By Chris Yuscavage
One of rap’s biggest free agents is officially off the market.
After organizing a secret show at The Box club in New York on November 12 and promising a “big announcement,” Jay-Z revealed that the show wasn’t actually for him. Rather, it was for Jay Electronica—the latest rapper to sign to Hov’s Roc Nation label. “My whole goal is to reintroduce magic to hip hop,” Jay told the invite-only crowd. “We watched this wizard do his thing. Y’all supported him. And he’s an official Roc Nation signee.”
Electronica then went on to perform several of his notable hip-hop hits, including “Exhibit A (Transformations)” and “Exhibit C” as well as a new track called “The Announcement,” a song that features clips of John F. Kennedy and made Jay’s revelation seem even more noteworthy. “The black Gods mingled a bit, then the fingers got pricked, then the single got picked,” he rapped. “Man, I’m living out my brain, I don’t dream about s—.”
The funny thing about Jay Electronica, though? If you haven’t been heavily checking the rap blogs over the last couple years, there’s a pretty good chance you were left scratching your head when Jay-Z announced that he was joining J. Cole and Willow Smith on his label. Jay’s had a couple hits—who didn’t jack Just Blaze’s “Exhibit C” beat for a freestyle last year?!—but it’s not like the guy’s been all over the radio recently. He’s actually done all he can to stay out of the spotlight and keep a low profile.
So with that in mind, RapFix decided to put together a quick list of 10 things you need to know about the MTV Hottest Breakthrough MC of 2010 candidate. Allow him to reintroduce himself …
1. He hails from the same Magnolia Projects in New Orleans as Juvenile
Though he might not sound like most of your favorite Southern rappers, Jay was actually born and raised in the same place as former Cash Money Records rapper Juvenile. However, he’s also spent time living in Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia and several other major cities.
2. He owes his first taste of success to frequent Kanye West collaborator Jon Brion
Jay caught his first break back in 2007 when a nine-minute recording called “Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)” gained buzz on the Internet after he posted it on a MySpace page. The instrumental for the track was built using producer Jon Brion’s soundtrack to the Jim Carrey flick, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and it featured clips from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”
3. He used obscure Web sites and message boards to release his first recordings
Unlike other MCs, who use rap blogs to distribute their music, Jay released his early projects to obscure Web design sites and message boards in order to get feedback. Those tracks, which made up his Style Wars EP, eventually made their way to sites focused on rap music.
4. He has a child with Erykah Badu
Even before his songs began getting play, Jay began a relationship with R&B singer Erykah Badu. The pair had their first child together, a daughter named Mars Merkaba, on February 1, 2009. (Sidebar: Who can forget Erykah and Jay live-tweeting the baby’s birth?!)
Aside from rapping, Jay has also made a name for himself as a producer. In 2008, he passed a beat CD along to Nas, who selected one of his productions to appear on the intro track to Untitled.
Just Blaze and Jay’s first collaboration wasn’t as organic as you might think. The track they recorded, “Exhibit A,” was completed only after Guitar Center asked the two to work on a song together for their compilation.
7. He claims his biggest song to date, “Exhibit C,” was recorded in just 15 minutes
In early 2010, Jay told MTV that “Exhibit C” only took about 15 minutes to make and was originally recorded because Just and Jay were due to appear on Angela Yee’s Sirius Satellite Radio show and wanted to premiere a new track for her. However, they didn’t end up making the appearance and the track sat on the shelves until Tony Touch got a hold of it and played it on his radio show in late 2009.
8. “Exhibit C” received an “Instant Classic”classification at MTV2′s 2009 Sucker Free Summit
Despite the fact that it was recorded in just 15 minutes, Jay’s most commercially successful song to date—it peaked at No. 86 on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and received radio play on New York’s Hot 97 radio station—also earned him a well-deserved place in hip-hop history.
9. He received a huge co-sign from Diddy earlier this year
Though there are rumors that Diddy wasn’t happy to hear that Jay signed with Jay-Z last week, the Bad Boy Records CEO was one of the first major artists to give Electronica a co-sign. He appeared in several viral videos with him earlier this year and appeared on his song, “The Ghost of Christopher Wallace,” an obvious nod to one of the other legendary rappers Diddy once signed.
10. His debut album is called Act II: Patents of Nobility
Fans have been waiting on this album for months now. And now that he’s got Jay-Z in his corner, how much longer should they expect to wait?
Are you glad to hear that Jay Electronica signed to Roc Nation? Is it the right career move for him? Do you think he’ll become a household name? Tweet us at @MTVRapFix or tell us in a comment below!