Image swacked from Sickamore
Andres Reyes over at sweeneykovar sat down with the man himself for a piece for Tha Hip Hop to prove that the Black Atom is indeed not half alien, and quite human indeed. The next step would be to come up with some lyrics to his tracks, and then I’d be satisfied. Although, Just Blaze nagging him enough to have him step back in the booth would possibly be the best thing for Hip Hop. Here is more info on the man which was quite mysterious until this point. Here is the interview folks:
Jay Electronica: peace, you ready to do this interview?
Jay Electronica: lets go
Jay Electronica: I got a few moments to spare my good man
Thanks; just give me one second to pull up the notes I’ve compiled.
Jay Electronica: ok. Lets just go raw, no notes
Jay Electronica: itll be better
What was the inception of Jay Electronica?
Jay Electronica: do you mean the name itself or the beginning of me rhyming?
Let’s go with the name right now.
Jay Electronica: well, the name came to me circa ‘2000. I was living in Baltimore at the time on Pratt Street. Me and a brother of mine (million-dollar-man) were working on a very heavy synth-sound and the name came to me during that period.
were you going by anything before that?
Jay Electronica: just Je’Ri, my name, pronounced Juh-Rhee.
Now you mentioned you lived in Baltimore, and from what I’ve heard from your music and the pieces of information I’ve been able to gather, you’ve had something of a nomadic period. Can you talk about that for a little bit?
Jay Electronica: well, the whole of my adult life has been what some may call “nomadic”.
Jay Electronica: when I left new Orleans I was 19 years old, and i have been striving to follow my path since that time which has taken me to many different cities. Although my stay in Baltimore would probably be the shortest time
Are there any cities in particular that ended up being very influential or important to you?
Jay Electronica: yes of course. New Orleans will always be my greatest influence because that’s where I’m rooted, but Philly, New York, and Detroit are like homes to me. Atlanta was a home to me for a good portion of time, and ultimately my family after Katrina, and I learned a great deal in Atlanta.
Now I read somewhere that you were actually creatively involved with TLC in your time in Atlanta. Is that true or just internet-babble?
Jay Electronica: that’s not true.
Ah, okay. Thanks for clearing that up. That’s the dangerous thing about the Internet.
Jay Electronica: in my time in Atlanta, I was at Darp (Studios) alot with my brother Kool Ace and I was around during the time they recorded their fanmail project, but I had no involvement in it. Although Sol Messiah, who was heavily involved in their projects, is a dear friend of mine. Maybe the rumors were born from those truths.
So this is around ‘95?
Jay Electronica: no. This is around 98/99.
now all this time you’re still working on your own music correct?
Jay Electronica: in Atlanta specifically? Or in general throughout my travels?
In general throughout
Jay Electronica: for the most part. There have been periods of time where I have ventured off into other things outside of music due to circumstances and events, but even then, I still had a determined idea to be successful musically.
Thanks for bringing that up, because I definitely want to talk about your non-musical ventures in a minute. One place that I’m specifically curious about that you’ve been to is Detroit, obviously because of your collaborations with Mr. Porter and work on Dilla’s stuff. How did the move to the D come about?
Jay Electronica: well, before I left Atlanta for the second time in 98, i was in the studio alot with my brothers Kool Ace and Johnnie Last. Last was from Detroit and he had always said that his experience in Darp (Studios), we practically lived there, had left an impression on him enough to build a studio back home. I left Atlanta and went to NYC at that time and we had lost contact and a few years had lapsed before I got in contact with him.
I was living in Philadelphia, this was like 2001 and I was teaching. I met a stranger in a barbershop on Temple University’s campus where my brother cut hair and she was from Detroit and knew Johnnie.
So I got the number and called him and he told me that he had built a studio in the meantime and that I should come there because I had full access to it. So I went and that’s how I met my Detroit family, through him I met Mike Chav and Denaun Porter, and Johnnie was like a brother to Dilla. He and Chav built the studio that Dilla had in Detroit.
