Live Review: Jay Electronica @ Bumbershoot 9/5

photo by Abbey Simmons
courtesy of Sound on the Sound

Sunday 5.45pm
Fisher Green Stage

It’s funny that the widely-hailed hip hop visionary and emcee’s emcee Jay Electronica is credited for revolutionizing rap music by being best known for completely removing one of the central ingredients of rap music: the beat.

Jay’s penchant for beatless spoken word/rap poetry is clear during his Bumbershoot set; almost all of his songs are cut short by his tour DJ T.J. the King after a few bars and he continues to rap acappella with a strangely captivating intensity that shows you just how talented an emcee the man is.

The show opens with MGM lion snarl samples and snippets of movie dialogue when all of a sudden T.J. whacks across the fader and slams us into the icy wash of Skream’s remix of La Roux’s “In For The Kill” -– no surprise that this, one of 2009’s best loved two minute intros, has absolutely no beats present at all. Every hand in the crowd is up and everyone is very, very hyped as the New Orleans rapper then rushes on to the stage shouting “See-at-tle!” to a roar of applause and hits us with the opening bars of “Dear Moleskine” (a title I’ve always thought sounds like overly-emotional, self-absorbed coffeeshop hipster territory) only to go a cappella, true to form, a minute later.

Dressed in a light gray hoodie, electric green t-shirt with baggy gray pants and throwing around a white towel in hand like he was conducting air traffic by shooing away planes, Jay then has our fingers in the air as a tribute to the late great J Dilla before we’re launched into pharmaceutically-aware track “DMT” and more beatless spoken word.

“How many people here know their hip hop history?” Electronica bellows as a challenge the crowd. But the audience is far too honest about their knowledge of a music scene now almost forty years old and give a palpably hesitant response, which is understandable given that most fans here haven’t been on the planet for even half that time. “Regardless!” shouts Jay, “how many people here LOVE hip hop?” That’s a question that undeniably gathers a far more positive reply.

We’re then offered more heavy hits including the ode-to-MySpace-girls “Googly Eyes,” the Eternal Sunshine soundtrack-sampling “Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge),” and recent favorite “The Ghost of Christopher Wallace” with it’s instantly addictive jazz guitar sample hook.

“Exhibit A (Transformations)” then follows, after which Jay jumps off stage to rap to the front row while his manager walks to the front of the stage to snap pictures on his smartphone of clamoring fans and a wayward crowd surfer.

Having well and truly rocked the crowd, the festival, and the city, Electronica ends on his most popular track to date: “Exhibit C.” This is one emcee that has proved his lyrical skills one, two, three times over this afternoon, rain or shine, beats or no beats.

High: After covering “The World Is Yours” by Nas, Jay spontaneously invites 150 people in the audience to rush the stage and bounce along to the music, which they need no further encouragement to do, much to the chagrin of a very evidently pained stage manager. It’s pretty awesome though.

Low: With sample-heavy rhymes-driven hip hop this good, beat makers everywhere could very soon be forced to change careers.

In a Tweet: The conscious baritone authority of KRS-One that’s reinventing hip hop and legitimately pushing music and lyrical dexterity forward.

Did you catch Mr Electronica at Bumbershoot this year? What was your highlight? Leave KEXP a comment and/or four verses of rap poetry in the Comments section below!

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  1. Kay
    Posted September 29, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised that one of your “lows” wasn’t his random and misogynistic speech about how all women loved being choked during sex. I was really excited to see Jay Electronica, but this totally disgusted me, so I went to check out some other talented artists. I was even more surprised that no one except for one lone female standing near the front of the stage yelled out against him. He may be good at what he does, but he doesn’t get my support. There are plenty other good rappers out there who have intelligent things to say.

  2. Dj Dawodu
    Posted November 1, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Please check the history book vs what the Artist Mr. Electronica is saying. if it made you feel something i guess it worked. Sounds like some ignorant people are spilling out the same sad song. Respect to Jay Electronica for standing in the face of hate.

