Last week, the hip hop world was aflutter over Jay Electronica’s debut solo album.
Jay Elec debuted to the masses in 2008 shortly before linking with Just Blaze. The team dropped classics like Exhibit C and many more that brandished a measured spiritual flow with ridiculous wordplay. When news leaked back in 2010 that he signed with Roc Nation, again, the hip hop world took pause. The potential collaborations with the Team Roc stable and Hov himself were limitless and it was clear Jay Electronica could handle himself.
Still we waited until last Friday, March 13th, 2020 when his debut album ‘A Written Testimony’ entered the streaming world and downloaded with baited anticipation. From the outset your militancy is tickled and the Honorable Louis Farrakhan sets the tone for a grown man’s perspective.
Jay Electronica is a New Orleans born Muslim that is a part of the Nation of Islam. He also is a member of the Fruit of Islam, a security faction of the Nation.
The intro track, ‘The Overwhelming Event’ is powerful and then drops into an homage to late New Orleans rapper, Soulja Slim. The track entitled ‘Ghost of Soulja Slim’ is a beautifully masculine unapologetically direct call out of the weak-minded. Wrapping it in the realness of Soulja Slim’s memory is genius.
Then JAY-Z starts off the album.
That was a flex on Jay Elect’s part, I’m hip.
However, it’s never a good idea to follow up Hovito. Not only for the lyrical dexterity but because it’s Hovito, he’s hip hop’s svengali. It’s an overshadowing that remains through the entire 10 track project where JAY-Z is featured on 9 cuts.
Look At Your Own Videos. You’ll Always Be #2.
When JAY-Z dropped ‘Reasonable Doubt’ in June 1996, it was a silent windfall in the right direction. At the time Tupac and Biggie were still the kings of rap and Nas was definitely strong in the picture. However on the debut solo album, JAY-Z had features from Mary J. Blige, The Notorious B.I.G., Foxy Brown, and his Roc-A-Fella crew.
But it felt like a JAY-Z coming of age album. Everything was right there for us to absorb and it did so slowly and properly to create the JAY-Z we all know today.
When you listen to ‘A Written Testimony’, you get more of JAY-Z’s spiritually awakened psyche revealing an enlightened path towards balance and equality. The fact that its supposed to be a Jay Electronica album is totally lost even though Jay Elec definitely drops bars throughout the project.
There was a time when Hov shot darts at Ma$e when he said, “look at your own videos, you’ll always be number 2.”
That was a slight towards Ma$e being perceived in the shadow of Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. Ironically, by jumping on over 90% of Jay Electronica’s album, he effectually makes the newer artist immediately a shadowed voice. Although not as brutal based on the lack of gimmickry, Jay Electronica created a number 2 perception lyrically by having so many collaboration records on the project.
Other Roc Nation artists like J. Cole and Westside Gunn, who stepped out with very insulated projects that had minimal change from aligning with JAY-Z. In fact, J. Cole’s last three albums 2014 Forest Hills Drive, 4 Your Eyez Only, and KOD were completely devoid of features.
That it is why it’s surprising they took this direction for Jay Electronica.
Notice that throughout this piece, never has a bad word been uttered regarding Jay Electronica’s lyrical ability. Although, the effect records like Exhibit A, B, & C and The Ghost of Christopher Wallace initially have on you is lacking, Jay Electronica’ spit is there.
I just wish he would have labeled it a JAY + Jay album so I would have been better prepared. Now it feels like a JAY-Z cheat sheet to the top of the charts instead of a Jay Electronica debut solo album.
They could have told us before the blindsiding.