Ohh, I see. So your songs on Dilla beats were something you guys actually worked on together before he passed?
Jay Electronica: well they were songs that I recorded before he passed, but we didn’t work on them together. The songs of mine over Dilla beats are from an album I did back then called war with the dragon and we hadn’t had the opportunity to work then. When we finally were about to work on my album after I linked with Erykah, he went into the hospital shortly after.
My current album was supposed to be produced by Just, Dilla, Rashad Smith and Denaun Porter. The material you have from StyleWars Dilla never heard.
Ah, this is ‘So What You Sayin’, ‘Renaissance Man’, ‘Jay Electronica’, ‘Bitches and Drugs’, etc?
Jay Electronica: those songs are from StyleWars, minus ‘Bitches and Drugs.’
How did the StyleWars EP come about?
Jay Electronica: well I was in Brooklyn and I had just hooked up with Rashad and Just and I had to make a quick run to Detroit for a few days, while I was there I recorded StyleWars with Chav and Tone, which is the female voice on ‘Renaissance Man’ and ‘Victory Is In My Clutches.’
Is this the same Rashad Just mentions in Act I?
Jay Electronica: yes, Rashad Smith. Tumbling Dice.
Ah, thought so.
Jay Electronica: He produced records for Biggie, LL, Rakim, 50 and a whole slew of others, also Erykah.
Whaaat? That’s crazy. I wonder how I had never heard of him then.
Anyhow, so after the StyleWars time period, is that when you linked with Erykah?
Jay Electronica: Yeah. Shortly after.
Is that still the scenario, you on her label?
Jay Electronica: Yes and there are a few great and exciting things in the works currently.
Now speaking of labels, you, or someone with your permission, used to post on the SOHH forums, and there was some talk about Bad Boy having interest in you. Did this actually happen?
Jay Electronica: yes, it was a pretty brief ordeal. After Chav and I recorded War With the Dragon, we did the artwork and packaged maybe a hundred of them in DVD casing. We went to Dilla’s at like 2 in the morning, asked his permission to use a few of the records that were his on there to go to NYC and secure a deal. so like zealots, we went to Kinko’s and printed these fake front page newspaper articles about Jay Electronica etc… I’ll try and dig one up. Then we drove from Detroit to NYC, when we got there, we went on impulse and plastered them all over the front of the building bad boy was in. At the time Diddy was supposed to be coming down or something, there was a caravan parked and waiting, so of course they called security on us and we ended up having a little scene on the sidewalk.
Jay Electronica: this sister Nicollet, after everything had calmed down, came over and asked for a few of the DVD’s we had and saw the flyer, she asked if we made films, so we gave them to her and bounced. Maybe an hour later we got a call saying that they wanted us to meet them at the studio and that Harve Pierre and some other guy, I cant remember his name, wanted to meet with us. So we went and they were filming Making The Band at the time and we ended up waiting a long time and were told that they would reschedule. So we ended up bouncing from NYC. Chav went to Detroit and I went to Mexico City with my man Born Righteous and Bad Boy contacted me down there to setup a meeting when I got back, but nothing ever materialized. As for the stuff on the SOHH forums, that’s a whole other story.
It seems like it. Just out of sheer curiosity, how was your time in Mexico?
Jay Electronica: It was very enlightening. I traveled to the pyramids in Teotihuacán and had a chance to experience the people on a very intimate, family level. It was amazing. A blessing.
Ha, I used to go to the pyramids often with my dad, a history teacher, who would take his students on field trips. Off topic. Anyways, when you returned from the México trip, what followed in the Jay Electronica story?
Jay Electronica: well…if I can remember properly I went to Atlanta for a hot second and then to ultimately back to NYC.
You’re currently in Texas right?
Jay Electronica: Nah, I’m in Brooklyn right now, although I am in Texas often.
