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Sunday, January 17, 2010

How Real Is the Hype Behind Jay Electronica? 

Actually NOT the video for "Exhibit C" but for another Electronica track called, "Dear Moleskin"

This is an amended and expanded version of a couple things I wrote in my Google Shared Items in response to the start of producer, Just Blaze's "Buy 'Exhibit C'" campaign at the end of last year. I was gonna leave well enough alone but then I saw that a blog post by Hot 97's DJ Enuff entitled, “Why am I not playing J [sic] Electronica on Hot97?” had reignited the battery in Blaze and Questlove's backs to relaunch their "Save hip hip by supporting 'Exhibit C'", I figured I'd speak up and offer another take on matters.

Before I get into it though, I'll start by saying I actually am a Jay Elec fan. But while I know a bunch of bloggers have gotten in lockstep to declare "Exhibit C" the best hip hop song of 2009, I'm gonna have to beg to differ. But whatever, taste is really all subjective anyway, right? What I am amazed at though is how what I have termed the 'Jay Electronica Exception', came to pass.

Just about every rap blogger of note who has built their rep and site traffic for years on the back of giving away sharing free music by artists decided that this time No, their readers needed to buy Electronica's "Exhibit C' because Just Blaze asked them to take down the free download links and because the song is just that good!

Er, WTF?? As I noted on twitter when this first went down: all of a sudden all these rap bloggers rediscovered their consciences & are urging their readers to actually BUY some music because they think Jay Electronica's the second coming of Illmatic-era Nas or something?? I bet a whole bunch of other rappers whose music has been whored out and given away by these same bloggers for their own financial or reputational gain over the past few years would have appreciated that consideration too including Just Blaze's own artist, Saigon! I don't recall Just getting bloggers to capitulate on behalf of Sai-diddy's itunes royalty account though! Who knew that all you had to do is, like Just, get on your virtual knees on twitter and beg everyone to stop giving your music away though.

IMHO, bowing to Just Blaze's wishes on taking down the download links in favor of iTunes BUY links while continuing to share everyone else's music is hypocrisy at its worst and the, "Jay Elec's music is dope" argument doesn't hold water for me. This is the Jay Elec Exception concept that's gotten my back up. Big Boi, Ghost, Raekwon & a bunch of other 'respected' MCs make great music too. Do their managers have to beg you to take down the download links for their music too before you realize you could still help promote it and maybe help those artists actually sell it by posting streaming-only links as well?

The flipside of this whole phenoneon is the question of how effective or influential has the blog world been really at breaking new music and artists anyway? Blogger Dart Adams wrote in a recent post that "Jay Electronica has the hottest song on iTunes & Amazon..."

Really?? I've been looking regularly at the iTunes charts since this whole bloggers-for-Jay Elec movement began and "Exhibit C" is still nowhere to be found on their Top 200 songs chart perhaps unsurprisingly, but more notably is nowhere on their dedicated Top 200 Hip Hop/Rap chart either. Ditto for's Top 100 and Top 100 Rap & Hip-Hop Bestsellers lists as well.

"Exhibit C" might be exhibit A proof for a couple things that have always bothered me about the internet and especially the hip hop blog world: the echo chamber that operates in the bubble many rap bloggers seems to live in hyping up stuff that the 'real' world doesn't know or care about and the sheep mentality of those same bloggers who slavishly follow a few thought leader and opinion-makers in the space (whattup, Eskay and Shake N Meka?) instead of actually trying, you know, to have some opinions of their own. Recent blogger faves, Slaughterhouse's commerical failure despite the deafening hype they received in this bubble comes to mind.

I still think the internet is a tremendous platform for new and independent artists to quickly and cheaply build a profile & name for themselves, but its only part of the story on the road to success. The problem is, many bloggers and online hip hop fans don't understand that. For those of you who don't get that internet buzz is not real buzz (or at best, a very, very tiny part of that buzz still), you need to turn on your radio and get from behind your keyboard and hit a club once in a while to experience how songs and artists break in the real world. Be clear: So Far Gone WAS the biggest buzz album on the rap internets last year but Drake, arguably the only new act to truly break from the blog world, wouldn't have been able to do that if he hadn't had a pair of radio bangers in "Best I Ever Had" and "Successful" (and the assist from Lil Wayne, of course).

I understand everybody's jockin' Jay Elec right now but I’m curious: if artists do in future start regularly asking for D/L links for their music to be taken down and iTunes & Amazon links put up in their place, how many bloggers are gonna comply? Whether you think its the greatest thing since Illmatic or wacker than Bow Wow shouldn’t even be an issue because musical merit is, like I said earlier, ultimately subjective. If say, Pill’s people had decided to not drop a mixtape and instead tried to execute a Just Blaze-like campaign to get people to buy the “Trap Goin’ Ham” single, I wonder how successful it would’ve been? I guess we’ll never know now (although I could hazard a guess….)

But maybe the whole story on "Exhibit C' hasn't been written yet. After wrestling with whether he should play "Exhibit C" (for reasons I'm guessing similar to those I'm talking about here: is the online hype real or not?), DJ Enuff relented and made it his pick of the week and has been going hard with the record ever since. He has been known to break or be early on records that went on to become major hits in the end so being charitable, it could just be early days still (although if I was betting man, I wouldn't put my money on that happening here).

Maybe momentum will keep buidling and enough fans will buy "Exhibit C" on iTunes instead of copping it for free via Google Search to make Jay Electronica the next to break out of the blog world? What the ultimate result will end up being will be one of the things that will keep 2010 interesting though.


Jay Electronica Says “Fuck Yo Blog” - is he talking about little old me?? I just posted this - maybe he saw my tweets though! [RapRadar]

Pitchfork reviews "Exhbit C"

Jay Electronica & Just Blaze On The Radio (Act 2). [RapRadar]


Reflection Eternal feat Jay Electronica, Mos Def & J.Cole
- "Just Begun" [usershare mp3 links: stream | download via Semtex]

Download the Furious Styles & DJ Dub Present: Jay Electronica - Victory Mixtape HERE. [sendpsace link via Nah Right]


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