That’s ElecHannukah ElecYarmulke ElecRamadaan Muhammad Asalaamica RasoulAllah Supana Watallah on a Polaroid.
Or just JAY ELECTRONICA.
The first time I heard the name Jay Electronica was honestly not so very long ago. In december 09 I noticed that Questlove was dropping Jay Electronica‘s name from time to time on his Twitter. Me, curious by nature, started out with Exhibit C, went to Uzi Weighs A Ton, moved over to Eternal Sunshine dived into some Dimethyltriptamine“ (J Dilla produced btw) and ended with some Dear Moleskine to draw the simple conclusion that I was even more curious about the man than I initially was.
It has been a long time coming since I felt that lyrics and content are more important than sexy beats in a song. I’m not the hiphopknowitall and definitely not claiming to be one, but everybody knows there is a lot of crap out there right now, artists popping out like mushrooms, and not a very good sight on who will last amongst the one hit wonders. So then it just feels a little reassuring when you listen to someone who is spitting rhymes over a movie soundtrack like Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.
Paper Thin reminded me of listening to a fairytale on cassette when I was in kindergarten, you had to be quiet and listen with open mouth to the story that was told. (with a Tim Burton feel to it) I have to admit, his background story triggered me as well. From ‘not having a single slice of pizza to his name’, a Magnolia Projects background and jail, to rising like a lyrical emperor MC , demanding respect like a king and creating a princess with a Queen called Badu.
So with all that in mind, I kept my left eye on the JAY buzz from time to time. And then came the news that Jay Electronica was going to perform in Amsterdam at a place called The Sugar Factory. Amsterdam is just a hop, beat, skip and away from Belgium and together with Jules I decided to go and make an opinion of my own throughout all the buzz.
We left Belgium in a packed car with personal driver Rose. We all have regular day jobs so we left around 6 pm from Belgium, and arrived in snowy Amsterdam only just in time. When I was nervously handing over my coat I heard “Dimethyltriptamine” middle eastern melody in the background with Jay’s voice over it. Damn. Concert already begun. Jules and I looked at each other, ready to go in to the venue, not even considering about leaving Amsterdam without a Polaroid.
I was a bit overthrown when I entered the little venue. The place was packed and at first I was to chickened to force myself through the crowd to get a good spot. Been a while since I was so late to arrive at a concert and I didnt like it, Amsterdam is not my territory, I barely know people over there, add an unknown venue on top and this girl is nervous as hell. I found a little spot with a perfect view on stage, relaxed and observed the man I heard and read so much about.
His set was build on a couple of key songs, some references to NAS and Dilla, mostly spoken word over interrupted beats, a lot of communication with an audience that new many lyrics by heart. Add some of JAY’s comedian skills and you basically have an idea of his set in Amsterdam. His set ended a bit abrupt with him inviting the crowd on stage while performing Exhibit C, him getting off stage and making conversation with basically anyone who felt like shaking his hand, small talk or take a picture with Jay. At first I didn’t know what to do with that. I wasn’t used to this situation. I could walk straight up to him like anybody else to ask a picture, but then I had to expose myself through all these people, and I didn’t like the fact that there wasn’t a white wall to be seen in that dark little venue. So while I kept a close eye to what was going on, I noticed a tall man watching Jay and the people around him. I looked at Jules and we quickly realised that this man might be the best person to talk to. Respect The Way Of The Entourage.
Jules broke the ice for me and quickly I see myself explaining the project and my pictures to a man called Tony. I explained that I needed some space and a little more laid back atmosphere to take my pictures, and he agreed for us to stick around and wait for Jay Electronica when he was done bonding with his fans. The venue was running empty and I noticed that Jay was done talking to everyone and tapped on the back of his shoulder. He turned around, smiled, shook my hand and watched the other artists on my iTouch while I quickly explained him this little blog. He had no problem whatsoever with him posing for me and asked me to be a little more patient.
If there is something both me and Jules learned since the day we started out this crazy project, it just HAS to be patience. Patience is no biggie for us. So we waited. Talked with Tony. Showed some pictures to a very tired DJ TJ who lost his voice. Waited some more. Finally, Jay was ready to leave the venue and Tony told me that the picture had to be taken outside. Outside it is. I looked for the best resemblance of a white or at least clear wall, suggested to Jay to position him in a little spot in between bikes. (you know Amsterdam, bikes everywhere in that city) I politely asked him to give me just two different expressions and the rest was up to him. He responded. “Whatever you want, miss.”
And that was that. He asked me where her could find the Polaroids, once online so I gave him my card. We shook hands and I saw him disappear with Tony into the Amsterdam nightlife. Jules, Rose and I decided our Amsterdam weekend (Owww Yesss,) could not begin any better so we popped some mini bottles in a mini bar and even ended the night with a very scary and horrendous chatroulette experience. (nasty shit. #justsayin’)
When I woke up the next day I noticed some heavy trafficking Twitter and Facebook reviews about last night’s concert. Clearly, the opinions were very much divided whether Jay Electronica lived up to the enormous expectations or not. True, the set was very short. True, the set ended a bit abrupt and messy. True, I wasn’t feeling his jokes about women and strangle sex… True, the music was often interrupted to morph towards a lyrical a cappella, but then again, that felt kind of normal to me if you keep the Eternal Sunshine song in mind.
I went to Amsterdam with very low expectations and more of an introduction than a real full-out concert. I watched the online video from his performance at London Jazz café a couple of nights before, so I kind of knew what to expect…. I was first and foremost curious and definitely triggered to see a more build out set, with more material, but statements like “Jay Electronica’s night was ‘a poetry night for beginners'” was a bit harsh in my modest opinion.
I payed 25 euros to see him perform, was that price a little too high for the end performance he gave? Maybe. But I don’t regret it. I think Jay Electronica has ‘Just Begun’ and Patience is Bless. But then again, who am I?
PS: Special Thanks for my STOP (inthenameoflove) driver ROSE