Album Review

A Written Testimony Review

I remember when Jay Electronica first came onto the scene. Back in 2009, his song Exhibit C, produced by Just Blaze, blew the entire rap game away with so much intrinsic, multilayered bars. People were crowning Jay Elec as the new rap savior with his debut album being one of the most anticipated projects in hip-hop history. Then, nothing happened. For an entire decade, Jay Electronica put out a few solo songs and collaborations, most of them didn’t lead to an album. As time went by, the buzz died down and he was seen as wasted potential. Then, on February of this year, Jay Elec announced that his album is finally complete to a lot of skepticism. But it’s actually here, so what did Jay Electronica gave us after ten years? Well, let’s find out. This is A Written Testimony.

1. The Overwhelming Event: The first track is basically an excerpt of a Louis Farrakhan speech about the real Children of Israel. So we’re doing this now, huh? I know Jay Electronica is Muslim, but yeesh. For those who don’t know, Louis Farrakhan is a minister who leads the Nation Of Islam, a black Muslim group that Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali used to be a part of. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the NOI as a hate group due to their racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Louis Farrakhan legitimately views white people as devils and thinks there’s a Jewish conspiracy to destroy the black community. His views on women and the LGBTQ+ community are just as ugly. The man is a wingnut and the fact that there’s so many prominent black figures who praise and look up to him is concerning. He’s no better than David Duke. I’m getting sidetracked, let’s move on to the next track.

2. Ghost Of Soulja Slim: So after that, we get Ghost Of Soulja Slim, the first proper song on the album. The intro is… another Louis Farrakhan excerpt. *sigh* Jay Electronica has the second verse of the track with Jay Z having the first one. BTDubs, get used to hearing from Jay Z because he’s on this album a lot. Now I see why some people referred to this as Watch The Throne 2. And the crazy thing? Jay Z is actually the best part of this album. No cap, he stole the show on every song he’s on and he’s legitimately spitting. He hasn’t sound this good since 4:44. As for Jay Electronica? Well, he’s just there. He’s not bad, but not great, either. Although, there is this; “And I bet you a Rothschild I get a bang for my dollar, the synagogue of Satan want me to hang by my collar.” That, combined with the Farrakhan intro, is REALLY iffy. I think the beat is cool, though the children cheering gets annoying after a while. That’s something you’d expect out of a DJ mix, not a full-length release. Anyways, I would give Ghost Of Soulja Slim a 3/5.

3. The Blinding ft Travis Scott: When I saw this track and who was featured on it, I was like, “really?” This is where you wanna have Travis Scott? Okay, I guess. That’s the perfect way to describe this song, just okay. Both Jays are trading bars on two verses that sound deep until you look into it and realize it’s a bunch of nothing. You could have done away with the Travis Scott hook, it’s completely unnecessary. I think the production is really dope, especially when it switches up halfway through. I give this a 3/5.

4. The Neverending Story: Next is Neverending Story, named after the 80s film of the same name. Alchemist is behind the production, which is amazing. Jay Elec is doing more religiously spiritual rhymes that doesn’t mean much when you analyze them, hoping that you’d be distracted by the more grandiose production. Still, I think the song is cool mainly on the strength of the production and Jay Z’s verse and I would give it a 3.5/5.

5. Shiny Suit Theory ft The-Dream: This is how you know this album has been a decade in the making since this track, Shiny Suit Theory, came out in 2010. And you can tell from the way it’s mixed. Still, I do really like this song. It’s Jay Electronica rapping in the perspective of an up-and-coming rapper receiving advice from a veteran in the industry (in this case, Diddy) while Jay Z also goes all the way back to his rap beginnings. It’s a really dope instance of storytelling that’s benefitted by the high-class production. If I do have issues with this songs, it’s a bit too self-congratulatory with the constant applause popping up. Also, those damn cheering kids show up again and it lessens the impact. Still, it’s one of the better songs from the album and I would give it a 4/5.

6. Universal Soldier: Universal Soldier is another one of my favorites from the album. I dig the production, though the cheering children returns again to annoy me. In terms of the bars, Jay Elec does more spiritually-based lyrical miracles while Jay Z is giving us gems like this.

