MF DOOM may have been the first artist to truly master the art of the sample. He would cut from whole swaths of cartoon dialogue or old commercials, throw a beat behind them, and then come on and spit some bars that were loosely tied. it was stream of consciousness flow. But DOOM hasn’t been himself for a long time.Enter Jay Electronica. Rather than superheroes, Jay opens his long-awaited Act II (the first Act came out in 2007) with Ronald Reagan–and extended clip from a speech titled, “A Time Of Choosing.” Arriving in 2020 (this album was created years ago, but Electronica has not released it–it was a leak that finally forced the issue), Reagan’s 1964 speech recalls a time when America chose the wrong path. And arriving before the 2020 election, America is again at a time of choosing. Many say that this year’s election is the most important of all time–that the soul of this country hangs in the balance. But Electronica seems to be saying what I’ve thought for years–it was the 1980 election that elevated Reagan to the nation’s highest office where we lost our way. It was then that the seeds for Trump were planted.
Using old toy commercials–like a Dick Tracy watch/walkie–and peppering the cheers of children throughout–Jay Electronica takes us on this journey from Watergate to now. Through the eyes of an artist who is saddened by the way his hunger keeps growing. After Reagan’s speech, he tells us “the story of life is not tragic, it’s magic.” But what follows is the saddest rap album I’ve ever heard.
I am quite certain that this album will be dismissed by many as too experimental, or maybe even too melancholy. Hip hop is not a genre known for lamentation. And there’s not a lot of hooks. There’s a lot of bits and clips that make it feel incoherent. But it’s not linear. And although Jay is a Muslim, it has a decidedly Buddhist perspective–complete with the closing instrumental, 10,000 Lotus Petal, a fairly clear reference to Sahasrara, the seventh Chakra, often illustrated as 1,000 lotus petals.
The Western world is just a hive of scum and villainy
That’s why superheroes wear disguises in trilogies
When the future is uncertain and the Wizard’s just a man behind a curtain
Behaving like a serpent
With a bag full of everything except your home
Just remember, be yourself and accept your own
Or run and hide.
Available on tidal.