By Troy Hasselman, March 30 2020 —
In the 13 years since the release of his debut mixtape Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge), Jay Electronica’s long-promised album has been something that’s become a music-version of the lost city of Atlantis, something so shrouded in mystery and absence that it’s very existence seemed unlikely. As it turns out, for the vast majority of those 13 years there was indeed no album from Jay Electronica, with the first recording sessions for A Written Testimony happening on Dec. 26, 2019, with recording sessions continuing for another 40 days until it’s completion in early February.
Though it is somewhat of a misnomer to credit this fully as a Jay Electronica project, with Jay-Z contributing verses on eight of the album’s 10 tracks. While Jay Electronica is 43 and Jay-Z is 50, octogenarians in rap years, the pair sound as youthful and energetic as people half their age, while not trying to posture their styles towards that of younger artists. The album sounds fresh but stays true to the boom-bap style that is both Jay Electronica and Jay Z’s bread-and-butter. While this agnosticism towards current musical trends is going to hamper the impact of this album, it does not make it any less brilliant.
With assists from The Alchemist, No I.D., Swizz Beats, Hit-Boy and AraabMuzik, Jay Electronica handles most of the production on his own, making the musical backbone of the album to be a hard-hitting, progressive type of boom-bap that creates the perfect canvas for the two Jay’s to wax lyrical with references, wordplay and impeccable flows abound. “Flux Capacitor,” for example, repurposes a sample of Rihanna’s “Higher” that flips the longing and loneliness of Rihanna’s original into an aggressive mission statement in the hands of this album.
The mind-bogglingly quick turnaround time for an album that’s been hotly anticipated since the second Bush administration makes A Written Testimony to be the music equivalent of a term paper that you had an entire semester to finish, wrote the night before and still somehow managed to pull off an ‘A.’ The album is a reminder of what made Jay Electronica such a vital voice when he first came onto the scene in the mid 2000s. To put into perspective how long it’s been, Electornica’s last project was released on Myspace. While he seems destined to live on as a cult figure, it’s still exhilarating to finally hear a project from an artist who has shown such an ample amount of promise and has become known almost as well for his absence as his music.