Jay Electronica Capitalized on his Unrealized Potential
I have always been interested in an artist’s background, tidbits like where he or she is from, upbringing, things that make him or her tick. I get really involved if the artist has a really dope sound. One artist that I came to admire from an early age was Jay Electronica. I won’t sit here and pretend like I knew of him before he dropped one of the Rap games most profound singles in “Exhibit C” cause that’s when i first became aware of Jay Elect. It has been a whopping ten years (coming up this year) since he made his mark and fans still have yet to receive an album.
Now I want to make an analogy to the sports world. Every off-season for sports leagues such as the NBA and the NFL have drafts that are filled with college-aged athletes looking to take their talents on the next level for a huge payday. Teams spend millions of dollars and spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to gauge which athletes have the highest abilities to perform well in a professional setting. Often times these athletes have a huge body of work to rely upon, a la “Check the tape”. Sometimes though, athletes don’t have a lot of tape to go off of, but may have unheard of intangibles that cannot be coached. May it be athleticism or physical build, teams sometimes take risk on these unproven prospects in the hopes that they can turn their potential into production on the professional level. Year after year we see the opposite.
A lot of times, teams give contracts to people who have yet to earn them, so to speak, but they continue to take these risks. The NFL used to give rookies a lot of guaranteed money with the poster child for unrealized potential being Jamarcus Russell of the Oakland Raiders being in the ’00s decade. They have since revised the amount of money rookies earn, but still take the same risks that were mentioned earlier. Are you still with me? Good, now back to Jay Electronica.
When Jay Elect dropped “Exhibit C” he was still a free-agent with a lot of heavyweights vying for his signature on a record contract. P Diddy thought he was a shoe-in to sign the most coveted artist of that decade, but Jay ended up signing with Rocnation instead, much to Diddy’s chagrin. From there, Jay Elect announced that he was working on the album while never setting an actual date. Fans were patient in the beginning.
Jay Elect continued to make the news throughout the next couple years, but rarely was it music news. Most times it was about being seen in the most random places in the world or his relationships with Erykah Badu and Kate Rothschild, respectively. He did however lend vocals to a various amount of artist from time to time, reigniting his fans’ hope yet again. The most noise he made wasn’t actually cause by him yet he was on the song that had everyone in the rap world losing their sh*t. Kendrick Lamar’s verse on Big Sean’s “Control” song lamented that he didn’t care who you were, you were nothing compared to him and his pen. I didn’t think too much of that verse, honestly. The story goes that Jay Elect never heard Kendrick’s verse until the song came out and by that time it would be too late to change anything. I think in my most unbiased opinion that Jay Elect’s verse was the best on that song, but Kendrick’s verse lit a fire under everyone that was named and chaos ensued.
One would think that verse would finally push Jay Electronica to release his album, but I knew there would never be an album. Why should there be? If everyone was so quick to name Kendrick Lamar the King of rap from one verse it shows that everyone is stuck in groupthink and will elevate whoever and whenever. This isn’t a slight to Kendrick because I believe his DAMN album is the best rap album of this decade, i’ll save that for a later date.
I always told one of my closest friends, Frank, that Jay Elect would never drop because we as fans do not appreciate art for more than a few weeks and then we’re on to the next. The music industry is churning up and chewing out new acts seemingly faster than we can get used to whatever album has just came out.
Fast-forward to now in 2019 and we still don’t have a proper album from Jay Electronica and I’m not mad at him. Most fans listen to whats popular regardless of how they personally feel about the music. Who would’ve thought that a person without a rags to riches story like Drake would be the apex predator of the rap game 10 years ago? I don’t even know if Lil’ Wayne saw the same career trajectory for OVO’s Drake. It was a point in time where a lot of people didn’t like Drake’s music dubbing it as too soft, this that and the third. Speak ill-will towards Drake these days and beware of his mob of fans as they will assemble and get you up outta there.
I applaud the finesse of Jay Elect, Drake and all those college athletes that either capitalize on their potential or exceed people’s expectations on their career. Nowadays artist are releasing music at a steadfast rate to stay relevant. I don’t think they have to do that though. Kendrick Lamar has been sitting quietly since his last release and whenever he does drop something next, I expect everyone to stop what their doing to check it out.
A young artist who is not trying to keep up with the times and moves at his own pace is Playboi Carti. Carti doesn’t have a huge amount of music circling the net but his fanbase is ride or die. When I first started listening to Carti, I had to really search for songs rather it be youtube, soundcloud or wherever because he had much of nothing on Spotify or Apple Music a few years ago. He did have one unofficial tape on Spotify but soon-after I found it, it got taken off of the streaming service. Tracks like “Broke Boi” and “Don’t tell Nobody” were some of my favorites from him and they were on this tape among others.
Now that Carti is sort of mainstream, he still keeps an air of mysteriousness. He doesn’t tweet often, doesn’t stunt for IG and still not releasing music regularly. He is still enjoying success from his self-titled mixtape, more specifically “Magnolia” and “iwokeuplikedis (f/ Lil Uzi)”, and his Die lit album, but is getting ready to release the heavily anticipated Whole Lotta Red which can drop soon or never. You just never know with Carti.
Anyway, it’s hard for an artist not to want to fill the airwaves in the streaming era because fans have so much access to an artist’s catalog, more than ever before. I’m always paying attention to an artist’s marketing scheme or lack thereof. Some artist abhor attention (Ugly God) while others revel in it (Migos). I just find it incredible that Jay Electronica has still yet to drop an album, but I figured he wouldn’t anyway (here’s to hoping he changes his mind).
For those who are still Jay Electronica fans, such as myself, there is a youtube channel that spawned over a year ago with a lot of his older music on it that I revisit when i need a musical cleanse of some sort.