You may not know who Jay Electronica is yet, but I'm willing to bet that you would had he chosen a better name. Jay Electronica does not sound like the one of the most buzzed about rappers of 2008. Jay Electronica sounds like the name of a small-potatoes Milwaukee techno DJ circa 1999 who magically found a way to include “Do you Think We're Better Off Alone,” and “We Like to Party” in every set. Somehow, despite this ill-fated nomenclature, Electronica has received a deal from Just Blaze and Erykah Badu, a spot on the new Nas and Roots records and the cover of last month's Urb, where he elicited a comparison to a “Live at the BBQ”-era Nas. Not bad.
The buzz comes off the strength of his ambitious, wildly original, if not slightly pretentious,”Act 1: Eternal Sunshine: The Pledge,” and a few unofficial EP's released on a since-deleted Myspace page. While the material that has surfaced is certainly strong, the Nas comparisons only bear a superficial resemblance. At 31, Electronica has spent the last decade living a peripatetic existence, with stops in New Orleans, Atlanta, Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Washington DC, Denver and Dallas, a far cry from the 16-year old Queens prodigy with a ferocious imagination and a poet's eye for detail.
Still, the attention is at least partially merited. Judging from “Act 1” and the rest of the flotsam and jetsam floating around the Web, Electronica has certainly studied his Nas, Pun, and Pharoahe Monch. Plus, getting beats from the likes of Dilla and Madlib, never made anyone sound worse. My favorite song thus far is, “Bitches and Drugs,” a rant about the weak state of hip-hop, where Electronica manages to craft an interesting song out of a trite subject. Moreoever, you can't help but be dazzled by the way in which Electronica absolutely man-handles Dilla's jittery paranoid beat, a furious two minute drill of ringing alarms, bleak, haunting synth lines and executioner drums.
As Zilla pointed out a few weeks ago, “Dilla’s beats don’t work with technical wordsmiths, There’s too much movement, too much lush instrumentation, too many pockets to catch for an MC like Talib Kweli or Black Thought (sorry) to handle comfortably.” But Electronica stays afloat, curving with the beat's parabolic bends while flipping complex similes and impressive lyricism. It's an encouraging start to what will hopefully be a solid career. Let's just hope that someone explains to Electronica that calling his debut LP, Abracadabra: Let There Be Light might be better suited as the name of the next J.K. Rowling book.