A Time-Stopping Exhibit by Jay Electronica
BY BY VAUGHN MUHAMMAD -GUEST COLUMNIST- | LAST UPDATED: MAR 18, 2020
Verb 1. To publicly display (a work of art or item of interest) in an art gallery or museum or at a trade fair.
“Only one sculpture was exhibited in the artist’s lifetime”
Noun 2. An object or collection of objects on public display in an art gallery or museum or at a trade fair.
I felt it was necessary to lay out a clear definition of the word “exhibit” because Elpadaro F. Electronica Allah, professionally known to the world as Jay Electronica, appeared to us in 2008 and 2009 in the form of an “exhibit.” When he connected with producer Just Blaze to give the world “Exhibit A” and then “Exhibit C,” no one thought that a brother from New Orleans would give us a work of art that would leave hip-hop enthusiasts and rhyme connoisseurs alike with their mouths wide open saying “WHO THE !@#$ IS THAT?”
With practically one single, people were comparing him to the genre’s greats like Rakim and Nas. And it was a fair comparison.
With no flashy campaign or multi-million-dollar advertising budget, Jay and Blaze gave us an “exhibit” that still knocks TODAY. The world wanted more. There were so many rumors of unfulfilled release dates that one was more likely to take a selfie with Big Foot before they would see an official Jay Electronica album.
Album artwork for ‘A Written Testimony’ by Jay Electronica
Even though he would go on to sign with the storied Roc Nation, many thought the project would meet the same fate as Dr. Dre’s “Detox” album and never see the light of day. After teasing his fans with a single here or there over the span of a decade, Jay finally hurled a meteor at the earth in the form of “A Written Testimony,” released Friday, March 13.
Coming in at 10 tracks (perhaps he only recorded one song per year?), Jay Electronica delivers a time-stopping exhibit that jumps out the gate with the voice of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan (who is actually given writer’s credit on the track and is referenced many times throughout the album) for the intro.
The next voice we hear is that of none other than Jay-Z. Then we hear him again. And again. And again. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, actually is a full-length duet album! Surprise! Depending upon your opinion, this could either serve as a distraction from the man you’ve been waiting 10 years to hear…..or see it as the biggest co-sign in hip-hop history. Both are in tip-top lyrical form giving us a 2020 version of a “conscious” Watch The Throne. Their chemistry throughout the album is undeniable.
If you are looking for a club banger, a pop hit, a radio single, a dance tune, none of the above can be found here and this album is likely not for you. This is a RAPPER’S album. Approximately one-third of it doesn’t even have a drum track. You are forced to zero in on what is being SAID. And THAT’S where the win is for this album: lyrical content that will have you hitting rewind to understand how he effortlessly flows from English to Arabic to Spanish….and makes it sound DOPE.
The rhymes are the centerpiece here. But his subject matter of the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the inspiration of the Minister, God, Blackness, his own personal triumphs and failures are enough to keep you glued to your earpods to hear how he ties it all together.
Was it worth the wait? My answer is “yes” and here’s why: how many rappers have come and gone in the last decade? How many trends have come and gone? Today, attention is the #1 form of currency and the average rap fan has the attention span of a flea. Consequently, artists have put out mixtapes every five minutes just to keep ours. Not Jay Elect. The fact that he’s kept us waiting this long and we, the fickle rap audience, still care what he even has to say is a miracle within itself.
Jay Electronica is the manifestation of the “less is more” ideology reminiscent of hip-hop’s version of Sade. You might have to wait awhile, but when that plate hits the table, it will be more than enough to keep you digesting it for years. This album represents the paradigm shift we’ve waited 10 years for.
Vaughn Muhammad a.k.a. DJ Rockwell has practiced the art of hip-hop since the age of 13. He is an Atlanta-based artist and is founder of the NOI Hip Hop Network. When not in the studio, DJ Rockwell is a mobile DJ and has been hired to perform at everything from weddings and birthday parties to major corporate-sponsored events. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @DJRockwellATL.