An Intro To Jay Electronica
Jay Electronica is a 43 year old rapper from New Orleans who has one of the most interesting careers of the last 10-15 years. Jay burst onto the scene in 2007 when he released his ‘Act 1: Eternal Sunshine’ mixtape on MySpace, with the project almost immediately blowing up and garnering a lot of attention for him, receiving national acclaim. Over the next few months Jay released a number of singles which lead to him joining the ‘Rock The Bells’ tour in 2008 alongside artists such as Nas & A Tribe Called Quest. Later in 2008 Jay linked up with producer Just Blaze to pick tracks for the Guitar Centre GAINs collaborative project ‘Fresh Cuts Vol.3’ and included an unreleased Jay song in ‘Exhibit A: Transformations’. In 2009 Just Blaze released Jay Electronica’s ‘Exhibit C’, with the song receiving critical acclaim and a number of remixes from other established artists such as Joell Ortiz & N.O.R.E. In 2010 a bunch of labels entered a bidding war for Jay, and in 2010 he was eventually signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label.
Jay then spent the next 10 years teasing an album but ended up only releasing a number of singles and features throughout the decade, with him not dropping a single project in the 13 years following Act 1. His most notable release over that time was his feature on Big Sean’s ‘Control’, which also featured Kendrick Lamar and was Jay’s first time charting on the Billboard 200. Throughout the 2010s Jay was probably better known for his lack of music as opposed to his releases, as well as his antics outside of music which included relationships with both Erykah Badu & bank heiress Kate Rothschild.
And that brings us up to the present date! On March 13th Of 2020 Jay Electronica finally released his debut album ‘A Written Testimony’, composed of 10 tracks and features from both Travis Scott & The-Dream, as well as uncredited vocals from Jay-Z on 8 out of 10 tracks. Below I’m going to review the album in 2 parts; first will be my informal notes I made on each song as I listened through, and following that will be my thoughts on the album as a whole. I’ll include links to stream the album and some discussion questions at the end. Enjoy!
Track by Track Review
1. The Overwhelming Event – Real majestic cinematic opening in terms of the production. Real pleasant piano too. The talking is a bit boring, but is just the intro so it’s forgivable. Just a basic intro with beautiful production and no rapping, not too memorable.
2. Ghost Of Soulja Slim – Song takes a while to get going. Production is interesting but sounds a bit messy. Sounds like an uncredited feature from Jay-Z?! Regardless, first verse flows well and has lots of real impressive rhymes. Production kind of washes out the vocals, mixing isn’t the best. Jay Elec flows fairly well too, but nothing too special. Enjoy the couple of lines that he delivers melodically. Song overall feels like a mess. Lots of unnecessary blank space with no vocals after Jay-Z’s second verse. Below average track.
3. The Blinding (ft. Travis Scott) – Beat sounds a little bit all over the place again, but has some interesting sections. Jay Elec starts off with some real solid bars and rhyme schemes, flows well too. Another uncredited Jay-Z Feature?! Don’t understand why you wouldn’t credit him. Jay-Z has a real confident delivery and flows just as well as the other Jay. Enjoy the back and forth nature of the song. Jay Elec comes in with some real impressive fast flows at times. Hook is super short but isn’t too bad. Enjoy the change of pace in the second verse, is much more calming and mellow. More great back and forth from the Jay’s, Jay Elec shines here though with a good variety of flows and some real enjoyable bars and rhymes. Jay Elec even changes up his delivery a bit which sounds great. Weird song but definitely had some enjoyable moments, on the fence.
4. The Neverending Story – Real interesting instrumentation on this, has some real exciting guitar melodies. Jay Elec has a pretty basic monotone delivery but some amazing rhymes and bars, with a decent variety of flows throughout. Verse sounds poetic in a sense. Jays monotone delivery really helps put the focus on the bars, and for good reason. Weird little instrumental break in the middle. Okay Jay-Z is here again, I’m a little confused now haha. Jay-Z has a much more exciting delivery than Elec, but just as much variety in the flow. His bars and rhymes probably aren’t as strong but his verse is enjoyable regardless. Another instrumental section after the Jay-Z verse, drags on far too long. Average song overall
5. Shiny Suit Theory (ft. The Dream) – This has a real familiar sound or sample to it, even the name of the song is familiar so this may be an old release. Regardless, Beat is super catchy and Jay Elec flows amazingly over it, lots more impressive rhyme schemes and bars again. Definitely feel like I heard this about 10 years ago. Jay Elec’s whole verse is fire. Jay-Z again which I was expecting, he rides the beat well too, and matches Jay Elec in terms of impressive bars and rhymes. I think Jay-Z actually has the more impressive flows on this but the verses are equally impressive and enjoyable. The Dream sounds nice on the little hook/refrain, but isn’t too catchy or memorable. Good song but I definitely think it’s old.
6. Universal Soldier – Another fairly boring sample of some speaking at the start. Song takes like a minute too long to start. Beat feels super triumphant. Jay Elec is on point again in terms of his bars, but the delivery is pretty basic and the flows aren’t too special. Jay-Z makes another appearance, and his verse isn’t too impressive really. Has a real boring flow and the delivery lacks energy, plus the bars and rhymes aren’t as strong as most of his. Song feels quite messy at times, the beat is a bit all over the place and the song lacks a good hook or any catchy moments. Below average track
7. Flux Capacitor – Jay-Z starts the song with a boring little intro, but once it picks up and he starts rapping it gets much more enjoyable. He flows really well and changes it up a bunch, has his confident delivery back, and has a bunch of enjoyable bars scattered throughout. Beat sound a bit chaotic, way too much going on. First noticeable hook of the album and it’s pretty bad, isn’t too catchy and the delivery is average. Jay Elec finally shows up and has some decent rhymes but nothing as impressive as Jay-Z’s. One of the weaker Jay Elec verses lyrically and the verse is too short. This was just another song that felt like a bit of a mess, below average track again.
