Raw Side Hip Hop

Jay Electronica finally drops debut album – ‘A Written Testimony’

I’ve steered clear of giving a review for this one, because when you’ve waited over a decade for something, the expectations are super high and you don’t want to cloud your judgement with a ‘recency bias’ so instead, I’m just going to have a look at the ‘debut solo album’ from Jay Electronica and hopefully generate some discussion among the real hip hop heads.

First thing’s first, it’s not really a solo joint, it’s a Jay & Jay collaboration with Hova appearing on nearly every joint outside on an intro and interlude – but when you have two talented guys like this, it’s a much more endearing version of ‘Best of Both Worlds’. 10 years ago, when it appeared Jay Electronica was going to take over the game and ‘save’ hip hop, he eventually signed with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation which at the time wasn’t the powerhouse it is now. But it was a coming together of a King and a Prince. The album itself continues that dynamic on the mic, not just in the boardroom with some fantastic results.

There is little doubting the lyrical ability of both emcees. Jay Electronica should be as hungry as ever on such a long-awaiting debut (which he is) but Hov could be forgiven for just turning something in. At 50 years old, he accomplished it all and his own most recent solo release ‘4:44’ showed the depth and growth of him as an emcee, father and man – but on this album he still brings the fire in your belly kind of bars that are reminiscent of the era when Jay Electronica threatened to blow the game wide open.

Bar for bar, these guys just flow and go at your jugular. They also really speak to you and thought-inspiring lyrics aren’t a new trend for Jay E who has straddled the conscious / religious / social commentary path since day one. Where, for me, the album was rather disappointing was in the production itself. I’m not saying it’s bad / wack / trash like some, but it is more abstract that Q-Tip. The lack of drums is something I really struggle to get past and while it’s not just a straight minimalist style ala Daringer, it’s complex soundscapes and lo-fi nature really test a boom-bap hip hop head like me.

So overall, what are we getting? It’s a solid collaborative album for those who are just jonesing for some Jay Electronica and Jay Z action, but as far as a classic or even top tier release, I feel it falls short. For someone who waited a long time to release it, I was expecting more and that’s why I am reserving the actual review. It was solid, unspectacular. I found myself more impressed with Hov than anything else and in all honesty, I’m STILL waiting for that debut album that will deliver on the ‘Exhibit C’ vibe that made me a Jay Electronica fan in the first place.

Check it out on Spotify below and then let us know your thoughts.

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