that I’m the God.” While neither MC has commented on Jay's diatribe yet, it does raise a few questions. The most pressing one being: does Jay Electronica even have the right to call out Drake and J. Cole? If so, what gives him the clearance to?
First, let's tackle Jay's shot at the self-proclaimed 6 God himself, Drake. Initially claiming rights to the moniker in 2014, the actor-turned-rap star has since made it a point to remind his constituents of his status as a living deity for the best part of the past 365 days. Whether it be through song or the press, Drizzy has always held himself in high regard. However, there's been subtle backlash from his peers who seem to view the OVO poster child as more of a false prophet than the second coming.
Maybach Music Group artist Meek Mill was the most vocal of the group, dropping the bombshell that Drake is all but a mortal man that needs outside assistance in terms of penning the witty one-liners and R&B ballads that he seems to churn out so effortlessly. Meek's claims that Drake uses a ghostwriter sparked what will more than likely go down as one of the biggest moments in hip-hop in 2015.
Reference tracks surfaced that even showcased alleged ghostwriter Quentin Miller recording the same lyrics Drake used on his If You're Reading This It's Too Late album. In the old testament of rap, Drake would have been stoned to death after Meek's shocking revelation in addition to the reference tracks leaking. But new times have brought about new fans with new standards, meaning that Drake has dodged the allegations with what has become two of the hottest songs of the summer in "Hotline Bling" and the indelible, yet prickly diss track, "Back to Back."
The latter was thrust into the conversation of most memorable disses of all time alongside the likes of Boogie Down Productions' "The Bridge Is Over," 2Pac's "Hit Em Up" and Nas' "Ether," among other landmark nail-in-the-coffin cuts. While its brilliance and potency may have been a tad bit inflated, "Back to Back" did manage to make Meek Mill appear as nothing short of Judas Iscariot in the court of public opinion, a jealous traitor that had lost favor with his own faction and the people by trying to grab the Romans, aka the much dreaded "rap purists" while the people's current Jesus slept.
The rift dominated the news for the better part of July and got everyone's attention -- even the political guys -- including fellow rappers who had their own takes on the situation. While many MCs weighed in on the topic, only a few had the gall to throw a pebble, let alone a rock in hopes of shattering the current facade that Drake is the lord of anything other than the Billboard charts, radio and Degrassi reunions. Some may read that last sentence and conclude those bragging rights are all that Drake should be concerned with and they're sadly mistaken.
Jay Electronica's remark directed toward Drake is a reminder that while numbers never lie, rhymes are the currency that keeps the genre alive and the 6 God may need to leave the additional architects home before anointing himself as a ruler over anything other than catchy tunes. He might have to put his talk of being a God in rap to rest if he does use ghostwriters.
As for Jay Electronica's jab at J. Cole, that is where things get a little interesting. Jay Elec may be damn nice with the pen, but by all accounts, we also know Jermaine Cole to be a writer for himself and others, putting him in an elite class of scribes whose skills are so good that they're contracted to lesser spit-kickers. Cole also has the distinction of being the first rapper in over two decades to have an album go platinum without any features, which is a hell of a feat in these times of the Frankenstein recording session and dismal record sales.
Call him boring or corny, but J. Cole has carved a lane as one of the more promising rap talents of this generation and inserted himself into the conversation as one of the best lyricists out right now. But if the truth were to be told and skills truly sold, lyrically, most MCs would kill for a skill set remotely similar to the one that Jay Electronica possesses. It wouldn't even be a question because the guy is just that damn good. Be it storytelling, introspection or just all-out lyrical assaults, Jay has it all and can do anything behind the mic just short of making a hit on the pop charts.
Unlike many artists of today, Jay Electronica's claim to fame is more based on simply being "nice" with it as opposed to having the midas touch or the ability to get the clubs rocking. Jay Electronica may not be the God of hip-hop, but he could make a case for being its latest begotten son with a good chance at giving hip-hop the boost it needs with his near-mythical debut LP, Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn) -- if and when he decides to release it for public consumption. A few years ago he even announced on Twitter that the project is complete, yet we're still waiting for its arrival.
His list of accolades thus far may be sparse, but read superior to many artists that are currently active in terms of bragging rights as a lyricist. A profile in The Source's Unsigned Hype column in 2004 was the first of many cosigns for the New Orleans native, which came about due to staffers of the legendary rap mag being left in awe by the relative unknown's lyrical dexterity, presence on the mic and his unmistakable handle on the craft of rhyming. While that accomplishment didn't translate into a record deal or even much of a buzz, it wouldn't be too long until Jay Elec made major waves after posting his mixtape, Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge), on a Myspace page in 2007.
The release featured former girlfriend Erykah Badu singing his praises -- a hell of a nod for someone who'd had yet to drop a widely recognized mixtape, let alone a single. Co-signs from the likes of Jay Z and Just Blaze, the most accomplished rapper and one of the most respected producers of all-time, made his stock rise even further. And when you add in the fact that we're even still giving time to a rapper that dropped his one and only rap single, "Exhibit C," in 2009, with more fervor than most rappers that dropped a project last week, that should be another indication of the magnetism Jay Electronica's music possesses.
One of the only instances we can recall of a rapper being this discussed between his arrival and his actual debut is Nas. However, he actually released singles here and there and only took three years to make good on all of the hooplah. Jay Elec has had five years and counting and we're still yearning for that LP that is sure to send every rap nerd on the planet into a tizzy.
So yes, Jay Electronica is fully within his right to call out Drake, J. Cole or whomever he wants and question the strength of their words because at the end of the day, we doubt many would survive a rap battle against him if the challenge was accepted. An MC's two main jobs are to be dope and always be prepared for battle. We don't know about those other religions, but in rap, you must always be prepared for war.
By the way, J. Cole had a better verse on "Just Begun" compared to Jay Electronica. Just in case you were wondering. With that said, no sleep til Act II drops.
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