Review: Jay Electronica’s ‘A Written Testimony’

Eleven years ago, Jay Electronica was poised to be the biggest rapper in the world. He had released singles “Exhibit A” and “Exhibit C” to mass acclaim; the latter garnered so much buzz that some deemed him the next Nas. The hype seemed warranted: Jay Elec recalled hip-hop’s golden era of the 1990s, when would-be legends like Nas, Jay-Z, and The Notorious B.I.G. were still scrappy upstarts, and their albums — namely Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, and Ready to Die — became cornerstones of the period. Jay Electronica was very much of that ilk. A tough-minded MC with an intricate flow, he could dissect Islamic teachings with great pacing and clarity. When paired with the mountain-sized production of Just Blaze, “Exhibit C” felt like a watershed moment. This dude was the one and supporters worshipped at the altar.

After a summer 2010 bidding war between P. Diddy’s Bad Boy Records and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, Jay Elec signed with the latter. A year later, he took to Twitter and said that his album, Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn), was done. But the record never materialized. In a 2017 interview with Billboard, he called the idea of an album a “false concept … created by corporations as a product to make money.” Outside the occasional guest verse — most recently, an appearance alongside producer Poo Bear and singer Justin Bieber on the song “Hard 2 Face Reality” — there was no full-length project with Jay Electronica’s name on the cover. A lot of fans gave up and moved on. That was until Feb. 7th when he announced on Twitter that his debut LP, A Written Testimony, would be out in 40 days. Listeners had heard that before; fans were excited but skeptical. Following a decade of pump fakes and false starts, who knew if the album was actually going to drop.

But Jay Electronica came through, releasing a 39-minute, 10-track project that explores anxiety and his allegiance to Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan. Featuring The-Dream, Travis Scott, and James Blake, and with production from AraabMuzik, Swizz Beatz, HIT-BOY, G. Ry, No I.D., Khruangbin, The Alchemist, and Jay Electronica himself (who compiled six of the album’s 10 tracks), A Written Testimony moves swiftly, grouping ambient loops, pop samples, and atmospheric soul into a tightly-coiled set.  Continue Reading Review




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