Jay Electronica is currently in Nigeria, in his own words, “to reconnect with [his] family” and on an informal cultural “bridge-building” mission. While the trip has already spilled over into social media, popular Nigerian singer and producer Don Jazzy posted a picture on Instagram of himself with Jay Electronica in the studio, Jay Elec also granted a rare interview with The Beat 99’s The Morning Rush.
During his sit-down with the show’s hosts Olisa and Maria the Roc Nation artist touched on topics like growing up listening to Fela Kuti, why he doesn’t classify himself as a producer, and his take on currently popular Hip Hop artists like Fetty Wap, Drake, and O.T. Genasis.
“Like any Black man in America I was disconnected from myself and from my family and that’s why I’m here in Nigeria, to reconnect with my family,” he said. “I’ve been disconnected for a long time. So more importantly than the music that’s the main reason why I’m here. The music is secondary.”
Asked about his familiarity with Nigerian music leading up to his trip, Jay Elec recalled his childhood in New Orleans listening to Fela Kuti before naming some of the country’s contemporary stars.
“I grew up with my Mom playing Fela so of course like nowadays I’ve heard of the Don Jazzy’s, the Ice Prince, the Wizkid’s, but when Nigeria pops into my mind, the first thing that pops into my mind is Fela which is a beautiful thing to pop into anybody’s mind,” he said. “Like I said, I’m back home, the music is secondary, but I’m here to connect. Primarily, or I would say, specifically on behalf of Roc Nation, bridge building. But generally just bridge building between the Black people in America and back here. It could be Don Jazzy or it could just be a guy in the basement somewhere on the mainland. I’m willing to work with whoever’s available to work.”
Turning his attention inward, Jay detailed how he came to produce some of his own music before shrugging off one of the co-host’s comparisons to Kanye West.
“Sometimes people classify me as a producer but I was a producer by default making music for myself,” he explained. “Ultimately I ended up doing things for other people but really I produce for myself…I’m a rapper by default. I wouldn’t call myself a producer I would call myself a beatmaker or put-togetherer of things. Kanye is Black God and we love him.”
“Kanye’s a beautiful brother,” he added in response to a comment about West’s ego. “We gotta be careful about anything that we hear. You know the white man, the media, they say nasty things about Nigeria but we just throw that in the trashcan just like we throw the Kanye big head stuff in the trash. We all got our faults and character defects but as far as Kanye, as far as I know, he’s a beautiful human being. Very beautiful brother. Physically, spiritually. We love him. I love him to bits.”
As for the current music he’s listening to, the New Orleans-native broke down his perspective on the place of younger artists like Fetty Wap and O.T. Genasis when asked if he thought popular American Hip Hop has been “dumbed down.”
“Yes, it is dumbed down Hip Hop and it’s not what I grew up on but I would be a bold-faced liar if I said I didn’t listen to some Fetty Wap and Drake,” he said. “I know the lyrics to, ‘I’m in love with the CoCo,’ and all that. Of course the Young Thugs and so forth. A part of me as an artist, a poet, because rap is poetry. We come from the era of Rakim, Nas, these type of people, so it’s poetry. That side of me can really critique a Young Thug and these new types of people but at the same time it’s young Black people using what they have to come out of an environment to better their lives for their loved ones. All praises due to Allah for that.”
Finally, asked by a fan about the timeline for his album, Jay Electronica mostly shrugged off the question.
“Yes m’am,” he said. “You know we always expecting an album sometime soon but anybody that knows Jay Electronica knows that that’s the wrong question to be asking.”
Listen to the whole interview on The Beat 99 here.
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