This is a special newsletter. From usually writing about a couple of artists, and linking multiple tracks – this newsletter will be all about Jay Electronica.
Why a special newsletter about Jay Electronica?
Jay is like a myth. He’s been a phenomenon for over 10 years, without releasing a single album. He broke the internet back in 2009 when he released the track Exhibit C. He gained a massive following from that track. Just after release, he promised his album was on the way. It never came. He has promised multiple times that his album is soon to be released. It never came. He even gave exact dates throughout the years when the album was supposed to drop. It never came.
But the mythology surrounding Jay Electronica not only kept on giving – it spread, and gained popularity and he’s in a unique position where he has kept momentum for over 12 years — without releasing an album or barely any music at all.
Who is Jay Electronica
Some basic facts are that he’s from New Orleans. He’s about 45. He has a brother. He’s was homeless for a long time. Then he couch-surfed for a longer time. Than he released a few singles, got some money, a place to stay, got signed by Jay Z’s record label Roc Nation in 2010. Got engaged to the beyond-rich heiress of the Rothschild family. Cancelled that wedding. Lived in a castle on the british countryside for a while. Moved back to America.
Why is he famous?
Despite the few selection of tracks, a sparse discography, he has always been sort of a cult-icon for poetic, political and philosophical hip hop. He’s known to be a writer with profound talent. Whenever he drops a track, there’s always long forum threads of people trying to decipher the meaning of his lyrics. And they’re often religious (he’s closely connected to Brothers of Islam) or related to the black power movement in America. And It’s such a nice breath to hear the more poetic lyrics varied by popular radio music where it’s more about catchy hooks. None of the two types of hip hop are bad, I just feel it’s a healthy relationship to hip hop to include them both in the daily music rotation.
He’s been invited to the top of hip hop, and collaborate with top producers and rappers. Some tracks on the album are older, but included anyhow, like Shiny Suit Theory where Jay Electronica has a conversation with P Diddy raps:
“Me and Puff, we was chilling in Miami
He said, ‘Nigga, fuck the underground, you need to win a Grammy
For your mama and your family — they need to see you shined up”
Listen to Shiny Suit Theory ft. Jay Z
We built a mighty high ladder, let me see you climb up’
And during the album, you sense his purpose to deliver his thoughts, almost like he believes he himself is a prophecy, which rhymes well with the mythology that has been built around him.
The album drop
So today we got the album. And it’s 10 songs. We hear Jay Z on 7 of them (they’re close friends and collaborators). A mixture of producers, from The Alchemist, Swizz Beats, Hit-Boy, NO I.D., himself, and more. It’s the greatest of the great in terms of producer line-up. And with Jay Z delivering bars at his highest level. It’s a perfect symmetry of collaborations. In the middle of the album, when you’ve been introduced to him again, he raps:
“If you want to be a master in life, you must submit to a master/I was
born to lock horns with the devil at the brink of the hereafter,”
Listen to The Neverending Story
Which bridges you to the rest of the album, getting ready for his attempt of becoming the rap icon we’ve built around him. With the mix of religion and a stab back at his conversation with Puffy, he delivers on the mythology built around him, and from the start to the end, there’s bar after bar that stays, barely letting you take a breath before next verse pops up in a thoughtful manner.
With a calming beat, with both Jay Electronica and Jay Z taking turns of rapping, Universal Soldier stands out.
Due to closing the album, leaving you with so many thoughts after all these bars, I really appreciate the next to last track Ezekiel’s Wheel with the ghostly production surrounding him, Jay Z and The-Dream.