Jay Electronica’s long-lost ‘Act II’ is finally here
Patrick Witteman | Thursday, November 5, 2020
Jay Electronica was, at one point, billed as rap’s savior. Electronica’s single “Exhibit C” set the hip-hop world ablaze, and the release of his debut EP “Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)” pushed the Jay Electronica hype machine to new heights. After an intense bidding war between Jay-Z and Puff, Electronica signed with Roc-Nation in 2010. Electronica was on the path to hip-hop stardom, with tremendous momentum and a major-label deal — the world was, truly, his oyster.
And then … there was nothing. Jay Electronica released a single here or a feature there, all while continuing to promise that his debut album was in production and on the way. Jay lived a nomadic lifestyle, aimlessly bouncing from country to country — he even had an affair that ruined the marriage of an English heiress.
Months turned into years, with fans impatiently waiting for Electronica’s first independent, full-length creative output. In March of this year, Electronica released “A Written Testimony,” which served as his first full-length LP. This project, although critically acclaimed, was essentially a Jay-Z collaboration tape — Hov appears on almost all of the tracks on “A Written Testimony.” The album left many fans yearning for more Jay Electronica solo material.
“Act II: The Patents of Nobility (The Turn)” is the long-awaited follow up to “Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)” — “Act II” was supposed to be released many years before “A Written Testimony.” The project would not have seen the light of day without a fan-funded $9,000 payment for an unmastered and unfinished 2012 copy of the project that fell into the hands of hackers. Jay Electronica caught wind of the leak, posting the same files on Tidal in response.
Electronica’s first true solo project has some of his best material. Production across “Act II” is abstract, and there are many tracks that feature no rapping at all. “Dinner at Tiffany’s” is essentially a Charlotte Gainsbourg solo track, featuring beautiful instrumentation leading into the Jay-Z/Electronica cut “Shiny Suit Theory.” Hov and Electra drop celebratory bars over a decadent Ambassadors soul sample, rapping, “The method is sublime, you get blessed with every line / I’m in touch with every shrine from Japan to Oaxaca.” Although “Shiny Suit Theory” also appears on “A Written Testimony,“ it is at home on “Act II.”
“Road to Perdition” is reminiscent of “Exhibit C” and “Exhibit A,” featuring a grandiose beat and braggadocious verses from Jay Electronica and Jay-Z. A snippet from a Ronald Reagan speech introduces the track. Reagan explains that “They say if we’ll only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he’ll forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers.” This is the high of the album, as we see flashes of the brilliance and potential Electronica has been promising for years.
“Act II: The Patents of Nobility (The Turn)” is, as mentioned, unfinished and unmastered. Even in its incomplete form, though, the album is a creative triumph. I haven’t listened to something quite like it, and I’m not sure I ever will. Jay Electronica is committed to artistry on this project, which is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air in a world that prioritizes streams, numbers and hype.
It is a shame that this album is unfinished — it was recently removed from Tidal, and with some luck, we’ll be getting a remastered and revised version of the LP in the near future. For now, though, fans must settle for the “Act II” we have — a wildly creative album that could have been much, much better in its final form.
Artist: Jay Electronica
Album: “Act II: The Patents of Nobility (The Turn)”
Label: Roc Nation
Favorite Tracks: “Road to Perdition,” “Shiny Suit Theory,” “Run and Hide,” “better in tune w the infinite”
If you like: Jay-Z, Kanye West, Westside Gunn
Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5