Over the past decade, Jay Electronica’s elusive debut studio album has earned a place in the annals of mythologized hip-hop LPs. In the nearly 13 years since his last full-length project, Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge), arrived in July 2007, the enigmatic rapper has dropped a pair of transcendent singles (“Exhibit A” and “Exhibit C”), among other countless loosies (see: “Shiny Suit Theory,” “Better In Tune With The Infinite,” “A Prayer For Michael Vick and T.I.”) and scene-stealing features. But, still no album.
In early February, following a decade full of rumors, delays, and missed released dates, Jay Electronica returned to Twitter to announce that he’s finally ready to drop his debut album. “Album done. Recorded over 40 days and 40 nights, starting from Dec 26,” he wrote in a series of tweets. “Releasing in 40 days. A Written Testimony.” JAY-Z’s engineer Young Guru quote tweeted Electronica, ensuring the public “This is not a drill,” Just Blaze added, “Are you watching closely,” and JAY-Z liked the mini-tweet storm. The album will seemingly be called A Written Testimony and not Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn).
As we wait to see if Jay Electronica’s debut LP will actually see the light of day, let’s retrace the many important steps on the road to A Written Testimony.
December 22, 2009: Jay Electonica says his debut album will drop on Christmas; Just Blaze shuts down release date on Twitter
Jay Electronica’s undeniable breakout single “Exhibit C” hit iTunes on December 22, 2009, nearly two months after its premiere on Angela Yee’s Shade 45 radio show. To celebrate the single’s official release, Jay Electronica returned to Shade 45 and announced that Act II: The Patents of Nobility (The Turn) would drop on Christmas Day. Three days later, Just Blaze shut down the release date on Twitter.
August 18, 2010: Jay Electronica announces September 2010 release date for ‘Act II’
By August 2010, it had been a year since Jay Electronica released his first single, “Exhibit A,” and eight months since the first rumored release date for Act II. During an interview with DJ Semtex, Jay claimed that the album was finished and that he planned on releasing it on his birthday, September 19.
November 12, 2010: Jay Electronica signs to Roc Nation
Following the release of “Exhibit C,” the buzz surrounding Jay Electronica couldn’t have been bigger. As a result, a bidding war ensued, pitting Diddy and JAY-Z against one another in a race to sign hip-hop’s hottest talent. After months of rumors, the drama came to an end on November 12, 2010, when JAY-Z announced that the New Orleans lyricist was the latest signee to his Roc Nation label. “My whole goal is to reintroduce magic to hip-hop,” JAY-Z said of bringing Electronica into his fold. “We watched this wizard do his thing. Y’all supported him. And he’s an official Roc Nation signee.”
November 15, 2010: Jay Electronica drops “The Announcement” and “Shiny Suit Theory” on SoundCloud
Days after signing with Roc Nation, Jay Elec celebrated by dropping two new records. The first was “The Announcement,” which he had performed a few days earlier. The second was titled “Shiny Suit Theory,” which saw JAY-Z delivering a memorable guest verses. The excitement surrounding Jay Elec’s debut album hit a fever pitch.
March 8, 2011: ‘The Making of Act II’ video appears online
A video titled The Making of Act II hit the internet in March 2011. The video shows footage of Jay Elec recording music while in Johannesburg, South Africa, and includes singer LaTonya Givens laying down vocals for what would become “Better in Tune with the Infinite.” The video quickly went viral, leading fans to speculate on the seemingly imminent release of Jay’s debut LP.
July 11, 2011: Jay Electronica announces completion of ‘Act II’ on Twitter
Eight months after signing to Roc Nation, Jay Electronica provided the latest update on Act II. In a series of tweets, he announced that the album was finished and that artists including Bun B, Erykah Badu, Jeymes Samuel, Tony Tagoe and Jay Z had heard it. He also expressed his desire to share a song called “Road to Perdition” featuring Hov.
March 16, 2012: Questlove reveals that ‘Act II’ is finished, but lacks a lead single
During an interview with The Champs podcast, Questlove claimed that JAY-Z was in possession of a completed version of Act II, but the LP lacked a proper first single. “Actually Jay, Shawn Carter, has the record and says it’s his favorite record of 2012,” said Questlove. “He said it has no singles on it, though, but it’s his favorite record.”
May 5, 2012: JAY-Z announces that ‘Act II’ is nearing completion
Nearly a year after Jay Elec tweeted that Act II was finished, his label boss shed light on the album’s delay. “You know, he operates at his own time, but the album is really close,” JAY-Z told MTV News. “It's exactly what it should be—it’s amazing. Him as a lyricist is almost scary. He’s scary good.”
July 28, 2012: ‘Act II’ tracklist hits Twitter
A big glimmer of hope about the album’s release arrived in July 2012, when Jay Elec shared the tracklist to his debut album on Twitter before quickly deleting it. The 15-track album boasted big features from JAY-Z (on an updated version of “Shiny Suit Theory,” now titled “Dinner at Tiffany’s”), Kanye West (“New Illuminati” and “Rough Love”), Diddy (“Welcome to Knightsbridge”), and even former president Ronald Reagan (“Real Magic”).
