Amidst a pandemic that will likely find its way into history books, Jay Electronica and Jay-Z combine forces, providing their own stimulus package to hip-hop. A Written Testimony, Jay Electronica’s debut studio album, was released on March 13th, 2020.
The album’s intro provides a thesis statement for the listener, with an excerpt from a speech by The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. The symphony that accompanies Farrakhan’s words builds suspense. It beckons the listener to take a seat and enjoy Farrakhan’s, ergo Electronica’s, sermon. Since, as Electronica puts it, “If it come from me and Hov, consider it Qur’an”.
Following “The Overwhelming Event”, Jay-Z surprises us with the first verse on the project. Having missed any articles hinting at Jay-Z’s inclusion on A Written Testimony, I was completely caught off guard. Scrolling through the track list, I recognized Travis Scott was featured, but that was it. Lo and behold, the first bars come from one of hip hop’s living legends. The inclusion of Hov on nearly every track elevates the album to an instant classic.
On “Universal Soldier”, Jay Electronica uses wordplay to convey his status. Stating that he’s got the ‘Roc’ on his shoulder, referring to Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s label, of which Electronica was signed to in 2010. At first glance, this line is Jay Electronica’s statement to hip-hop, that he is certified, vetted and vouched for, by one of the genre’s greatest artists. But having “the rock” on one’s shoulder, also refers to carrying a weight. Given the confidence in his delivery, Electronica doesn’t see this weight as a burden; rather, it seems that he welcomes the responsibility of carrying the load, like he’s got something to prove.
Travis Scott’s brief inclusion on the hook of “The Blinding” was disappointing at first, because I was gearing up for a verse from La Flame himself. But upon reaching the song’s conclusion, it became clear that Electronica’s choice to limit Scott to the hook was deliberate. It acts as a nod to the new style of hip-hop, of which Travis Scott is a leading figure, while allowing Jay Electronica to demand respect for his own craft.
A Written Testimony is a genre merging, enlightening, and expertly crafted listening experience. Given the current state of the world, it’s therapeutic and even gave me chills during my initial listen. I highly recommend this LP.
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