Jay Electronica – A Written Testimony

1 Apr

A Written Testimony is a surprisingly pleasant listen. You don’t expect a rap album right now to be something so bracing, but this is like drinking the first good cup of tea in a day.

The first part of that is the Nation of Islam theme that runs through the album. It’s honestly pretty understated, but it’s still an important touch and one that sets the tone for the album. More than that though, the album is at its best when it’s laid-back, unhurried and clean. Jay Electronica’s rap in “Ezekiel’s Wheel” does this perfectly and the beat takes its time underneath it and then Jay-Z comes in to close the album with quite as much tranquility as the rest.

Hova shows up for no less than nine of the ten tracks here and he’s in form. The serene raps and quiet beats work really well for him. He’s very fluid throughout. His singing in closer “A.P.I.D.T.A.” is halting and soft and really gets the emotion through. Electron then comes in and takes his time with the verse to get it to land well. Between their deliberateness and the interestingly twangy beat underneath, the song feels like folk-rock despite clearly falling under fairly traditional rap. It’s very well done.

Similarly, they trade good, leisurely bars on “Universal Soldier.” Jay Electronica’s punchy, heavy flow features well throughout. His lines are haymakers, they’re ponderous, but land with weight. Jay-Z is of course Jay-Z. We all know who Hova is.

The sound is no monolith though, “Ghost of Soulja Slim” has strong Dan Tha Automator vibes. It reminds me of a Deltron cut and Jay-Z goes hard in it. Jay Electronica has done strong work on the production throughout. He has clever, stripped down beats like in “Shiny Suit Theory” that elevate the sound.

There’s still a little filler here though. The Swizz Beatz-produced “The Blinding” feels too much like an outtake from Watch The Throne. It’s pretty solid once it hits its flow and there are some interesting pieces in there, but it doesn’t fit and it doesn’t do much by itself either.

This is a strong rap album though. It’s good to see Jay Electronica finally release his debut album. I don’t know if he still counts as a newcomer, but it’s close enough and it’s good to see him come out so strong. It’s just as good to see Jay-Z keep showing us that he still has it and his elder statesman era is an excellent, exciting evolution.

Overall, A Written Testimony doesn’t quite do anything breathtaking. It’s not a classic. It is very good though and worth checking out for something that is straightforward about what it does and skilled at doing it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: