Jay Electronica is one of the biggest enigmas of modern Hip-Hop. At 40 years old, he is one of the elder statesmen of rap, along with the likes of Dr. Dre, The Wu Tang Clan, Eminem, Jay-Z and Nas. There are, however, many differences between Jay Electronica and his peers; in terms of album releases, Eminem has released 8 albums, Dr. Dre has 3 solo releases, Nas has 10, The Wu-Tang Clan has 6 as a group alone and Jay-Z has released an incredible 16 albums. Jay Electronica still has the world waiting for his debut.
Jay Electronica was born Timothy Elpardo Thedford on September 19th 1976. Raised in the Magnolia Projects in New Orleans, he has said in a rare interview that he was inspired by the music of his MTV-obsessed cousin and his mother. At home, he learnt “that songs were like stories and poems and books.” He began rhyming at the age of 11, being taught by his uncle, who was a big hip-hop fan. At the age of 19 Jay Electronica left New Orleans to pursue his dream of being a famous hip-hop artist. For more than 10 years he has travelled to places like Baltimore, Detroit, New York City and Atlanta, eventually going to every one of the United States, playing shows whenever he could and living a very nomadic lifestyle. Along the way he decided to change his diction and style in order to ditch his New Orleans accent, so as to avoid Southern prejudice.
It wasn’t until 2007 that people really started paying attention to what Jay had to say: he released a 15-minute song split into three sections that he titled ‘Act 1: Eternal Sunshine’. The project sampled the soundtrack of the Michael Gondry film ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ as well as the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film. The album started with friend/producer Just Blaze recounting the tale of meeting Jay. The song contained no drums (rare for a hip-hop project) and, upon release on Myspace, was downloaded over 50,000 times within a month. Jay followed ‘Act 1: Eternal Sunshine’ with the ‘Style Wars EP’, a 12-song download only release that continued his rise to the top. A more conventional release, it deals with the themes of racism and his life as a Muslim. The release of ‘Attack of the Clones’ in 2008 continued the theme of Star Wars-related nomenclature, and contained a sample from Morgan Freeman, Curtis Mayfield and others.
Jay continued his streak of releases with two singles, Exhibit A and Exhibit C, both featuring the production of Just Blaze once again. The songs proved incredibly popular and garnered Jay even more fans & adoration than the then-34 year old ever would have thought possible. It seemed as though his time had come: he signed with Jay-Z’s Roc-Nation label, and people were expecting his official debut album to be released any day – but it wasn’t. The people are still waiting.
Since then, there have only been glimpses of Jay every now & then, featuring on songs from other artists, only throwing a verse in to show people that he is still alive. Most famously he was part of Big Sean’s song ‘Control’, playing second fiddle to the one and only Kendrick Lamar as he kick-started his career, using that song to show off his incredible wordplay.
Recently there has been a lot of attention drawn to Jay Electronica’s religion. As a devout Muslim he changed his whole lifestyle to be in accordance with his religion. Jay has admitted in interviews that before he became devout he was addicted to alcohol, weed and recreational drugs, which were all blamed as reasons for the album’s delay. He said in a 2016 Periscope interview that “all black people are Muslim, we don’t have a choice,” which attracted a lot of negative press, alongside the fact that he is part of the ‘Nation of Islam’ group, which has been classed as anti-semitic & black supremacist. Jay also attracted attention when it was revealed that he was having an affair with heiress Kate Rothschild, a member of the wealthy Rothschild family.
In the past few months, weeks and even days, Jay has dropped hints about the impending release of his debut album, which has been given the title ‘Act II: Patents of Nobility’. He sent a series of tweets leading to the belief that an album is on the way. He said in one tweet “To all those who have been patient with me and supported me over the years, thank you. And get #Tidal #AreYouWatchingClosely?” Shortly afterward, Jason Goldsmith (a director and close friend of Jay’s) posted a picture on Instagram of what seems like a potential album cover, of Jay with a hawk, with the caption “1.7.17” leading many to presume an album will be released on the 7th of January. No matter what these clues say, or possibly hint to, it is impossible to know with Jay. It could be days or weeks before he releases an album, or maybe – just maybe, it will never appear.