September 1, 2012: Jay Electronica says that the LP’s first single will feature Chris Brown
A month after sharing the rumored tracklist to Act II on Twitter, Jay Elec took the stage at Jay Z’s Made In America festival in Philadelphia to perform several songs, including “Exhibit C,” “The Ghost of Christopher Wallace,” and “The Announcement.” During his performance, he announced that he was in the mixing stage of his debut album and that the project’s first single would feature Chris Brown.
July 4, 2013: Jay Electronica tweets that it’s his turn after JAY-Z releases ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’
On July 4, 2013, hours after JAY-Z dropped Magna Carta Holy Grail and two weeks removed from the release of J. Cole’s Born Sinner, Jay Electronica sent the internet into a frenzy with one tweet: “Ok. Now it’s my turn. Let’s go.” The following day, he simply tweeted the title of his debut album, Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn), leading fans to speculate that the LP would arrive in the near future.
September 2, 2013: Jay Elec reveals that “Control” was supposed to be on ‘Act II’
While celebrating Labor Day 2013 at the Outlook festival in Croatia, Jay Electronica spoke to Vibe about “Kendrick Lamar’s big verse on Big Sean’s “Control.” “When [Big Sean] told me it wasn’t on his album, I was gonna use it for my album. And then he told me the day before it came out that, ‘Yo, Kendrick put a verse on it, we gonna put it out,” Jay Elec stated. “But it’s a good thing,” he added. “It’s a good thing for hip-hop music because hip-hop has been laying dormant for a long time.”
September 9, 2013: Just Blaze shares that the album is almost finished
During an interview with Vlad TV, Just Blaze shared that Act II was nearing completion. “Jay’s just in his own zone and he’s gonna do it when he’s ready…I feel like the album needs a slight bit more touching up. Just in terms of like—not that it needs more songs,” Blaze said. “The reality of it is there’s like a couple of songs that maybe he needs to do a verse over on… Maybe a song or two that needs maybe a string arrangement or something,” he added. “But, for the most part, the core of the album is there. It’s pretty much done.”
April 24, 2014: Jay Electronica teases a July release date on Twitter
A month after dropping “Better In Tune With the Infinite,” Jay sent out a few cryptic tweets, hinting at something big coming that summer. The rapper said he was going to “burst the heavens open” on July 12, which left fans convinced that Act II would arrive in a few months. Alas, the rumored release date came and went without any sign of the album.
September 11, 2015: Just Blaze says he has a finished version of ‘Act II’
During an interview with Vlad TV, Just Blaze provided the latest morsel regarding Jay Electronica’s debut album. “I don’t have any updates since the last update I gave,” Blaze said, “which is, I have a pretty-nearly finished version of it in my phone.” “I don’t know what he’s gonna do with it,” Blaze added. “I mean, listen, he’s chilling out in London. He’s doing well. Jay’s life philosophy is, ‘My train is running on schedule.’”
October 15, 2015: Jay Electronica tells NYC crowd he might delete his long-awaited debut album
While performing in NYC at the CMJ festival, Jay Elec shared some discouraging news. Responding to a fan in the crowd, Jay jokingly (or not) said that he was contemplating scrapping Act II. “I was just backstage talking about that with [Jason] Goldwatch. We were talking about the delete button,” he said.
August 1, 2016: Another ‘Act II’ release date is teased
A few months after Jay Electronica delighted fans with a guest verse on Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book (“How Great”), Jason Goldwatch, a director and close associate of the rapper, posted an Instagram photo of Jay Elec with the caption, “1.7.17.” Immediately, fans were convinced that the cryptic caption referenced the release date for Act II.
February 17, 2017: JAY-Z tells Jay Electronica to put his album out
While hosting a #TIDALXNOLA show in Electronica’s hometown of New Orleans during 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend, JAY-Z told his Roc Nation signee that it's time to release Act II. “Let’s go put this album out,” JAY-Z said in front of a crowd of fans. Three years later, we’re still waiting.
February 23, 2017: Jay Electronica calls an album a ‘false concept’ during Billboard interview
A week after JAY-Z urged him to release his long-awaited debut LP, Jay Electronica killed all hope that Act II might see the light of day during an interview with Billboard. “An album is a false concept anyway,” Jay Elec said. “An album is something that was created by corporations as a product to make money.” After he was asked when fans should expect to hear his first official full-length album, the rapper responded with this gem: “When it’s finished. When it’s something that I’m pleased with because regardless of the six billion people on planet Earth, even if I put something out and the whole six billion say it’s absolutely beautiful and I don’t feel okay with it, I’m the one that carries that. I have to be at a place where I’m pleased with the offering. So, it will come—it’s coming soon.”
February 7, 2020: Jay Electronica announces that his debut album, now titled ‘A Written Testimony,’ is releasing in 40 days
Last week, following a decade of rumors, delays, and missed released dates, Jay Electronica returned to Twitter to announce that he’s ready to release his debut album. “Album done. Recorded over 40 days and 40 nights, starting from Dec 26,” he wrote in a series of tweets. “Releasing in 40 days. A Written Testimony.” JAY-Z’s engineer Young Guru quote tweeted Electronica, ensuring the public “This is not a drill,” Just Blaze added, “Are you watching closely,” and JAY-Z liked the mini-tweet storm. The album will seemingly be called A Written Testimony and not Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn).