By Jason Arline
In hip-hop, you don’t need the superstardom status of a Drake or Lil Wayne to gain the respect of your peers. Your lyrical skill and originality when you rap is your resume and few artists have one with as much quality, yet lacking in quantity, as Jay Electronica.
Elpadaro F. Electronica Allah, known by his stage name, Jay Electronica, has put out music that is lyrically complex and uplifting. Allah’s vocabulary and wordplay are comparable to a veteran spitter of the rap game like Jay-Z, who collaborated with Allah on A Written Testimony.
For a long time, it seemed that Allah would never put out an album. Having been signed to Roc Nation for almost a decade, Allah’s debut was well overdue. When you listen to A Written Testimony, Allah’s content and the album’s production feels as if it came from a veteran connecting with an audience that’s aged beyond the album’s time. A Written Testimony is comparable to a fine wine that was aged well and opened for a humble celebration between old friends.
The album opens with a sermon by Minister Farrakhan in which he claims that the black population of America is the modern-day Israelites. The speech then starts the next track “Ghost Of Soulja Slim” where Jay-Z and Allah detail their respective claims for the status of legendary emcee.
HOV raps lines like “I could never sell my soul, they sold it to me” referring both to how he signs artists to Roc Nation and that his soul was given to him by the Industry itself in typical double entendre fashion, a skill Jay-Z has mastered during his career.
Then Allah spits lines like “I put on for my Nation, like King T’Challa” referring to the Nation of Islam and placing Allah as its Black Panther. Allah’s lyrical content often consists of references to Islam and its beliefs; prior to releasing the album Allah said he would only do it if Minister Farrakhan, the current leader of Islam, told him to.
The next track “The Blinding” talks about Allah’s debut and the lead-up to it. Allah talks about the shine he’s giving off and Jay-Z talks about how Allah is a knight of the kingdom saying “that boy already knighted, he ain’t even out his romper.” Along with a few vocals from Travis Scott, the track sufficiently marks the arrival of a star that’s been shining brightly for a while.
The only other artist featured on the album, The-Dream, is featured on “Shiny Suit Theory” and “Ezekiel’s Wheel.” The-Dream sounds comparable to an old female gospel singer which gives the tracks a soulful feel. This adds to the Album’s overall feel of an old school album being produced in a new era of hip-hop.
Overall, A Written Testimony feels just like the title suggests, it’s a testimony from a veteran rapper made for fans of a decade ago — fans who have grown up since then but still remember tracks like “Exhibit C.” Allah doesn’t do too much nor does he change who he’s been in hip-hop. He is a well-respected lyricist from New Orleans who has gained the respect of Jay-Z and has strong ties to The Nation of Islam, but that’s where the album essentially ends. We don’t learn more than what we already know about Jay Electronica and are left with something that is certainly welcomed but we still want more.
The last time we heard from Allah was on “Exhibit C” and between then and now all we got was a few features here and there. While A Written Testimony is a good album, it doesn’t fully make up for the wait nor does it live up to the hype “Exhibit C” made. A Written Testimony feels like an album put out more for the sake of having an album. Allah details why he’s qualified to rap next to an artist like Jay-Z but doesn’t push any type of agenda or looks to entertain the masses. This album is for those who loved “Exhibit-C,” are fans of Roc Nation, and who have followed Jay Electronica throughout the years.
A Written Testimony should age well just like the fine wine of an album and with the co-sign of Jay-Z, Allah should gain plenty of attention from newer listeners. Some may think Allah is using HOV as a crutch but as time goes on and people start to understand the true meanings behind the lyrics it will undoubtedly be said that A Written Testimony is a good debut album written by two legendary emcees who go blow for blow as they detail why they are so legendary.
Featured image via Jay Electronica.