Consequence of Sound’s Lolla

Once a week, between now and August 5th we have enlisted the top music blogs from around the country to feature 20th Anniversary artists taking the stage at this year’s Lollapalooza. From big name headliners to buzzworthy acts rising through the ranks, we want you to discover all the talent taking over Grant Park this year. Today’s feature comes from Consequence of Sound‘s Chris Woolfrey. Despite his notoriety, the most famous thing about Jay Electronica is his lack of a full-length album; and it’s a shame that the second most famous thing about a man whose brand of intelligent rap is second to none is that he’s a member of Jay Z’s Roc Nation. But make no mistake: Jay Electronica doesn’t put out your ordinary, run-of-the-mill rap music. His most impressive track, “Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)”, rocks up at close to 10 minutes and comprises the soundtrack for Michel Gondry’s indie-film hit The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind all spliced up, re-ordered, mashed together, and reconstituted–with a sample of Willa Wonka, plus more, thrown in–according to his own nuanced and refreshingly original vision. It’s a bold statement, but say it we will: “Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)” is one of the closest things rap has to a kind of symphony-style music. It was 2009′s “Exhibit C”, though, which caught most listeners’ attention and gave Jay Electronica his whiff of mainstream success; its sample of Billy Stewart’s “Cross My Heart”–“Oh, Lord, hear me/Lord, please Send her right to me/Cross my heart that I love her/Place no one up above her”–adds further weight to an already emotional and tuneful track, not to mention artist. Think of The Streets with a little more style. Sounds like a winner! But, how the hell do I find him? Keeping track of Jay Electronica, even though it’ll get easier now that he’s with Roc Nation, isn’t an easy task. A favorite with web affectionados, he’s a little more Internet savvy than your average musician. His selective repertoire, when it doesn’t consist of a collaboration project, has been released online, generally through two separate Myspace accounts–he’s also had two official sites, one of which is now elusively defunct –and despite only having tweeted 11 times, it’s a testament to the word-of-mouth nature of his growing popularity, not to mention how desperately people are awaiting an announcement of more music from the man, that he still managed to amass more than 150,000 followers. It’s a fact of which the man and his fans are all too aware: The closest Jay Electronica has come to a full-length album is with the bootleg mixtape What the Fuck is a Jay Electronica?, a sprawling collection of 22 songs that brings together the rapper’s ambitious and epic experiments and the more straight-down-the-line rap songs. Maybe that’s part of his appeal: He could disappear as quickly as he has surfaced. Could it be that fear–that a man who’s brought something so original to the genre might suddenly vow to silence–which keeps people hooked on Jay Electronica despite the limited output? Or is it just that once you hear a track like “Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)”, you don’t look back? It’s almost certainly the latter. In fact, given that Jay Electronica is only likely to gain credibility in the future, we’ll put it out there now: He’s incredibly likely to do some incredible things. Think along these lines: a) Produce the first (good) rap song over 35 minutes. b) Confuse everybody by laying down a collection of tight, terse tracks and giving up that pursuit entirely. c) Disappear in a puff of smoke, never to be seen again. Okay, perhaps the last is a little less likely now that he’s with Roc Nation–surely an LP is coming?–but it’s testament to the quality of Jay Electronica’s reputation that, even though he’s at a point of fame that he’s not been at before, it’s impossible to tell where he’ll go next. After all, even his live shows are elusive, sporadic at times. Just this month, Jay Electronica popped up with Black Star and De La Soul at a show in London and then promptly disappeared again. And it’s testament to the desperation of his fans to see more that, across the Web, people commented, “drop something already . .” and, perhaps more creatively: “Mos def = Master Yoda, Talib Kewli = Obi Wan Kenobi, Jay Elec = Luke Skywalker…” Wonder who that’d make Darth Vader? Interesting… So, where’s the record? Of course, we’re not sure whether Jay Electronica will ever release that much-sought first LP. We’re even less sure what it’ll sound like, though What the fuck is a Jay Electronica? gives us a few hints. We’re pretty sure he’ll keep popping up all over the place, causing a scene, then going rogue again. And we’re very certain that his set at Lollapalooza this year might be the best place to answer these questions. So, make sure you get yourself down there!

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