Remember when you first heard Jay Electronica? It had to have been around 2007/2008. Rap was getting stale, right? At least that’s how I felt, you probably felt that way, too, and maybe you still feel that way. The Internet was just starting to become a thorn in the music industry’s side, making it harder for mainstream radio to play underground records. The guy sounded like the one—the messiah, the lamb. Jay's sound was Golden Era but it didn’t feel forced, and like Guru, he never wasted a bar.
I first heard about him around 2008 when he and Erykah Badu were rumored to be dating and was hanging around Nas during the Untitled sessions. I did some digging and came across Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge) and his Style Wars EP, then I heard “Exhibit A” and it changed my opinion on the future of hip-hop. I was fucking sold. I was ready for him to demolish wack rap once and for all. By the time “Exhibit C” came out, I was already a stan. There was an energy about him, an energy that has dimmed the last couple years. But damn, what happened, Jay? We were all rooting for you.
Jay's like that weedman who has that fire for the low but is never around.
Thankfully, rap is in a better place than it was when Jay mysteriously appeared on the scene. Here was a cat hailing from New Orleans that rapped like he was from Brooklyn. He confused people then and he confuses people now. According to multiple sources, his album is done and has been done for quite some time. As a Jay Electronica apologist, I've been trying to come up with theories, excuses, etc. as to why he hasn't pulled the trigger. To make matters worse, he drops random tracks once a year, books performances as if he's on a promo run, and decided to diss Kendrick Lamar on the second verse of "#TBE The Curse of Floyd Mayweater" on the day of the Grammys.
The decision to come at Kendrick when he was up for 11 Grammys, during a year when the Recording Academy finally seemed to do the Rap categories justice, rubbed me the wrong way. Not only because Jay has been teasing his album for six years, but because Lamar is on the same wavelength as Jay in terms of subject matter and purpose. Both are able to relay life on the streets and the black experience better than anyone in the game right now. And Lamar's last two albums are some of the most important rap records to be released in the last 10 years. It's hard to defend Jay's rants in light of his lack of productivity. Also, "Control" dropped in 2013, which made the slight even that more perplexing.
While his latest track is dope in its own right, Jay ultimately played himself and missed his mark. Since Lamar came back with his "I could never end a career if it never start" line, Jay has disappeared once again, even canceling his SXSW performance this year.
Jay Electronica is the weed man who has fire for the low but is never around. And just like weed, there's a lot of good rap out here these days. We're not really pressed for him as we once were.
Remember when he signed to Roc Nation and dropped "The Announcement?" That was in 2010, folks. I've probably listened to that track hundreds of times, and still do. I was ready for Jay to give us a modern day classic. During the summer of 2014, he shut down Brooklyn with a performance I wrote glowingly about, released "Better In Tune With the Infinite," and made a rare appearance in Austin for SXSW a couple months prior. I thought the album was most definitely on the way.
Why would he go through the trouble of stepping back into the public eye without a plan? Fast forward two years later and this dude still hasn't dropped the project. On DJCity's MikiDz Show a few days ago, Just Blaze didn't sound too promising when it came to Elect's fabled debut album. "In case Jay puts his album out one day...," he said, right before he played the "Exhibit G" beat for those in attendance.
"My train is running on schedule" is one of his favorite sayings, but his fans have been waiting for his train to pick them up for the last six years. These little loosies once a year aren't going to cut it. If he finally decides to drop Act II, I'll still cop because I know I'll love it even begrudgingly. But his light isn't as bright anymore. The hope he provided isn't needed like it was during the mid '00s. His smoke isn't as potent, it's not worth the trouble. And no one likes an unreliable weed man. We should be on Act III already, Jay. Drop that shit, you takin' long.