I was trying not to end up like Tony in the restaurant
Now I'm the general of the geechie army
What don't kill us make us stronger, that's Nietzsche on me
Hot boy like I'm B.G., that Fiji on me
We done ducked them fed' charges, now we eatin' confit

If I do have a complaint, aside from the cheering children, you could have cut the last minute of the song because it goes nowhere. Still, there is enough for me to like the song and I would give it a 3.5/5.

7. Flux Capacitor: To contrast the last song, Flux Capacitor isn’t one of my favorites. I’m not a fan of the production and how it’s mixed, especially with a sample of one of the weaker Rihanna songs from her last album. It just didn’t gel together in my opinion. Jay Z addresses the whole controversy of him working with the NFL, stating why would he sell out when he’s already rich. In that same verse, he delivers this cold triple entendre.

You backstabbers gon' turn me back to the old Jay

Get it? It’s referencing a time where he got arrested for stabbing someone and it’s also a reference to both O.J. Simpson and the O’Jays’ Back Stabbers. As for Jay Electronica? He gives praise to Louis Farrakhan again and he interpolates a Biggie line from Juicy for another verse that just exists. I give Flux Capacitor a 3/5.

8. Fruits Of The Spirit: Outside of the intro, this is the only song on the album that doesn’t feature Jay Z and it’s also one of the shorter songs on the album. A shame that it isn’t good. I like the beat courtesy of No I.D., but man, Jay Electronica is not wowing me with these bars. The most notable things about the song is the Thanos reference at the beginning, a few Spanish lines, a Vince Staples reference, and this.

My people out in Flint still bathin' in the slaughter
ICE out here rippin' families apart at the border
Satan struck Palestine with yet another mortar

………….. Okay, look. The Israeli government does suck, especially with their treatment of Palestinians, but again, what is with this dude attributing Satan to Jewish folks? I’m not saying Jay Electronica is an anti-Semite, but that last line, plus the synagogue of Satan line and multiple references to Louis Farrakhan and the teachings of the Nation Of Islam is not making his case look good. It’d be one thing if this happened once, but it’s a fucking pattern. That aside, I’m not a fan of this track. It’s getting a 2/5.

9. Ezekiel’s Wheel ft The-Dream: Oh, goody. It’s the worst song on the album. A clattering lifeless beat, The-Dream’s weak-ass chorus, two long-winded Jay Electronica verses that say absolutely nothing, the fact that this thing is more than 6 minutes long and hasn’t earned that ridiculous runtime. Even Jay Z wasn’t that good here. There’s no other way around it, this song just sucks. I’m giving it a 1/5.

10. A.P.I.D.T.A.: And now for the last track A.P.I.D.T.A., which means All Praise Is Due To Allah, a common Muslim greeting. I will say this, it’s a good way to end the album. This song is an ode to loved ones who have passed away and it’s both Jays being grateful for the lives that they have. The more somber production and delivery really nails the emotional weight of this type of track and gives it a sincerity unlike anything else on the album. This is one of those Jay Electronica songs that I would have no problem going back to. I give it a perfect 5/5.

BEST

A.P.I.D.T.A., Shiny Suit Theory, The Neverending Story

WORST

Ezekiel’s Dream

I give A Written Testimony a 3/5. On the one hand, the production for the majority of these songs are really good and Jay Z brought out some of his best performances in the entire decade. On the other hand, while Jay Electronica is a good rapper, he doesn’t really meet the expectations that he set upon himself as the majority of his bars consist of either bragging about being the greatest or pushing the philosophy of the Nation Of Islam, which there needs to be a conversation about its prevalence in hip-hop. Another thing that kills the album for me is the overblown ego and self-congratulatory aura that’s unearned, especially for a guy who spent an entire decade sitting on his ass and not releasing anything besides a few loosies. I wasn’t really that disappointed with this album because there was no way that it was going to live up to the hype it had built ten years ago, so the fact that it wound up being okay at best didn’t really surprise me. I would only recommend checking out a few songs, but if you are curious, check out the full project if you want.

Peace!!

SONG OF THE WEEK

Lost In The Echo-Linkin Park

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