Jay Electronica’s career has made little sense to the larger world. He’s put out one project, several loose songs, and continues to remain shrouded in a thick veil when it comes to his long awaited debut album, Act II.
Jay has a cheat code, though. Where others would be forgotten, Jay has maintained a certain level of relevancy. He’ll put out one or two songs a year, still do shows in both the U.S. and overseas, and gets a ton of media coverage when he is active.
What is the hold up on Act II though? It was done, then it wasn’t. It was on the verge of being turned in, but Roc Nation never got it. In the time that Jay has been waiting for his big signing to actually produce an album for the label even Dr. Dre has put out a new project. The Detox jokes are now outdated, and in its place Jay Electronica has taken the crown for the #1 most mythical album in hip-hop.
Act II has had a journey unlike any other hip-hop album in history. It began almost five years ago and every year has gotten stranger. Jay doesn’t do anything in a conventional way, but as he’ll probably tell you, “the train’s on schedule.” Unlike a train, full steam ahead on straight tracks, his path has been meandering, so we decided to compile this timeline to show you how close we’ve gotten to hearing the album, several times, and remind you of the songs he’s released since signing to Roc Nation.
This is the timeline of Act II, a timeline that now stretches more than eight years.
December 25, 2007: While a little known fact, Act II's first release date was supposed to be Christmas in '07. At the time, Jay used MySpace to let his fans know that more than 10 tracks were coming with production from Hi-Tek, Madlib, Mr. Porter, and more. Nas and Guilty Simpson were revealed as guest features. Let the wait begin.
December 25, 2009: Jay Elect likes Christmas quite a bit. His next (rumored) release date came two years after the first, but Just Blaze quickly shut that down. However, he didn't rule out a release before the end of the year.
November 12, 2010: Jay signs to Roc Nation and begins the long road to releasing his debut album, Act II. This happened after a bidding war ensued, which included Diddy, who expressed his frustration on Twitter a few days later. This was the moment he coined the “hurts when breathe” phrase. On the night of his signing, Jay Z threw a party at New York’s The Box to announce Electronica’s Roc Nation deal and the new signee performed “The Announcement."
November 15, 2010: Like a rapper with something to prove, Jay Electronica came out swinging with two records. The first was “The Announcement,” which he had performed a few days earlier. The second featured Jay Z and was titled “Shiny Suit Theory.” Excitement is at a fever pitch.
July 12, 2011: Not even a year after his signing, Jay Electronica completes Act II. “Album soon come,” he tweeted. Then, he listed off the only people in the universe to hear the completed album, which included Bun B, Erykah Badu, Jeymes Samuel, Tony Tagoe and, of course, Jay Z.
September 15, 2011: For some reason, the idea of sharing a record in a rough, unfinished state became something Jay Electronica does routinely. This song, to this day, remains as an untitled demo that was promising. “I was raised by America / had a baby with Erykah,” he rapped. The saddest thing is that we’ll never find out what Ricky Rozay, the boss, told him.
October 10, 2011: Whoa. What did we do to deserve another Jay Electronica record and in less than a month? “Call Of Duty” was inspired by the video game and features the legendary duo of Prodigy and Havoc.
March 8, 2012: Remember when Jay Electronica said his album was done and only a few people have heard it in its entirety? He must’ve lied or had deja vu, because he said that he finished the album again over half a year later. Technically, this was him tweeting his album would be turned in tomorrow, March 9, but if it was done in 2011, it would’ve been turned in. So, what happened? Did tomorrow never come? Has time just been frozen in Jay’s world?
Oh, and a collaborative EP with Lil B was in the works too. No clue if the two ever made any music together, but if this came to fruition, it’d be the definition of “breaking the internet.”
July 28, 2012: Over the years, Jay Electronica utilized Twitter to drop hints about his impending debut album, but the biggest glimmer of hope arrived midsummer 2012, when he tweeted a tracklist that has since been deleted. This was the moment we all waited for. If a tracklist existed, this meant Act II was completed. The album boasted big features from Jay Z, Diddy, Kanye West (twice!) and even former president Ronald Reagan. Just to make you sad...
- Real Magic [ft. Ronald Reagan]
- New Illuminati [ft. Kanye West]
- Patents of Nobility
- Life on Mars (@FatBellyBella)
- Bonnie & Clyde guest starring Serge Gainsbourg
- Dinner at Tiffanys (The Shiny Suit Theory) [ft. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jay-Z & The-Dream]
- Memories & Merlot
- Better in Tune with the Infinite [ft. Latonya Givens]
- A Letter to Falon
- Road to Perdition [ft. Jay-Z]
- Welcome to Knightsbridge [ft. Sean Diddy Combs]
- Rough Love [ft. Kanye West]
- Run & Hide guest starring The Bullitts
- Nights of the Roundtable (first draft skeleton)
- 10,000 Lotus Petals
Also, this was the day Jay unleashed one of most intriguing tweets that focused on his past, present and future projects. “Every magic trick consists of three parts. The Pledge: where the magician shows you something ordinary; a bird, a deck of cards or a man. The Turn: Where the magician takes the ordinary something and does something #Extraordinary.”
The third part of his magic trick would be The Prestige, but we’re trying to get one album out already, so let’s focus on that first.
July 4, 2013: Jay Electronica says it's his turn after Jay Z releases Magna Carter Holy Grail. We're still waiting.
