It’s rare that old rap heads get excited about new rap nowadays. It’s even more rare when that excitement is a rapper who might actually be relevant in todays musical landscape. When I first heard Jay Electronica, my initial reaction was “What’s up with this corny name?”. It sounded like an EDM producer from a third world country. But when I heard the raps, I felt something I hadn’t in a long time. There was something about Jay’s voice, flow and lyrics that took me back. They made me get the same feeling I would , back in the day, after I would buy cassettes at Disc-o-rama on west 4th street. I’d come home , Throw down my book bag, put a tape into the cassette player and just let it run. While it played, i’d meticulously go through the liner notes. Reading the production credits, looking at the artwork and checking the shout outs to see who this group/rapper knew. This was a time when i was a teenager and everything was exciting. Especially rap music. Flash forward 20 years and it’s a different story. I don’t listen to albums like that any more. I can’t. I got shit to do. At best, I’ll throw it in my Ipod and walk around with it and catch he whole thing over the course of a few weeks. Even then, I’ll get 20 seconds into a track, decide I’m not into it and skip it. Between aging and technology, it’s simply a different ball game.
So, when I heard Jay Electronica (this was probably 5 years ago at this point), it hit a nerve. He was a rapper who was clearly from my era of rap fans (IE he was old) BUT he had an edge that didn’t make him sound like a revivalist. One song in and I wanted to know everything about him. Since liner notes were not an option, I turned to the internet which is like liner notes for earth. A little research and I found Jay had a few mixtapes (which I quickly downloaded). He had enough material to really dig into. One would almost think , at that point, you were dealing with a prolific artist. And that’s a funny concept once you get familiar with Jay Electronica.
Since that time, it would appear Jay has hit a wall. Not of creativity but of production. After dropping stellar mix tapes and loose tracks in short period of time, he finally got the attention he deserved. Puffy, nas and Jay-Z all were knocking on his door. He did songs with two of them eventually. Word was he signed to Defcon records. Then word was he signed to The Roc (Jay-z’s label) and that’s where the trail went cold. Electronica started to become the Andre 3000 of underground rap. Every fan begging for an album…or even a song, but nothing. Every now and then, out of nowhere, he’d drop a song that would remind us all of why we desperately wanted new material but, as quick as that song would come, he would vanish into thin air with only a faint promise of “The album drops soon, guys…”.
There was even gossip going around. He was with Erykah Badu AKA the hip hop baby factory but then he was supposedly having an affair with a married woman from the insanely rich Rothchild family. There was talk of him being a drunk and having a terrible work ethic. All the while, he was supposedly working on his solo album “Act II: Patents of Nobility” for Roc nation records. There was even a leaked tracklisting that may or may not have been real. Then I heard that the album was done, Jay-z loved it, but was sitting on it cause it didn’t have any hits. Which seemed counterproductive to anyone familiar with Electronica’s music. He’s not a guy who makes hits. He’s a tried and true rapper. Trying to milk him for success isn’t in the cards for him. He’s a dude who will much sooner have 20,000 devoted fans than 1,000,000 people who’ve even heard of him, like one song but really have no opinion o him outside of that.
So, with all this push and pull, Jay’s fans are seemingly left in a strange position. It’s like an abusive relationship. We love this person but they just keep disappointing us. For every gentle kiss on our forehead, there’s a back handed slap to the face and the door slamming behind them that follows it. My question, for fans of Jay, is it too late? Can he still make an album that you want to check out? Personally, I’m a forgiving person and , more than anything, the quality of the songs he’s released has no waned. He may drop one song a year but I’ll be damned if that song isn’t great.
So, last week, a new song of his leaked “Road to perdition” and, surprise, it’s really good.
Here that it:
Road to Perdition
Also, I put together a folder of some of my favorite songs of his so, to the uninitiated , this could be a good starting point for you:
So, over the last few years I’ve been working on a new solo album. About 6 months ago, I finally finished it. It is called “Bells and Whistles” and I’d like to chat with you about it (as well as leak a song off it, but that comes a little later).