I see, that’s enough of history for now I’d say. I want to talk some about you as an MC. you have a presence that comes off real strong on the mic, you also have lyrics to match it. How would you say you’ve developed from when you started rhyming? I know that’s a real vague and open question.
Jay Electronica: Yeah. That’s a real broad question. laugh but, thank you for the positive words and to try to answer your question, when I started rhyming, it was basically imitating the styles of the emcees I admired at the time, Cool J was my favorite when I first started rhyming. Then Rakim and a guy from New Orleans named Tim Smoove. I used to emulate their styles with my words, and after time, once you begin growing into yourself, your expression of the craft takes on more of your form.
all right, now another annoying question. If you had to describe yourself as an MC…
Jay Electronica: straightforward. That’s how I would like to see it. laughs. But when I go back and listen, I don’t know if it is or not. It is in my mind.
I think I know what you mean. You also have re-occurring themes; I guess that’s the word, in your music. Faith seems to be a big part of it, the Christ references etc., is that something more than just aesthetic? How deep of an importance does that hold to you?
Jay Electronica: well that is all completely relevant. None of that portion of me rhyming is aesthetic.
I guessed so; it’s just we’re in a climate of rappers that rap 90% aesthetic. How do you structure a song? Do you have specific ideas you’re trying to get across or does it vary song to song?
Jay Electronica: well… I just put them together as they come. No specific structure. I used to deal with structure in my earlier days, but it’s limiting in my opinion. So I just say ‘em how I feel ‘em. If its 32 bars with no hook, or 8 hooks and 3 bars of rhyming and sound bites from CNN next, so be it.
How do you find your sound bites? The thing I’ve liked about your joints with sound bites is that they always seem really relevant and not just thrown there because they sound good.
Jay Electronica: they are usually things that I have come across at some point in my life that made an impression on me in some way. Or things that I come across that are passed over in the media that I feel needs further investigation.
It seems you’ve had quite a journey in your music so far, and in one of your songs you mention how ‘fakers were invited to taste’, how much of this kind of ‘wouldn’t lift a finger’ attitude have you encountered along the way?
Jay Electronica: I’ve experienced a decent amount of it, although I must admit that those rhymes were an emotional response to these events. I recognize that any opportunity or perceived opportunity that I had and didn’t follow through to success on was due to my own merit.
I ask that because it surprises me that someone with your talents hasn’t had more exposure.
Jay Electronica: everything happens in its due time.
As an MC, what are your goals when you rap?
Jay Electronica: I mean I have many.
Yea, I know it’s another one of those questions.
Jay Electronica: I’m an emcee at heart, so I’m always gonna write in a way that I feel is superior to any emcee. That’s just the nature of a true rapper. However as I have grown, I understand that it is also a medium of communication to people on a large scale and that comes with responsibility. So I keep that in mind when i create as well.
Do you ever get bored with the braggadocio nature of MCing?
Jay Electronica: Never. It’s the core of b boy/girl.
I see. Now going on to your current work, ‘Act I’ was repeatedly referred to as a breath of fresh air from many people that I spoke to personally, how has the response you’ve experienced been?
Jay Electronica: I mean it’s a great response and it’s humbling and satisfying. When you are blessed to created something that people relate to in the highest way and get some type of fulfillment from it…there is nothing more satisfying. It makes me feel like I’m doing my job properly.
The first thing I noticed with ‘Act I’ is there’s really no drums, yet your flow kind of makes the listener forget that. Were you trying to purposely go for a different sound than normal?
Jay Electronica: Not really. I was watching Eternal Sunshine one night and I was really moved by the music so I did ‘ESOTSM’ on Garage Band and put it up on MySpace. Initially I thought people would dismiss it, but it got such a great response I recorded songs to all of the pieces of music that moved me form that score. I went to Detroit, recorded it and put it up.
Why did you feel people would dismiss it?
Jay Electronica: Because the feel of it was so foreign. I really enjoyed listening to it when I made it…but I felt maybe it was a bit out of place.