September 30, 2013: During a rather a dry year (with the exception of “Control,” where Jay's stellar verse was overshadowed), the only information we received about Act II didn’t come from the man himself, it was through a Just Blaze interview. The main takeaway is that Jay Electronica is moving at his own pace. Just adds that he loves to use the phrase “my train’s on schedule.” Well, damn. Is this train circling the entire universe first?
“He did a lot of the beats himself then I came in and produced the songs," Blaze said. "Did overdubs, tied songs together, and then added maybe like two or three new songs. Two or three new songs the last time I was out in London. The album’s great and it’s not like he’s not thinking about it. He texted me two days ago like ‘Yo, do you really think I should put out this record as a single?’ He’s still formulating it in his head.”
“He’s just in his own zone and he’s gonna do it when he’s ready…I feel like the album needs a slight bit more touching up. Just in terms of like—not that it needs more songs. The reality of it is there’s like a couple of songs that maybe he needs to do a verse over on…Maybe a song or two that needs maybe a string arrangement or something. But for the most part the core of the album is there. It’s pretty much done.”
Pretty much done...
April 24, 2014: We’ve never had a definitive release date, just hints. For instance, Jay tweeted (you see the pattern of using Twitter for almost everything?) that he was going to try and “burst the heavens open” on July 12. That sounds like a release date, but it came and went as usual. It's now been three years since he said "album come soon."
September 22, 2014: At this point, Jay Elec is teetering on the border of the boy who cried wolf and “maybe this is actually going to happen.” Somehow, he has a magical ability that people just haven’t given up hope yet. Is his older music that strong? Regardless, a rare interview appearance on Hip Hop Wired had him discussing the influence that Act II could have if it ever drops.
When he says that he wants his presence alone to have an impact, that essentially sums up the last five years. Anybody else would’ve fallen into the realm of irrelevance.
"I feel like the album is gonna be what it is, you know what I'm saying?" he said. "You can never predict... well, you could. Some wise scientists can predict things. That's how they move fashion and everything forward. They predict. The black man who writes the history of the earth; he predicts things in advance.”
"For me and my album, I can't really predict how people are going to take to the album and what kind of impact it's going to have. I feel like my presence alone in the industry... I plan to have impact with my presence alone. Me spreading love, me trying to share what I can share. Me giving my experience. And hopefully that has more impact than, necessarily, the album does.”
March 14, 2014: When you ask a rapper to release something new on social media, 99% of the time you’re going to be ignored. In a moment that screams a Jay Electronica-type of approach, one fan dared him to give us a new record and succeeded. After having a good time at SXSW, Jay decided this was the least he could do. Thus, we received “Better In Tune With The Infinite,” featuring LaTonya Givens. Are we excited again? Yes. Should we really be? Probably not.
March 6, 2015: Three years after the tracklist first surfaced, Jay unleashed another record that proved his album wasn’t necessarily a myth. “Road To Perdition” randomly popped up through the Soundcloud that Jay E uploads on (Cracktrack504 apparently belongs to a producer by the name of Law). What’s interesting about this record is back in 2011, Jay said that he had a verse from Shawn Carter, but the version we got only has a bridge and some ad-libs from him.
July 22, 2015: The method to Jay Electronica’s madness finds him turning to Twitter (again), where he gives a fan an opportunity to release a new unreleased song. “Man Up” is the end result.
August 19, 2015: “You might be the 6 God, but I am the God,” Jay Electronica said during a live performance in London. J. Cole, for unknown reasons, wasn’t spared either: “I’m sorry but J. Cole ain’t got bars like this. I’m sorry, whoever your favorite rapper is, they all know that I’m the God.” Hip-hop fans were quick to point out that both Drake and J. Cole have multiple albums out while Jay continues to make us wait.
September 11, 2015: Just Blaze offers his latest update on Act II. Unfortunately, it sounds like a rehashing of his interview in 2013, even including Jay’s train catchphrase. Guess we’re not getting a real update this year...or are we?
“I don’t have any updates since the last update I gave," he said, "Which was I have a pretty, nearly-finished version of it in my phone. I don’t know what he’s gonna do with it. He’s chillin’ out in London. He’s doing well. Jay’s life philosophy is ‘My train is running on schedule.’ That’s how he lives his life.”
October 14, 2015: Jay Electronica is still performing shows off his older material. Records that came out five plus years ago. Not a lot of artists can do that. He had a show in NY at the annual CMJ event and, responding to a fan in the crowd, jokingly (or not) said he was contemplating deleting Act II. “I was just backstage talking about that with [Jason] Goldwatch. We were talking about the delete button,” he said. So, no real update this year.
If Jay Electronica does end up deleting his album, does this mean we have six more years of no debut album? What would compel him to even say that? Is there even an album at all?
Not getting Act II in 2015 seems fine considering we have gotten an overwhelming amount of music this year, or at least overwhelming by Elec standards. It’s come to a point where you have to question if Act II could ever live up to expectations, or will it be just another “here today, forgotten tomorrow” album release (see Compton).
Maybe Jay is scared of that fact, too.
We may never know. We may never hear Act II. This could wind up being the story of the greatest rapper who never reached his potential, or maybe, just maybe, the train is indeed on schedule.
Either way, something tells me I'll be updating this timeline for years to come, maybe even into the infinite.
[By Sermon, the future Jay Electronica of journalism. Follow him on Twitter (before he deletes all his tweets and marries a beautiful billionaire).]