The Anniversary About Nothing: On Five Years Without Jay Electronica’s Major Label Debut Album

11.12.15 2 years ago 24 Comments
TIDAL X: Jay-Z B-sides in NYC on May 16, 2015 in New York City.

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For good or bad, the hip-hop blogosphere lives for anniversaries. At their best, these articles give us the opportunity to celebrate a great piece of art and examine it with the new found perspective and distance that only comes with time. At worst, they are just easy filler to quell the rumbling stomach of a content hungry leviathan that is seemingly never satiated. Either way, few of us are immune to the brief feeling of euphoria that courses through one’s veins following a 400-word shot of nostalgia, as we scroll down looking for our next hit.

Of course, anniversaries can serve an unhappier purpose: to mark off the years since a tragedy or loss. For example, Heavy D passed away just four years ago on November 8. Instagram posts with images of the “Overweight Lover” in colorful tailored suits flashing his infectious smile remind us of all of things he did and the memories that he left behind.

Today, however, might mark one of the most tragic anniversaries of them all. Today, we celebrate five years of nothing. There is no finished piece of art upon which to debate its place amongst the all-time greats. There are no bittersweet memories of a fallen hero. There is only speculation on what may happen and rumination on what hasn’t.

On the twelfth day of November in the Year of our Lord two thousand and ten, Jay Electronica signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label. It has been five years since, and we have yet to hear his major label debut album, Act II: Patents of Nobility (the Turn). I say yet to hear because, according to a July 12, 2011 tweet from Jay himself, five people, including Jay-Z, Erykah Badu, and Bun B have heard the album in its entirety. A full year later on July 28, 2012 Jay tweeted out a track list for the album that included features from the author of “Dead Presidents” (Jay Z), an actual dead president (Ronald Reagan), and a potential future president (Kanye West). By all accounts, this thing actually exists.

To briefly jump backwards in the timeline; near the end of 2009 Jay Elect released one of the best hip-hop singles of the past decade in the Just Blaze produced “Exhibit C.” The lush production, with its animated drum programming, swelling strings, and angelic vocal samples already felt like fanfare heralding the entrance of newly crowned royalty. Add to that lyricism that was at once densely packed with abstract references and instantly relatable to the common person and it is no surprise that hip-hop listeners awaited the next iteration of “the one” to save hip-hop from the impending death march that we all live in fear of every five years.

Fast forward to 2015 and we still wait anxiously like an adolescent child hoping his long lost father will return from the corner store with the pack of cigarettes he left to get years prior. With the hysteria created by the avant garde Act I: The Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge), scavenged collaborations with Dilla and Mr. Porter from his time in Detroit, “Exhibits A” and “C,” the pair of songs that accompanied his signing, and the handful of damn good to jaw dropping songs and features sprinkled over the past 1800 or so days, we cannot let ourselves give up on Jay Electronica. The evidence of his genius is too solid to ignore, and the potential for his greatness is just too high to give up yet.

But even those of us with monastic patience will reach a date where we stop waiting. Until then, we chase the dragon with weary legs, hoping to tap into the high that got us hooked in the first place.

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