Meek Mill vs. Wale
Green Ranger vs. Red Ranger
Lucas vs. Yoh
Just because people are on the same team doesn't mean they always agree on everything. For the past year, Yoh and I have been brothers in blog, pen pals, feature friends, writing side by side and doing some really cool shit. Squad. We both love hip-hop a little too much, but that doesn’t always mean we see eye to eye, in fact we never see eye to eye. We can’t go one single weekly squad call without Yoh strolling in five minutes late then uttering some nonsense like Graduation is a classic or The Waters is better than Cilvia. He’s also never been to Chipotle, so there’s that.
Just the other day, we got into an argument about hip-hop’s biggest tease, Jay Electronica. Rather than argue for hours, causing our Mangaging Editor Nathan to pull out his beard one hair follicle at a time, we figured it was best to take our debate to the internet streets and settle this like men...who sit behind computers all day and write about rap.
Just how memorable is Jay Electronica? How tight is his grip on hip-hop? Is he truly transcendent or a flash in the pan? What happens if Jay Elec doesn’t drop a project? Will people still be obsessed with his every move? Will we still be getting “it’s coming” interviews? Will people still care?
To answer those seven questions, we boiled this down to one simple question:
If Jay Electronica never drops a full-length project, will he still be remembered in a decade?
Lucas: "You can’t remember a story that hasn’t been written."
The year is 2025. A second term President West just passed a bill making “All Falls Down” the new national anthem. Vice President Jay Z puts on a Goodwill concert from planet Tidal (formerly known as Mars) in an effort to help popularize interplanetary space travel. Fetty Wap and Taylor Swift, music’s favorite couple, are both set to release their own albums to commercial and critical success; everyone, from children to adults, will be able to download the streams directly into their brain thanks to the brand new Apple Chip. Tweets are now holograms...as are most concerts. Oh yeah, the Cubs won the World Series and hoverboards still don't work on water.
The year is 2025 and Jay Electronica is forgotten...A never was...A small blip on the radar of an era that is a small blip on an even bigger radar.
Obviously, I have no idea what the future holds. Nobody does. The music industry is constantly changing, and it’s hard enough to predict what it will look like tomorrow let alone a decade from now. All I know is that it will be different. Very different. When things change so quick, long term success and relevance becomes very rare. Think about how many artists are commercially successful at any point. Now think about how many of those acts experience long term, consistent commercial success for more than ten years. How about twenty?
In 2025 it will be 18 years since Jay Elect's potential was noticed. 18 years since Act II was introduced as a potential thing. For some perspective, that 18 years is as long as Jay Z’s entire career. Look at what Jay Z has done to stay relevant, album after album and endeavor after endeavor. Can you reasonably expect Jay Electronica to have that kind of shelf life without ever releasing an actual project? I understand the man has immense talent, believe me, I do, but that is absolutely ludicrous.
How we consume and talk about music may change, but human nature won’t. Humans are short-sighted and scatterbrained. We move from one thing to another faster and faster. You can't hold onto potential for twenty years. Nobody can. Everyday Jay Electronica doesn't drop a project someone forgets, someone stops caring, someone is left with a bitter taste in their mouth. They stop clicking the interviews, checking for songs, or even worse they stop following on Twitter and eventually, Jay Elect-nevergonnadropanalbum-ica will fade in to oblivion.As someone who has felt that magic first hand, trust me, the high wears off and reality sets it. The man has incredible potential, but potential only gets you so far.
We don’t remember potential, we remember the ones who reached that potential and broke through the glass of what we thought was possible. We remember greatness. We remember heroes and the stories those heroes wrote. When it comes to Jay Electronica, how can you remember a story that was never written?
P.S. Yoh hates Illmatic. Never forget.
Yoh: "He has outlived Myspace."
Do you remember Myspace? I’m certain Jay Electronica remembers Myspace. Back in 2007, Electronica uploaded a song to his Myspace, too long to be a radio single, rapping over a score that he discovered while watching Michael Gondry’sEternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. He was a fairly unknown rapper, one that didn’t expect much in the term of numbers, but 50,000 plays later, I’m certain he knew that his life was beginning to change. Myspace is no longer the platform it once was years ago. Facebook came, Twitter came, Instagram and Snapchat came, Myspace ushered in an age of social media just to be overwhelmed by its offspring’s. Music works in a similar way, artist come and go, constantly replacing the hot commodity before them. There’s always one that comes and seizes the moment. Jay Electronica had a moment, a moment that has yet to end. He has outlived Myspace, he has outlived some of the blogs that wrote so joyously about his arrival, and he will continue to live, with or without an album.
Extraordinary men aren’t lost in history, they rewrite history. When I listen to the music that Jay has released, I hear an extraordinary rapper. The way he uses words, it’s like listening to a wizard cast a spell, not just any wizard, but Merlin himself. The eloquence of a poet, the rawness of a MC, and the intelligence of a nomad that has traveled from the streets of Harlem to the pyramids of Mexico. This man is not ordinary, to believe he’s expected to be confounded by conventional rules is like expecting to tame a dragon because you can get your dog to roll over. They aren’t the same. The only thing that should cause us to cease all conversations concerning Jay Electronica will be when the music becomes bad. When the talent begins to rot, when he stops giving us a reason to demand an album, that’s when he will disappear.
Every time I play a Jay Elect song, it’s like the first time. That rush of enjoyment, no matter how many times I rewind “Annakin's Prayer” it’s like returning back to the day I first heard him. I never came across another rapper quite like him. He’s impossible to mirror or mimic, even if you could break his style down to a science, you can’t recreate the mystic of the man. If he keeps releasing music, fantastic. If doesn’t, we have music, enough music to constantly remind ourselves that this man is a great MC. He’s not the kind of artist that moves millions of records, he isn’t Drake, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t an impeccable rapper and artist. If all we have to remember him by is features, loosies, and a mini-mixtape dating back to the dark ages before memes and Tinder, I think he’s still able to stand against time.
The older I get, I’m learning to cherish what I have instead of awaiting what isn’t promised. The moment I feel irritated by the lack of new, I play the old. I know, it’s natural to desire more, crave the music that Just Blaze deemed “earthshattering,” but that doesn’t mean we dismiss the sky splitting songs that already exist. He should be remembered for what he did, not what he didn’t. There’s only one Jay Electronica, it will only be one. He’s the limited edition, holographic, rapper in hip-hop’s deck of cards.
What do y'all think? If Jay Electronica never drops another project, will he still be remembered or forgotten?