So, the first question I’ve been getting about this album is “Who’s putting it out?”
Well, first off, my time with Ninja Tune is done. After 5 albums, they opted to pass on the new record. “Why?” you ask. Basically cause sampling is too much of a pain in the ass to deal with for a record label. This is something I fully understand and there is absolutely no ill will between us. The writing had been on the wall for a while and them not putting this album out was not a shock to me at all. In fact, I’d like to thank Ninja Tune for the years we had together and say they are, without question, one of the most professional and organized record labels I’ve ever seen. They’re even fair, which is an under rated quality for a record label to have.
Anyway, once it was definitive that Ninja wasn’t doing it, I set out to find a label that would. I (my manager actually) sent the album out to a bunch of labels. The response was good but the same issue kept coming up. People were scared of the samples. After all, I make sample heavy music. While I’d argue that the stuff I’m using is pretty obscure, I can’t blame labels for being hesitant. After all, the way they make money off music in 2014 is by licensing songs for tv, movies and commercials. When a song is chock full of samples (as mine tend to be) that severely limits what these labels can do with your music. At the end of the day, this is a business and someone putting out my album for me doesn’t make sense financially cause it’s not like enough people still buy records to recoup those costs. I realize all this business talk is very unsexy, especially when leading into a new release but it’s the reality of putting out music in 2014.
So, after all that, I opted to just put the album out myself. I could blow smoke up your ass right here and give a manifesto on why I’m so happy to be self releasing this album but I’ll save that bullshit for people work in the press. This is not my ideal situation (At my core, I’m lazy and would rather have someone else do all this bullshit for me) but at least I have 100% control over my work. That’s always nice. It also makes this project far more intimate for me cause it’s literally all me. My music and my money, going directly into it. No other hands in the pot, financially or creatively. It’s weird to land in this position cause, as someone who’s been putting music out since the late 90’s, it’s like I’ve come full circle. I started out selling Aesop cd’s on the internet out of my mom’s house. We pressed them up ourselves, cut the covers ourselves and I’d send them all , one by one to random strangers. 15 years , 5 solo albums, countless works with rappers, and here I am again. The hustle has got more refined but it’s still very similar.
As for the album itself, it’s 12 songs long. Clocking in over an hour. It features no guests (accept Damian paris who has played guitar,synth and bass on all my albums). It’s all beats. I’m still waiting on the artwork and getting vinyl pressed, thus the non-definitive release date. I can say it should almost certainly drop in 2014. I’m gunning for a late fall/early winter release.
My plan is to press up a limited amount of vinyl. Maybe 1000 copies. That’s it. This will be some truly collectors type stuff right here. I plan on selling them on the road, as well as online. Otherwise, I’ll sell the album online digitally. The details aren’t ironed out but I’m hoping to sell it at a slightly lower price than normal. Like $7. Still gotta see if that makes sense. Regardless, it’ll be up on all the digital music sites for your buying pleasure. One thing I’m probably not gonna do is press up cd’s. I dunno…if touring has taught me anything it’s that people don’t really buy cd’s anymore. So, I’mma just skip that altogether.
The response was heavy (which was nice to see) and the final tally of votes was actually incredibly close. Turns out, people like being depressed a tiny bit more than they like feeling good. I should note though, this song isn’t exactly depressing. It’s more just emotive. So, while it may not put a smile on your face , it also won’t be the thing pushing you over to the dark side. Basically, it’s an intro to this album I’ve got dropping. The rest of the album is all over the place, mood wise. I got that sad slow shit. I got that upbeat happy shit. I got that “driving in your car at 4 am on an empty highway” shit. I got that “walking home drunk after getting that girls number” shit. I’ve got that “scared in the woods” shit. It’s all there. I can’t wait for you guys to hear it. Until that is possible, I leave you this one song. It’s called “Kaput!”. Enjoy and thanks for listening. You guys are literally what make this all possible.