A Written Testimony
|A Written Testimony|
|Studio album by|
|Released||March 13, 2020|
|Recorded||December 26, 2019 – February 6, 2020[a]|
|Jay Electronica chronology|
|Singles from A Written Testimony|
A Written Testimony (Arabic: شهادة مكتوبة) is the debut studio album by American rapper Jay Electronica. The album was primarily recorded in 40 days, from December 2019 to February 2020, and was released on March 13, 2020. The album follows the release of his debut mixtape, Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge), almost 13 years earlier. Most of the album's tracks feature uncredited vocals by Jay-Z, while Travis Scott and The-Dream make guest appearances. Production was primarily handled by Jay Electronica, who is credited on six out of ten tracks, along with Swizz Beats, Hit-Boy, No I.D., and Khruangbin, among others.
Background and recording
Jay Electronica's debut project Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge), released in July 2007, was meant to be the first part of a trilogy, with the other planned installments being entitled Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn) and Act III: The Last Will & Testament of Timothy Elpadaro Thedford (The Prestige). In September 2007, Jay Electronica indicated that he planned to create Act II and Act III. Following the official release of his hit single "Exhibit C", Jay Electronica announced on Shade 45 that Act II would be released on Christmas Day 2009; producer Just Blaze confirmed that the album would miss this date.
In February 2010, Jay Electronica stated that he was planning on doing collaborative projects with rappers Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, and Nas. In August 2010, Jay Electronica stated that Act II would be released on his birthday September 19, 2010. In November 2010, Jay Electronica signed to Roc Nation and released his first collaborative song with Jay-Z, entitled "Shiny Suit Theory".
Jay Electronica announced that Act II was completed in 2011 and later shared a track list in 2012. The track list included guest appearances from Jay-Z, Kanye West, Charlotte Gainsbourg, The-Dream, and Sean Combs, among others. The album was never released. In 2013, Jay Electronica intended to include the song "Control" on his album after Big Sean removed it from Hall of Fame. However, Big Sean instead released the song as a promotional single after Kendrick Lamar recorded his controversial verse for the song. In 2014, Jay Electronica again announced that his album would be releasing that year. In 2017, Jay Electronica denounced the traditional roll-out of studio albums, stating "[a]n album is something that was created by corporations as a product to make money."
In March 2019, Jay Electronica teased on Instagram that he may work with Jay-Z on his album. In April 2019, Zachary Schwartz of DJ Booth speculated that the collaborative album was Act III. On February 6, 2020, Jay Electronica announced that he completed his debut album A Written Testimony. Jay Electronica recorded the album in "40 days and 40 nights", beginning on December 26, 2019. Jay Electronica and Jay-Z recorded the final track "A.P.I.D.T.A." on the night of January 26, 2020, when former NBA player Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. Jay Electronica set an initial release date of March 18, 2020, 40 days after recording was completed. In February 2020, radio host Angela Yee, who formerly managed Jay Electronica, confirmed on The Breakfast Club that she had listened to the album and that "Jay-Z is on much of the album."
Release and promotion
On February 6, 2020, Jay Electronica announced A Written Testimony with a March 18, 2020 release date. In anticipation of the album's release, record producer Young Guru posted a picture of himself in the studio with Jay Electronica, Jay-Z and Lawrence "Law" Parker on March 10, 2020. That same day, streaming service Tidal announced three listening parties for the album. Tidal planned to host the listening parties on March 12 in Los Angeles, New York City, and Jay Electronica's hometown of New Orleans. On March 11, 2020, Yee confirmed on The Breakfast Club that the album would be released on March 13, 2020 after the listening parties. On March 12, 2020, Apple Music revealed the track listing for A Written Testimony through Twitter. The track listing, written in the Arabic language, included ten tracks with guest appearances from Travis Scott and The-Dream. After the track list was revealed, the listening parties were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Tidal revealed the album's cover art.
In November 2010, Jay Electronica released his first collaborative song with Jay-Z entitled "Shiny Suit Theory" after signing to Roc Nation. In July 2012, a track list for Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn) was revealed that included a song titled "Dinner at Tiffanys (The Shiny Suit Theory)" featuring Gainsbourg, Jay-Z and The-Dream. In September 2018, the original version of the song was rereleased exclusively to Tidal. The song was included on the track list for A Written Testimony revealed in March 2020, with only The-Dream listed as a featured artist.
On the track "The Ghost of Soulja Slim", Jay Electronica references the Synagogue of Satan and his ex-girlfriend Kate Rothschild. Jay Electronica had previously rapped about the Synagogue of Satan on 2014 track "Better Tune in with the Infinite". Rothschild has also been the subject of multiple anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. American radio personality Peter Rosenberg accused Jay Electronica of anti-Semitism for his Synagogue of Satan references. Jay Electronica responded by accusing Rosenberg of "clout chasing" and invited him to a public forum with theological scholars to discuss the lyrics. Jay Electronica also stated that he stood behind "every single word" on the album. FNR Tigg of Complex defended "The Ghost of Soulja Slim", writing that the particular line was not anti-Semetic but that Jay Electronica was "finding a clever way to vent about a personal vendetta he had against [Rothschild] who he feels aided in helping the media assassinate his character."
