Updated: Apr 30, 2020
Finally, 3,921 days since his first single 'Exhibit A' was released - equating to 10.7 years - we get Jay Electronica's debut album 'A Written Testimony'. It took a hell of a long time, so the expectations were high for Jay's debut album - so let's dive into the review to see if it lived up to the hype. Jay Electronica is quite complex lyrically, and that is evident across this album. His one liners are great, metaphors are solid and there's an example of some storytelling here - so no matter what Twitter tells you - no Jay Electronica is not basic in his lyricism - he has a way with words that makes any sentence hit ten times harder. The production on this album is quite inconsistent - but mostly good. Most of the production is pretty relaxing and uncomplicated - shining a spotlight on the lyrics - but occasionally we do get a crazy, aggressive beat. I also appreciate the wide range of instruments used throughout this project. Jay's flow is very reminiscent of the old school flow and he'd slot right into the 90's perfectly. His delivery as well has a feeling of wisdom, you really can tell he knows what he's talking about by the way he's saying it. After waiting so long for an album, you'd hope Jay has some content here - and that's exactly what we get. There are key themes throughout such as religion, people of colour being the real children of Islam and references the the injustices people of colour receive in America. He also mentions his upcoming, past life and hiatus throughout this project giving us a wide range of content and connecting themes. Despite the fact the features on this have like one or two lines, they're suited to their job and do fine - but it's Jay-Z who borderline has a collab album here appearing in eight of the ten tracks. Even at 50 years old, Jay's old school flow is still great and he's just great still overall. You could argue Jay-Z outperformed Jay Electronica overall but both of them turned up - despite the fact I think Jay-Z washed Jay Electronia on a couple of tracks.
This long awaited album begins with an Islamic speech titled 'The Overwhelming Event' done by Louis Farrakhan. It introduces a key theme of the album which is that people of colour are the real children of Israel. It's a perfect way to set the tone of the album - and the orchestral, piano, violin based beat creates suspense for what's to come. The first official song on the album, titled 'Ghost of Soulja Slim' is a solid start. It features Jay-Z (as most of this album does) and the two rappers talk on their status in the rap game. Jay Electronia's verse was nice - but it was Jay-Z who stole the show here. His cold flow was solid, lyrically he was tight and he rode the beat well. The beat, speaking of it, was booming with all sorts going on - but it wasn't good enough to warrant that long outro we're given. Track 3 'The Blinding' features Travis Scott who gives us a short but sweet hypnotic appearance while both Jay-E (I'm calling him that now) and Jay-Z talk on the history of black people and their position in the rap game. Jay-E does well on this track and talks on his long absence with some nice bars, "Who signed every contract and missed the deadlines // 40 days, 40 nights, tryna live up to the hype". This is the best beat on the album. It's so obnoxious, loud with a deep thumbing bass before transitioning into smooth, relaxed drums with a mean bass.
'The Neverending Story' is a bit of a flat performance from Jay-E, what he says isn't very interesting bar this line, "What a time we livin' in, just like the scripture says // Earthquakes, fires, and plagues, the resurrection of the dead", which I found interesting due to all that's going on today. Jay-Z was more interesting here, he mentioned Jesus not actually being the Jesus presented to us from the church - spilling the truth on how he was almost white washed. The beat is lowkey, with nice guitar strings and a relaxed piano mainly putting all attention onto the lyrics - the beat here does its job. Jay Electronica's verse again on 'Shiny Suit Theory' was lyrically dense, but the flow was pretty similar and repetitive in this track and it made it slightly dull. Jay-Z's verse was great and he spoke on be doubted due to his colour by using the extended metaphor of a therapist who believes he's deluded and offers him meds. I wasn't feeling the beat on this one - it was an almost old school jazz/blues theme but I found it uninspiring. 'Universial Solider' is another highlight on this album and both rappers turn up on this. Jay-E's flow was such a great companion for the beat. Speaking of the beat, it's one of my favourites here because you can really get lost in the old school feels and the slow drums. James Blake also gives us some vocals, and they sound perfect on this.
Unfortunately, I don't really enjoy the next track 'Flux Capacitor' much. Jay-E talks on religion on this track, while Jay-Z talks on money and success but over this beat it just doesn't sound good. It has a Rihanna sample, which doesn't sound good until the outro - during the track the unorthodox drums are off putting. I dislike the hook too - both the style and delivery of it means this song is an easy skip. The next track 'Fruits of the Spirit' is also an easy skip. It's only a minute long and reinforces the religious themes but it's pretty boring I can't lie - the beat doesn't help at all. The next track 'Ezekiel's Wheel' is an alright song. I say what I liked first, which was The-Dream's feature because her vocals killed it and were so dreamy. Jay-Z's cadence in the hook was nice to hear compared to what we got a few tracks ago, but as much as I enjoy what Jay-E was saying here his flow was just so stagnant and his parts were tough to get through. The beat also was simple with a decent melody, but a bit bland and repetitive. The finale to this album 'A.P.I.D.T.A.' is an emotional one. The rappers talk on the deaths of close ones, with them both pouring their hearts out in their delivery. The hook does drag a little bit, but I love what Jay-Z is saying, "I got numbers in my phone that'll never ring again". Jay-E's verse is heart wrenching, especially when he talks about his mother's death - and then the slow paced drums and strings create that melancholy feeling more than the lyrics already do. It's a fantastic ending to the album.
So, to conclude this album, it's a lyrically dense project (as you'd expect) and a pretty good debut, but despite the technical skill sonically parts of this album sound a bit mid or boring. Artistically it's not amazing and that means this album may not have much replay value, but on a technical side you can't fault it.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: The Overwhelming Event, The Blinding, Universal Soldier, A.P.I.D.T.A
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Fruits of the Spirit
OVERALL RATING: Solid 7/10
*REVISED SCORE: Review may not match favourite tracks and overall rating because I've since re-listened and changed my score.*