8. Fruits Of The Spirit – Real captivating beat this one, sounds real old school and nostalgic. Jay Elec sounds amazing, has some real solid flows with a good display of bars and rhyme schemes, just flows over the beat with ease for the duration of his verse. Song ends kinda suddenly. Good song but way too short
9. Ezekial’s Wheel (ft. The Dream) – More boring talking at the start. Dreams little intro is strange but oddly enjoyable. Beat is super minimal but real captivating at the same time. Jay-Z shows up yet again, delivers a pretty average hook with a super basic flow and nothing too exciting. Jay Elec brings a bit more energy to the track, has some enjoyable flows and great rhyme schemes, his verse has highs and lows. I enjoy the Dream part of the hook, but not the Jay-Z part. Jay Elec’s second verse is a little boring, the rhymes and bars are just as good but the delivery and flow is basic. Another verse with highs and lows, but is an average verse at best. Song overall is way too long, has potential but at 6minutes its a chore to get through. Drags on far too long too, below average overall.
10. A.P.I.D.T.A – Some more Real majestic production on this one, is super calming and isn’t as busy as most of these beats. Jay-Z starts the song again, but this time with a plethora of repetition that I feel is unnecessary. The bars themselves are okay but the delivery is a bit boring, so the repetition doesn’t help. First 2 minutes is just repetition, then the next minute is just some boring talking. Song gets good like 2:40 in, Jay Elec actually sounds amazing over this mellow beat, has some real personal lyrics with some ridiculously good rhyme schemes and a thoroughly enjoyable flow despite being basic for the most part. I like Jay Elec’s interpolation Of The ‘Sleep Well’ section that Jay-Z dies earlier in the song. The guitar melody in the instrumental is real addictive. The last minute is as boring as the first 2. Overall a real boring song with a real good Jay Elec verse, is just an average song at best.
I just wanted to preface this by saying I’m a big fan of both Jay Electronica and Jay-Z, because after reading this is may seem like I’m a hater. I came into this fully prepared to write about how blown away I was with this album, but unfortunately I honestly feel like this was one of the most disappointing albums of the year. This is both a mix of high expectations (how could they not be after 10+ years of impressive performances), and a below average end product. I wouldn’t say this is a bad album, but I went in expecting an 8/10 and knowing that this could be a 10/10 album, but I came out of it thinking nearly every song was average or worse. Combine that with the fact that Jay-Z had uncredited vocals on 8 of the 10 tracks, and the fact that my favourite song is a song I heard 10 years ago, and the end result was something very far from what I was hoping for.
Fortunately the best part of this album was probably Jay Electronica himself, who delivered some amazing bars on songs such as ‘The Blinding’ and ‘Fruits Of My Spirit’. He often showcased why he is so highly regarded as a rapper, with some incredibly impressive flows and rhyme schemes. Jay-Z also had some quite enjoyable verses, most notably on ‘The Neverending Story’ & ‘Flux Capacitor’. Other than some solid verses from the 2 though there wasn’t much I enjoyed on this album.
Each rapper had some average verses amongst their enjoyable ones, and all of the hooks on this album (there weren’t many) were pretty bad, especially Jay-Z on A.P.I.D.T.A, which has so much repetition that you could cut 3 minutes of the track without losing anything of value. I didn’t think either of the features were bad, but neither were memorable either, with Travis Scott contributing a 5 second hook to ‘The Blinding’, and The-Dream sounding more like part of the beat than like an actual feature on each of his appearances. Probably my least favourite thing about this album though was the production, which despite having a range of intriguing sounds often sounded messy, chaotic, or even badly mixed at times. I felt like I would have enjoyed some of the verses so much more if they weren’t drowned out by overwhelming beats. I won’t go into specifics because I disliked the production on most tracks, but for the most part I was let down by the instrumentals on nearly every track. And just a random side note, but my 2 favourite songs were the one solo Jay Electronica Track (Fruits Of The Spirit), and a Track which I have been listening to since 2010 (Shiny Suit Theory), which was an extra layer of disappointment.
So yeah, in the end maybe I set my expectations too high, but regardless of that I thought this album was confusing, messy, and most of all disappointing. There were moments where Jay Electronica’s talent was obvious, but altogether that was probably only about 5 minutes of the 40 minute run time. The album had some good Jay-Z verses, some good Jay Electronica verses, and one or two decent beats, but other than that everything was less enjoyable than I was hoping. The production was all over the place, the hooks were forgettable, and there was a lot of time wasted. If you’re new to Jay Electronica I urge you to check out the unofficial ‘Style Wars EP’ as it is a much better showcase of what he is capable of.
Or you can listen for free on YouTube here!
My Favourite Songs were Shiny Suit Theory & Fruits Of The Spirit.
What were your favourite songs on the album?
Did it live up to your expectations?
With 8/10 songs featuring Jay-Z, this was basically a collab album. Who do you think was the better Jay on this album?
Thanks For Reading!
– Shan –