Is there any meaning to the packaging of those songs as ‘Act I’ rather than individual tracks?
Jay Electronica: Well, they were each very short and I enjoyed listening to them straight through, plus, they were created in that order and the mood changes along with how I felt and the things that I was dealing with mentally at the time. So I decided to have it as one piece so that whoever heard it could experience it the way it was intended.
So are Act’s II and III upcoming?
Jay Electronica: Most definitely.
You mentioned something earlier about your album, what can you say about that?
Jay Electronica: What would you like to know?
Well you’ve already mentioned others involved in it. Is this all new material? How far into the recording process are you? and of course, any tentative release date?
Jay Electronica: well I can tell you it will be all new material.
What kind of things or people do you use as a muse? That’s something that I’ve wondered since I first heard you because you seem to come kind of from left field, but not in a bad way.
Jay Electronica: I draw from just life in general. It could be from something I am feeling at the time, or maybe I’m overwhelmed with an idea, and at times I feel obligated to touch certain subjects. Dreams, all types of things. Dimethyltryptamine is from a dream I had, literally. That’s why I named it DMT because that is a substance released from the brain during sleep that aids in inducing dreams
Can you expand on that? That song is one of your more cryptic ones but also a really interesting and dope one to listen to I feel.
Jay Electronica: Well it was a dream I had and I tossed it around for a few days in my head trying to gage its relevance and one day I was listening to that Dilla beat and I wrote Dimethyltryptamine, then I edited together the little movie to accompany it so that there would be imagery with the lyrics in hopes that it wouldn’t be confusing. After all, it is from a dream.
Laughs But that song is actually about 6 minutes long with vocals all the way through. The version that’s out now is just an edited version.
Oh shit. Do you leak these songs of yours that are out there?
Jay Electronica: The ones that were on my MySpace. Others are just songs that people have had that are friends of mine and have put up. I gave a lot of material to FWMJ over at rappersiknow early on, that’s my man.
I really like what he’s been doing over there. Much respect. Now before I forget, you also produce. Have you always been doing this? how much would you like to produce for yourself versus how much you’d like others to produce for you? I hope that makes sense
Jay Electronica: well I started producing out of necessity really.
When I first started pursuing music as a career it was hard to get quality beats or beats that I felt comfortable on, so I got pieces of equipment here and there and would make my own tracks. I actually enjoy producing. However, right now it isn’t my main focus.
Did producing come easy to you?
Jay Electronica: Yes. I love music period. So any form of creating it is fulfilling to me.
How early did you make the decision that music is what you would dedicate yourself to?
Jay Electronica: When I was 10.
Wow, was there a catalyst to that?
Jay Electronica: Yeah. LL Cool J.
And this guy I saw in a talent show in New Orleans. I said I was gonna be a rapper at that point in my life, and I have never really pursued anything else as diligently as I have that.
Have you ever gotten to a point where you reconsidered? Or even considered reconsidering?
Jay Electronica: Not necessarily. There have been periods where I had become a little discouraged, but afterwards it would make me go even harder.
You mentioned earlier that you’ve pursued a few things outside the realm of music; I know you do some photography, and you hacked your own MySpace so you have some programming experience. Anything else you do? I really like your photos by the way.
Jay Electronica: Thanks. Those actually haven’t been pursuits of mine per se, I just enjoy those outlets. I have been taking photos for a minute now and I’m pretty decent with design. According to amateur standards of course, I actually did the photo shoot for greedy genius’ new line and look book etc. that’s just sidebar chatter. Anyhow…my good man, i have to get back on my mission. is there anything else?
Um, definitely, laughs. I feel I could conversate with you for a cool minute, but this will definitely do for now. Perhaps in time this could happen again?
Jay Electronica: most certainly, thanks for it all. Peace.
Nah thank you, peace
If you’re not onto Jay Electro yet, take this opportunity to discipline yourself.