Hip Hop fans remember that fateful day on October 27, 2009 when Just Blaze stopped by Tony Touch’s Toca Tuesday on SHADE 45. Alongside delivering some snippets of his collaborations with Nas and Saigon, he debuted a groundbreaking single with a man who would become an enigma within the culture. That, ladies and gentleman, was Jay Electronica’s “Exhibit C.” Some time before, Blaze collaborated with New Orleans’ nomadic emcee for “Exhibit A (Transformations),” a track that felt like a dark lyrical exhibition backed by interesting clips from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Before then, J Elect was known around the Internet as the man who used Jon Brion’s soundtrack for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for his breakout Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge) project. Then there was the production credit he received for Nas’ Untitled album intro “Queens Get The Money.” For mainstream, he was Erykah Badu’s newest rapper baby daddy. When “Exhibit C” dropped, Electronica became the rap savior most rap traditionalist had yearned for. Just Blaze’s production was rooted in New York boom bap, yet seemed grounded in the reality of the time. Electronica managed to blend serious lyrical dynamics, poignant personal testimonials and mind boggling moments. Who doesn’t remember bars ranging from “You either build or destroy, where you come from?” or “They call me Jay Electronica, fuck that..” In a time where pop focused raps were clearly taking over, the release of “Exhibit C” sounded like a huge win for real Hip Hop.
Support was mad real for both the single and artist. Electronica received co-signs from heavyweights including Q Tip and Diddy, Jay Z signed him to Roc Nation. Mainstream outlets like MTV and Complex dubbed it an instant classic. He was the people’s champion. Nearly six years since “Exhibit C,” Act 1 follow-up Act II: Patents of Nobility is reaching Detox level wait times and Electronica’s erratic Twitter moments are tarnishing his reputation.
What happened? Jay Electronica may be imploding under the light of his own hype. There was a period of time where he seemed lyrically unfuckwitable as an emcee. Every feature verse or loosie from Electronica were doses of heroin for rap junkies. That was until the cracks began to show. Most noticeably in August 2013 when Big Sean dropped “Control,” with Electronica and Kendrick Lamar. Yes, his verse was serviceable and filled with that signature wizardry many have come to expect from him. However, K.Dot’s verse was atomic and Hip Hop continues to feel the radioactive effects today. Electronica’s tweets downplaying the Good Kid m.A.A.d City rapper’s scene stealing verse felt petty and unnecessary; almost sounding like a sore loser. Then, a video released yesterday of Electronica calling out Drake and J. Cole during a show in London this week pops up.
For someone who was seen as artistically superior to both at one time, the move was a desperate attempt to stir up beef. Drake is a pop culture force who just left a rap beef unscathed despite huge allegations waged against him. Meanwhile, J. Cole has proven that conscious rhymes and introspective storytelling can be commercially viable. Must hurt that Mr. Jermaine is also signed to Roc Nation as well. Maybe it’s time to call Jay Electronica exactly what he is, a one-hit internet wonder. The novelty that he once was has become an old relic with nothing to offer at the moment. Hip Hop is as healthy as ever. Real lyricist exist on both sides of the mainstream and independent coin. As music consumption changes for more and more on the daily basis, Electronica’s lack of consistency is disappointing. Too bad he doesn’t understand that himself.
Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.