Originally hailing from New Orleans, Electronica emerged in the late 2000s as a rapper and songwriter with unlimited potential.
Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge), his first and, until Friday, most recent project, spurred online buzz in 2007. When Electronica linked up with legendary producer Just Blaze in 2009 for the instant classics "Exhibit A" and "Exhibit C," Jay-Z caught wind and signed Electronica to Roc Nation as one of the label's first artists.
But for nearly a decade after, Jay Elec's path to rap glory hung in the balance.
For a young hip-hop fan like myself who was only 13 years old around the time Electronica started bubbling, one of my first encounters with him happened when he appeared on Mac Miller's "Suplexes Inside of Complexes and Duplexes." He'd later bring out Mac, J. Cole, Jay-Z and others for a historic performance at The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival in 2014.
He'd also appear here and there across the hip-hop spectrum for several years to come, including on Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book in 2016 and Curren$y's Pilot Talk: Trilogy in 2017. But it seemed no tangible headway was ever made on an album release, even though he had enough material for multiple albums.
Electronica's musical ambitions assumed a mythical identity similar to that of Dr. Dre's forever-unfinished Detox.
On Feb. 7, that all changed when the 43-year-old artist suddenly announced the album was finished and it was going to be released in 40 days. Titled A Written Testimony, he also said that his mentor and extremely patient boss, Jay-Z, was going to make an appearance. Hov even reactivated his Twitter to like the series of tweets.
To summarize nearly every hip-hop fan's reaction:
Fast forward about a month and the world is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Brian "Z" Zisook, editor-in-chief of DJBooth, said it best in a Wednesday tweet. "Jay Electronica had a fucking decade to release an album. Then a pandemic hits and he's like, "It's go time." 😭," he wrote.
Picking Friday the 13th in the midst of a pandemic was likened to Jay-Z's decision to release The Blueprint on 9/11. To be fair, Electronica's long-awaited new music has probably helped many people take their mind off the chaos that's happening outside.
A Written Testimony holds ten expertly-crafted songs with much of the production coming from Electronica himself. Among a few others, Swizz Beats, The Alchemist and No I.D. contributed to the instrumentals. Jigga shines across 80% of the album's songs, and Travis Scott and The-Dream are also featured.
One standout Electronica line to whet your third eye: "Sometimes I was held down by the gravity of my pen / Sometimes I was held down by the gravity of my sin / Sometimes, like Santiago, at crucial points of my novel / My only logical option was to transform into the wind," he raps on "Ezekiel's Wheel."
As for Jay-Z, he addressed claims that he sold out after striking a deal between Roc Nation and the NFL: "Why would I sell out? I'm already rich, don't make no sense / Got more money than Goodell, a whole NFL bench / Did it one-handed like Odell, handcuffed to a jail / I would've stayed on the sideline if they could've tackled that shit themselves," he raps on "Flux Capacitor."
You can stream the immaculate A Written Testimony below. 👁️