13 years since he released his 15-minute mixtape, ‘Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge),’ Jay Electronica has finally released his debut album.
With just ten tracks and clocking in at around 39 minutes, you could be forgiven in wondering what he has been doing for all these years – aside from releasing the single, ‘Exhibit C,’ ten years ago.
So, is it worth the wait?
The first thing to note is that Jay Electronica is joined by Jay Z on almost every track on the album, which makes this something of a collaborative project.
Yet, Jay Electronica holds his own on tracks like ‘Ghost of Soulja Slim,’ where he represents his New Orleans roots with a bounce-styled flow.
Hov isn’t the only rapper to come through with an assist as Travis Scott appears on ‘The Blinding,’ while The Dream brings some soul to ‘Shiny Suit Theory’ and ‘Ezekiel’s Wheel.’
When it comes to the production, Jay Electronica produced much of this album himself, delivering a swirling palette of moods rather than straight-up boom-bap beats (check ‘The Neverending Story’).
However, other beatmakers do contribute as The Alchemist, No I.D., and Texas funk band Khruangbin all step up.
This stripped-back production concentrates your mind on the lyrics, which bring a mix of English, Spanish and Arabic while offering complex layers of lyricism that require a few listens to unlock.
Yet, for all that, Jay Electronica never slurs or mumbles as he drops straight-up spitting throughout, while also tipping a nod to classic hip-hop throughout (check ‘Flux Capacitor’).
In a time when single tracks are the focus for many listeners, Jay Electronica bucks the trend to release an album that works best as a collection of tracks to be heard in sequence.
Whether that will come back to bite him, or whether this album will be deemed a masterpiece remains to be seen.
However, after the wait, it is definitely worth hearing what Jay Electronica has to say.
Recorded in 40 days, ‘A Written Testimony’ is out now on Roc Nation.