I’m always amazed when things link up in the universe. I’ve been listening to old episodes of The FROCAST when it was hosted by the three-headed monster of B, Jerm, and Saule. The relics bring me back to the golden age of hype around a new MC named Jay Electronica. Jerm was always the unimpressed voice on the site to quote, “The man rhymed ‘Harmonica’ and ‘Hyunakah’ and y’all lost y’all minds.” He was right and I agreed back then. As much as I enjoyed “Exhibit C” for the lyrics/performance and Just Blaze production I couldn’t ignore my inner critic: “Jay Electronica keeps getting washed on songs.”
The New Orleans MC popped up a few weeks after Groundhog Day to make an announcement on Twitter. His debut album, A Written Testimony, is done and slated to be released in March. The first wave of reactions was skepticism, disbelief, anger, and disinterest. A week later, there have been rumors about a particular guest feature on the long delayed project. Jay-Z, the CEO of Roc Nation, the biggest Jay Electronica fan, and the NFL’s token best friend is rumored to appear on several songs, enough to be classified as a “semi joint-album.”
I want people that have been waiting over ten years for Jay Elect to deliever an album to answer the ultimate question if they can: If Jay Electronica is supposed to be the new GOAT, why has Jay-Z washed him on every song they’ve done before? “Shiny Suit Theory.”“We Made It.”“Road To Perdition.” We all know Kendrick even shadowed Big Sean on “Control,” but there are so many instances of the next great MC not being my favorite feature. I listened to several features because his solo output become scarer and more rare than Andre 3000 appearances. Majority of the collaborations left me wondering if the man from the Magnolia Projects was really worth the hype. I liked Phonte’s verse the most on Rapsody’s “Jedi Code.” As long as J. Cole and Yasin Bey are on Reflection Eternal’s “Just Begun,” I would enjoy the song just as much without the other guest. There are some cool lines from him throughout his guest feature history, but I’ve never been wowed. I have a theory! This upcoming album is not to boost Jay Electronica’s career at all. It is to save Jay Z’s standing as Black Excellence.
Jay Z is going to benefit so much from this release. Jay Elect is known as the most-hyped socially conscious rapper of the last decade. Mr. Carter could use this fact to protect his image as a capitalist profiting off the NFL’s backlash with minorities. Before the Super Bowl, an interview with the New York Times contradicted Hov’s initial reason for declining to perform the halftime show back in 2016 or 2017. We were lead to believe that his refusal was in support of Colin Kaepernick as the league refuses to allow a team to sign him to a contract. It is now being reported that Jay Hova felt slighted he was asked to perform “Run This Town” at halftime on the condition that he could bring Rihanna and Kanye West to perform alongside him. Throughout the interview with Mr. Carter and several of his associates at Roc Nation, it seems like their goal is admirable, but their actions are unbelievable.
The deal between Roc Nation and the NFL is to promote social justice through the “Inspire Change” campaign. When this deal was first announced last year, there was a split between “Let’s wait and see him make change from the inside” to “He’s taking advantage of this opportunity to make a profit.” Currently, we are not seeing much development. Advocating for social justice is what Colin Kaepernick was doing in 2016 that lead to him being blackballed professionally. The main difference is that while the victims of police injustice are being named, their killers and the corrupt system that protect them are remaining unmentioned. It’s kind of hard to change things if we don’t acknowledge what/who is causing the problem.
It’s rumored that Jay Z influenced Shakira and Jennifer Lopez to not make political statements during their performance. As much as we enjoyed his B-Sides II concert, New York residents spoke out after hearing his freestyle dedicated to Nipsey Hussle and encouraging audiences to gentrify their own hoods. The average person’s action to gentrify their own hood is a little different from the CEO of the R-O-C. The original residents near the Barclays Center had to relocate after not being able to afford to live in the area any longer. While Nipsey owning a store on Crenshaw Blvd in South L.A and hiring people was a form of positive gentrification, Mr. Carter went in an opposite direction. The Brooklyn area near his former stash house is a lot nicer with a new stadium and basketball team, but not at the cost of displacing native Brooklynites.
Instead of actually influencing lawmakers and white men in power to better the lives of targeted Black and Brown people, the easy thing for him to save his public perception is to do what he always does: rap really well. A couple of verses where Jigga is mentioning 5 Percenter knowledge, a couple of hotep beliefs, Black empowerment/Black businesses, acknowledging his past mistakes in recent years, and how therapy has helped him, he might win us back. Jay-Z has way more to gain than Jay Electronica with his verses on A Written Testimony. Let’s not forget that this could also be a win for TIDAL if it’s an exclusive release. Until Jigga learns to evenly master the tightrope of being Jay Michael Basquiat or Hov-tep, a Black artist willing to be a revolutionary and for the people and a business, we have to side eye him and yes, that includes our third eye.