  3. a daughter of yemonya
    Posted December 12, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I was quite excited upon hearing about JE’s signing with JZ (I am no fan of JZ’s music but when he speaks I do enjoy to hear him and knows he exhibits signs of simple brilliance…the dichotomy…hmmm). I thought the signing could be a push for more intelligible music, and interplanetary audible lyrics and images being heard in mainstream airwaves. I was born and grew up alongside hip hop and now that I am an adult I am looking back at not only my development through the years but hip hop’s as well… I am curious…

    I have just recently (yesterday) come upon Jay’s comment and have gone through a myriad of emotions and at the very root of it I am confused and concerned at the state of the world especially as it relates to women. My husband and I have been avid appreciators of J.E. and his music, lyrics and overall character (from what we of course are privy to). I too understand we are all human…however, I do find this situation very baffling on many levels but mostly unsettling metaphysically, karmicly (not sure if it’s a word but I hope my gist is gotten;)) spiritually and even generationaly…I digress

    My husband and I went to a Mos Def concert in ATL and JE opened for him, we were just as excited to see him perform…his energy was off the charts his flow was fluid and his charisma was aces. After his set he did something very different he led the whole audience in a non religious, universal yet sincere and divine word of non specific prayer. I thought the words he chose were poignant but the whole act quite different we both felt (after discussing on the way home that evening) that that prayer really set another tone for that evening and the crowd seemed more united (maybe it was just us). No one heckled him, told him to shut up…I fact many of us united hands, hearts and spirits. And I am unsure of whether he did it at each and every concert but that is a thought worth pondering. BTW both Mighty mos and JE ROCKED IT that night!!

    I feel that had I gone to his concert in Seattle and he began or ended his set with the question he is NOW posing to audiences worldwide, I would have felt entirely different, not to mention the energy of the crowd. I know I would have left the building until Mos came on and then maybe would haven’t even stayed for his concert only feeling he could be “guilty by association” especially if it was polled at every concert…again I digress a bit…

    After the concert, a friend of our was good friends with Mos and wanted to introduce us which was an added bonus of the evening so we waited outside and while we were waiting we were graced by JE…he wasn’t talking to everyone either, but he came and spoke to us (a group of sisters and my husband) and we inquired about his daughter and her well-being and he beamed a ray of light and broke out his cell phone and shared pictures and a brief story about Mars. Being a mother of two, a wife, daughter and aunt I felt his joy radiate and was touched to be a part of that moment with him…So fast forward to the present when I heard, read and meditated on the poll/bet he is posing I found my disturbance in these points here…
    (Like you I know that consenting adults do what they like when they like and that’s one thing so rough sex, violent sex to each their own) BUT when attending a concert and having the person I am coming to see pose a question of this nature: 1.knowing there are minors present (he make his disclaimer in the video of him in Seattle) 2.knowing women are present and I am assuming this next point (based on the words he prayed at his previous concert) but 3.knowing the seed you are planting by stating a question of this nature in the minds of the public, the universe over and over again really upset me, saddened me and also alarmed me, at the lack of respect and consideration for the women from whence he came from and fathered. It alarmed me also because I had just seen a clip of Kanye’s new video Monster and there are many images just in the 40 second preview of women (mannequins) hanging from ceiling and Kanye kissing dead looking women, while fondling their genitalia, and knowing the connection between KW, JZ and now JE and praying that this is not the next level of abuse on women. I really am not against nor in support of the conspiracy theories but I am aware of my ancestors and spiritual guides and the knowledge of the power of words and ritual and I do stand firm in stating that this is a dangerous thread to “gamble” with…I know for a fact if his under aged daughter went to a concert and this was a topic of discussion AND GODDESS forbid a choking/sex incident like this occurred to his under aged daughter IT WOULD BE NO LAUGHING MATTER.

    I am aware as adults we are all given choices and it is up to us as individuals to make our choices (right or wrong) and deal with the outcomes (positive or negative). The reasons as to the “whys” of this question are mute to me…was it a pub stunt, is it an initiation, was it “male” humor, is it really just a bet, is it linked to a song or was it simply a joke. However, the repercussions are what concern me.

    I know we all make thoughtless mistakes and because I know of second chances I am prayerful that JE will step up and admit to his irresponsibility of this poll and right the wrongs that he has set into motion…and if he doesn’t I can no longer support this brother based of the fact that I am a woman, daughter, sister, wife, and come from a divine line of women.

    I am grateful to you for this blog and posting and making a united stand.

    Peace, love and positive motion with the ocean by the light of the moon goddess…
    a daughter of Yemonya

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