Is it an electro producer strenuously trying to be hip? Is it an abstruse attempt made by Jay Z to try and reinvent himself after becoming infatuated with Justin Timberlake’s versatility whilst on tour? Is it a person, or instead, a ‘peculiarly intelligent, beautiful, pointy-eared, mythical creature’? Fortuitously, we can disregard the former questions. However, the latter remains undecided. Nonetheless, one thing is indisputable, Timothy Thedford (Jay Electronica), who originated from the nefarious Magnolia Projects, didn’t merely predict that this mystery would pervade and taunt his audience, no, he purposefully engineered this anonymity. It is for this reason that he eponymously named his only mixtape: ‘WHAT THE F*CK IS A JAY ELECTRONICA’. Even now, six years after his first album ‘Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)’ was released, he is still tactfully orchestrating the same elusiveness by dogmatically casting all burdening queries and anticipation regarding the release date of his forthcoming album: ‘Act 2: Patents of Nobility (The Turn)’ off the tracks as he composedly reassures us: ‘My train is on schedule’.
However, although it would be degenerative, and perhaps insolent to pursue the New Orleanian scientific rapper for further information while he resides and recites inside the depths of solitude somewhere in London, one man who we can momentarily turn to is Just Blaze – the visionary who produced Jay Z’s ‘Kingdom Come’; Kanye West’s ‘Touch the Sky (ft. Lupe Fiasco)’; Talib Kweli’s ‘Hostile Gospel Pt. 1’; and significantly, three of Electronica’s singles: ‘Exhibit A (ft. Mos Def)’, ‘Exhibit C’, and ‘Dear Moleskine (ft. Kendrick Lamar)’: ‘The situation is Jay moves at his own pace […] he has always moved at his own pace. There is an album. It’s a damn good album’. Mark Twain once proclaimed: ‘The more haste the less speed’. Well Elect has irrefutably adopted this mantra – after all, the avant-garde poet intricately released his first album at the age of 30 – 11 years after he began to pursue his musical endeavours.
Now that we have re-landed on a platonic platform named: ‘Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)’, and therefore enmeshed ourselves within the same boundless bubble, let’s leave reality to lethargically levitate by our bedroom’s floorboards, while the ‘Mona Lisa of Hip-Hop’ begins to lift not only our imagination, but also our consciousness, until they are prepared to homogeneously float beyond the ceilings of Charlie’s Chocolate Factory:
“She said she never fell in love with a Superman Christian, Muslim, Protestant, Lutheran, I told her that being a mortal is a portal to the true nature of growth; the Christ-like Buddha man.”
Did ‘the hip-hop Jack Kerouac’ just modestly expose the segmenting foundations of conservative religion in the first four lines of his album? I believe so. How? By phonetically painting over all antediluvian divisions before prophesizing that he who gives props to impermanence, and therefore, boasts in his own weakness, will ascertain transcendence; whereas those who claim superiority whilst covertly continuing to chase the unattainable shadows of perfection will conventionally ‘go to work; go to church’ and ‘let their dreams die’. Deep? Very.
Nonetheless, as the irrepressible rhymer phonologically shape shifts from the form of an omnipotent entity to a victimized man yet still fearlessly persists with the ‘no drums no hooks’ formula in ‘Because He Broke The Rules’, the ‘god-hop’ only gets deeper:
“The handling of a heart’s a very delicate art cause it’s paper thin. One irrelevant thought that started out as a spark could be a poisonous dart that leaves a permanent mark that’s ice cold in the day and burns in the dark, and makes you never wanna see her face again.”
In essence, our ears, conscious, sub-conscious, and soul are not enough – the inscrutable versifier demands that we throw our hearts into the offering bowl as well, and in return he will give us his. However, he doesn’t ungraciously propose this – au contraire. Instead, he dexterously codifies the layered fragility of his heart, and the excruciating ‘pain’ he was ‘holding back’ in Track One, in an attempt to re-humanise himself so the audience do not categorise him as pretentious, and instead, sentimentally commerce with, and relate to, the break-up-inspired guilt and heartache that haunts him.
