If LC wouldn’t have written her article on Jay Electronica and Blu, I would have. I came back from SXSW fed up and frustrated that I didn’t see them perform. In fact, I was ready to write off both emcees – especially Jay Electronica, who doesn’t even have an album under his belt like Blu does.
I stand before you a changed man.
Jay Electronica came back home to New Orleans last night and rocked the Traffic Boutique show at the Howlin’ Wolf to its core. For those that question the Crescent City’s fan base and love of lyricism, look no further than the crowd reciting every Jay line word for word. For one night, production schedules, albums and expectations went out the window as Jay Electronica put on an impassioned performance for the Big Easy.
But Mr. Badu’s performance was only half the story. Thanks to the homies Stalley (more on him later) and EF Cuttin, I was able to get backstage. Things were going pretty normally for a Hip-Hop show: lots of yelling for blunts, politicking and C-Rayz Walz yelling about his trial and freestyling to nobody in particular in the awesome way that only Mr. C-Rayz can that is simultaneously fascinating and frightening.
Then Mos Def walked in.
The whole room woke up and was focused on Mos. I am not ashamed to say that David D., esteemed professional journalist, left the building and was replaced by the kid that used Blackstar as his Bible in middle school. I had to try with all my might not to lose my shit. I think I failed.
Mos Def was very approachable, cracking jokes with everybody backstage, even showing everybody the pictures of Mardi Gras Indians he saw. But let’s not forget: Mos Def is a genius and quirky idiosyncrasies come with the territory. From the red unidyne microphone he carries around in a pouch to the tall guy with a wooden stick that follows him around, Mos is one of the most interesting, and down to earth, approachable artists I’ve met. (By “met” I mean “stood in the corner and spoke briefly while trying to keep my composure about being in the same building as the man that made Black On Both Sides’”).
When Jay Electronica took the stage, I had to leave Mos Def behind and film the show. If you follow the videos of Jay’s performances on various blogs and Flipcam footage, you’d think he just performs “Exhibit C” over and over and leaves the building. At Traffic Boutique, Jay played to the home crowd, beat boxing famous bounce songs and singing Rick James between his catalogue of underground classics.
Then, during “Exhibit A”, the most electric moment I’ve ever experienced during a live performance happened. First, Electronica told everybody to come on stage. Literally. He invited every member in the audience to the stage. Then a familiar voice piped in with an adlib. And, out of nowhere, Mos Def – red mic in hand- spit his own verse over the “Exhibit A” beat and New Orleans welcomed its newest resident by going completely ape shit the whole time.
A week ago, I would have cited Curren$y’s show at the Firehouse (that I have since dubbed “Blazed at the Firehouse”) at SXSW as the most raw, amazing show I’ve ever seen. Jay Electronica’s homecoming was just as good. I can only hope these videos do it justice.
Also, I have to thank the homie, Law over at Traffic Boutique for everything. He puts on amazing shows in New Orleans and always makes sure the local talent gets shine at these gigs. If you’re in the area, stop by his store too and grab some gear.