I wrote this after the official release of Jay Electronica’s excellent Just Blaze-produced track “Exhibit C” — a song with about as much hype as any that’s been released in a decade. This is my attempt to explain both the fervor and the effect it will have on Hip Hop.
It is with measurable reluctance that I write this blog entry because I feel as if the listening public has made the song “Exhibit C” larger than life itself. The astounding hype surrounding the song will arm the uninitiated critic with expectations even the best songs wouldn’t survive. Then you have your too-cool-for-school type who will decry a song simply because it IS popular — another senseless by-product of too many so-called music “journalists”with poorly written blogs. Just check your music blog of choice and read the comments. People love to appear controversial and contrarian.
I can tell you that from the moment I heard the song, I knew it was something special. I’d been a big fan of Jay Electronica since 2007 I believe. The songs of his that hooked me were “Victory Is In My Clutches” and “My World (Nas Tribute)”. I know his several songs over the late J Dilla’s tracks were more lauded in the underground but those two aforementioned songs displayed Jay Electronica’s uncanny gift to apply the full scope of lyrical imagery, confident projection and enough sense to not do anything the beat didn’t call for. His words resonated inside your mind for days after listening and any listener could tell he gave a damn about his craft. Take a listen to those songs and try to deny it, I dare you.
However, a little over 2 months ago, Just Blaze debuted Jay Electronica’s now commercially available single on Tony Touch’s Shade45 satellite radio show. The Ill Roots crew were the the first to upload the radio rip of the song to my knowledge and with the added bonus of transcribed lyrics to boot featured on the Rappers I Know site, it was then I knew we had something special brewing. When I first heard it, I stopped working and possibly listened to it a good 30 times before I realized what I just heard. There were so many things happening in the song. Just Blaze’s track was driving, Jay Electronica’s semi-autobiographical lines were full of focus and then he just unloads bar after bar of relentless lyricism.
If it sounds like I’m fawning over this song, it’s because I am. As a member of the Nation of Gods & Earths, I have a natural affinity for rappers who share that association with me. But what really got me to pay attention is that the song is essentially about ascension and not just about a rapper poppin’ sh*t. He’s actually telling you from his humble beginnings how it began for him. He tells you how he got Knowledge of Self. He’s displaying how he doubted himself. He’s showing you how the very lessons the Five Percenters who “rolled up on a nigga and informed him” changed him. The song is triumphant in the sense that it climbs to heights few Hip Hop songs of late have done. Yes, he’s definitely showing off but he’s not showing out. This is Jay Electronica’s calling card to the world and it put every rapper who claims to love his craft on notice.
When the official version of the song was released digitally (and you can really hear the beat as Just Blaze intended ), it was refreshing to note that people got behind it. But I will say that there were several songs this year (such as Diablo Archer’s “Blue”) that had a similar effect on me and others fans but I think this song just came at a critical juncture. It was near the end of the year, the weather was changing and at the time of the radio rip release, there was no artist with major label backing aside from Jay-Z making any noise in the mainstream. This song exploded on all forms of social media outlets. Twitter was abuzz for weeks (and still is if you want to be honest). Facebook friends posted the song on their profiles. You couldn’t avoid this song even if you wanted to.
Even Jay Electronica’s peers were amazed by what he did. Again as I noted in the paragraph before, there were a lot of great songs from the top to bottom of the year but this song remains the most important. Look at all the MCs doing their own (inferior) versions of “Exhibit C”. If you follow Jay Electronica on Twitter, you can sense his humility. If you follow his tumblr account, you know he’s far from someone who trifles with petty adulation. The thing is, we don’t know a ton about him except what we’ve heard in his songs. We know he’s well-traveled and I’m pretty sure we all know who his daughter’s mother is by now. Can Jay Electronica, with Diddy’s enthusiastic backing, change the Rap climate? Only time will tell. But the effect Jay Electronica has on the game right now is simply undeniable.