Is this Jay Electronica? An eclectic pathos-conjuring minstrel who is capable of forcing an insensate French Montana to worry about everything, whilst correspondingly compelling a dangerously-fanatical-inquisitor like myself, to comprehensively check themselves, worry about nothin’, and just cherish the violin-driven moment? We have 68 seconds to make an ear witness testimony before the rhyming illusionist transmigrates into a ‘Voodoo Man’; as the album (which I still stubbornly consider ‘a 15 minute single’) continues to unravel. Elect has introduced a deep-looping, hypnotic clarinet to time us. However, as Willy Wonka once exclaimed: ‘There’s no earthly way of knowing!’, and consequently, we are forced to fearfully listen to the schizophrenic chocolate owner stigmatically yell: ‘you lose! Good day sir!’
Nevertheless, in correspondence to how the deliberately-bipolar virtuoso calls Charlie back to victory before he descends back down to mundane reality with his face facing the floor, the Louisianan lyricist rewards us for devoutly refusing to adjudge his identity, by admitting his primary purpose in the penultimate track ‘FYI’:
“I’m trying to kill Lucifer, so if I have to brake cause a rapper in my face tellin’ me that he the great, you can bet a shiny nickel I’ll blast his motherfuckin’ ass way past Jupiter [...] lettin’ off steam, Dimethyltryptamine make a man dream but ya’ll would much rather hear me rappin’ bout trash, the size of Erykah’s ass, blunts and cash we need saving – minds are consumed with swine we need bathin’.”
DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) is the chemical that induces images of our life to flash across our minds moments before death. Therefore, the Roc Nation rapper is revealing that he longs to ceaselessly exert coated metaphors (that match the vividness of the aforementioned sensation) to disgrace and abolish the tainted, misogynistic and materialistic pillars of Hip-Hop, and in turn revamp the whole game.
But, for doing so, would we respect him? Or do we just wanna get faded to rhymes about his ex-wife (renowned neo-soul singer-songwriter Erykah Badu’s) figure, how much chronic he lights up erryday, and how ‘he’s makin’ so much money he could buy yo’ bitch’? It is my view that the erroneous idiom: ‘Hip-Hop is dead’ is merely a failed valediction. In fact, with auditory memories of Ab-Soul’s Control System, Capital Steez’s AmeriKKKan Korruption, Joe Budden’s A Loose Quarter, Joey Bada$$’s 1999, Mac Miller’s Watching Movies with the Sound Off, Melo-X’s GOD: HIFI, and Nas’ Life is Good inhabiting my mind, I would venture to say Hip-Hop is currently as good as it has ever been – the sale of more than 1,000,000 copiesof Kendrick Lamar’s ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’, just under 600,000 copies of J.Cole’s ‘Born Sinner’, and 112,000 copies of The Roots’ ‘Undun’ highlight this.
However, the existence of 100 tracks that featured 2 Chainz (a 36 year old man who also goes by the name Tity Boi) in one single year, signify that Hip-Hop’s audience is, to put it lightly, antithetical. In truth, the parasitical culture-killing she-got-a-big-booty-so-I-call-her-big-booty-music is still receiving universal coverage and commendation, whilst Jay Electronica’s artwork is detained inside a cellar underneath the Hall of Fame. Such musical injustices have clearly provoked Talib Kweli to duteously post a rallying tweet: ‘Everyone who has a job in hip hop (sic) music owes it to the culture to attempt to celebrate & preserve it, in any way they can’ on Sunday the 13th of October. Jay Electronica has been ready to preserve yet progress this revolutionary genre since the beginning. The author ofthe composite verse that many unjustly overlooked (after becoming dumbfounded by Kendrick Lamar’s preceding ground-breaking verse on Big Sean’s Control) is ready to ascend with a vengeance – ‘are you watching closely?’