Where shall I start with this album; mention the emotive backdrops to amazing lyricism, the uncredited Jay Z features or Electronica’s exquisite way of delivering beautiful lyrical references?
I feel like this album dropped at a time where we’d had a drought of thought provoking lyricism containing entendres upon entendres to make your head spin. Yes we had the Griselda gang keeping us afloat with their cinematic lyrics and haunting backdrops but for me personally, I needed something more. A Written Testimony dropped like a meteor in the midst of what was to become a global pandemic, created over the course of 30 nights as if it were manifested by the Magdi and the Akhi, on a sub-mystical trek through the desert following some divine inspiration to raise the barrier of entry into rap with nothing but exquisitive metaphor and similies for Hip Hop and Poetry connoisseurs.
There are bars a plenty on this album and as much as some people like to downplay the offering, everyone’s welcome to their opinion of course, I think it’s genius in a lot of respects. For instance the way he seamless weaves Islamic references into his bars, this is somebody who actually lives this and breathes it so it sounds much more natural and less contrived. It’s beautiful the way he blends the references with other things in nature such as what he did in the opening of the Ghost of Soulja Slim.
The minaret that Jigga built me on the Dome of the Roc
Was crafted, so beautifully, consider this Adhan
From a hard place and a rock to the Roc Nation of Islam
I emerged on the wave that Tidal made to drop bombs
I came to bang with the scholars
And I bet you a Rothschild I get a bang for my dollar
Prior to this I never quite understood the enigma that was Jay Electronica, and I must admit that I kinda shied away the conversation that he was one of the greats as I had only previously heard the Jus Blaze produced Exhibit C, but now I understand. I get why people have literally held out to hear his mastery in the form of an album. Some folks are mad at the long wait and mad at the fact that there were so many promises of drops that didn’t materialise but I’m a firm believer in nothing happening before its time.
Remember Hip Hop or better yet the culture of Rap has had somewhat of an identity crisis in the recent decade. Let’s be honest, the barriers to entry were pretty low, turn up and casual opioid abuse became the order of the day, repetitive buzzwords became the new standard and anything with a distorted set of 808s was acceptable. Poetry and the use of vocabulary to convey a whole spectrum of experiences and sentiments were no longer revered nor the hunt for the rarest samples that captured a heightened sense of awareness when looped. Musicality and what was once a genre with its cultural roots in Jazz, Blues, Rock and Struggle became too commercialised to have any real connection and give you any food for thought, much like the Cannabis industry is with its infinite strains and hybrids but no connection to the actual root of the plant or its spiritual and healing applications.
Of course there were people on the underground or in particular circles still delivering the realness, creating cult followings, but I feel as though now is the perfect time for the drop because our favourite producers like Alchemist, Muggs, Pete Rock, Madlib et al [to name a few] continued to carry the torch and inspired the next wave who evolved and painted backdrops where the next generation could go a step further in their cinematic raps such as Daringer and the Griselda lot, Roc Marciano, Gibbs, Smoke DZA, Tha God Fahim et al.
We live in a day and age where the internet and social media, digital distribution and merch has levelled the playing field so artists like Roc Marciano, who work on a straight to consumer basis, are winning because they don’t require the traditional model to succeed and with this are able to spearhead a sound that is on the cusp of and is influencing popular culture. Combine that with the cult and consistent activities of Griselda, who not only have a particular sound and methodology to their raps, have added an art aesthetic which culminated in atheirmeteoric rise, causing a tsunami of influence and shockwaves.
So its safe to say that the authentic and rugged is finally back at the forefront, perfect time to drop don’t you think?