Lee Harpin of The Jewish Chronicle also noted the lyrics "Satan struck Palestine with yet another mortar" from the track "Fruits of the Spirit". Gabe Friedman of The Jerusalem Post highlighted the album's inclusion of vocals from Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam who has been labelled as an extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to anti-Semitic and black supremacist views. Featured artist Jay-Z has also been previously cautioned by the Anti-Defamation League in 2017 for controversial lyrics.
Soon after release, Jay Electronica was also embroiled in an online dispute with American rapper-journalist Joe Budden. On his podcast, Budden criticized the album and stated that "Jay Electronica got smacked around by JAY-Z". Jay Electronica reacted by denouncing Budden's rap career, however an old video recorded by Yee surfaced that showed Jay Electronica praising Budden as an MC.
|Consequence of Sound||A−|
A Written Testimony was met with widespread acclaim from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, this release received an average score of 85, based on nine reviews.
Rashad Grove of Consequence of Sound praised the album as "one hell of a promising effort that was well worth the wait", further stating, "The skillset of Jay Electronica as both an MC and a producer is on full display, even when he does seemingly play Robin to Jay-Z's Dark Knight on his own project." A. Harmony of Exclaim! hailed it as "a solid effort that makes good on promises set by Electronica's earlier work: thumping, vintage beats; dense rhymes that shimmer with vivid imagery; clever references to the Nation of Islam." HipHopDX's Brody Kenny felt that the album was worth the anticipation, describing it as a "summation of why so many people have revered Jay Electronica for so long." Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Marcus J. Moore called it "an accomplished album with decent rewind factor, but it feels somewhat hampered by the seismic impact of the rapper's work a decade ago." In his review for NME, Dhruva Balram noted that Jay Electronica and Jay-Z "exchange epic verses in a style that's inevitably similar to Raekwon and Ghostface Killah on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx", however, he concluded that the album "is nothing spectacular; it won't shift or affect cultural discourse."
|1.||"The Overwhelming Event"||Jay Electronica||2:17|
|2.||"Ghost of Soulja Slim"||Jay Electronica||4:26|
|3.||"The Blinding" (featuring Travis Scott)||2:49|
|4.||"The Neverending Story"||The Alchemist||4:21|
|5.||"Shiny Suit Theory" (featuring The-Dream)||Jay Electronica||4:04|
|6.||"Universal Soldier"||Jay Electronica||4:19|
|7.||"Flux Capacitor"||Jay Electronica||3:27|
|8.||"Fruits of the Spirit"||No I.D.||1:35|
|9.||"Ezekiel's Wheel" (featuring The-Dream)||Jay Electronica||6:48|
- All tracks except "The Overwhelming Event" and "Fruits of the Spirit" feature uncredited vocals by Jay-Z.
- ^[a] signifies a co-producer
- "The Overwhelming Event" contains elements of "Thème de Gerbier", written and composed by Éric Demarsan.
- "Ghost of Soulja Slim" contains elements of "Jennifer's French Movie", written and composed by John Williams.
- "The Neverending Story" contains elements of "La Caída", written by Felix Nebbia and Mirtha Defilpo, and performed by Litto Nebbia.
- "Shiny Suit Theory" contains elements of "Ain't Got the Love (Of One Girl on My Mind)", written by Barbara Mason, and performed by The Ambassadors.
- "Flux Capacitor" contains samples of "Higher", written by Robyn Fenty, Dion Wilson, Badriia Bourelly, James Fauntleroy, Jerry Butler II, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, and performed by Rihanna.
- "Fruits of the Spirit" contains a sample of "Because I Loved You", performed by The Imaginations.
- "Ezekiel's Wheel" contains elements of "Evensong", written by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, and composed by Fripp & Eno.
- "A.P.I.D.T.A." contains elements of "A Hymn", written by Laura Manders and Mark Speer, and performed by Khruangbin.
|Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)||156|
|Canadian Albums (Billboard)||43|
|Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)||65|
|UK Albums (OCC)||53|
|US Billboard 200||12|
|US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)||8|
|US Rolling Stone Top 200||12|
- Except "Shiny Suit Theory", recorded in November 2010
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- Ryan Bassil (October 23, 2013). "The Prestige, The Five Percenters, and Why Jay Electronica Hasn't Released His Debut Album". Vice UK. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
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- Gabe Friedman (March 18, 2020). "Rapper Jay Electronica sparks antisemitism controversy". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
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