My whole goal is to reintroduce magic to hip-hop,” Jay-Z told a packed house at the New York club The Box on November 13. And with that bold statement came the announcement of the high profile signing of acclaimed New Orleans MC Jay Electronica to the hip-hop mogul’s growing Roc Nation empire. Needless to say, it was a shocking development. For months, Electronica, the highly touted underground lyricist and Erykah Badu’s significant baby daddy, had been connected with music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs.
Surely a much-rumored move to Diddy’s Bad Boy family was on deck? But there was Electronica onstage with the Jigga Man, proudly throwing up his diamond, joining the likes of fellow buzz-heavy MC J. Cole and kiddie phenom Willow Smith on the roster. “My name is Jay Electronica and my mama is here so you can’t tell me s###,” he proclaimed.
As talk now turns to Electronica finally delivering on his much-anticipated album debut, the impact of the gifted MC’s move to Roc Nation cannot be overstated. VIBE gathered a panel of voices—Pitchfork.com staff writer Ryan Dombal, Billboard associate editor Mariel Concepcion, Allhiphop.com founder Chuck Creekmur and veteran MC and Sirius radio host Monie Love—to weigh in on why the union between Electronica and Jay-Z is so important to the future of hip-hop. Consider it Exhibit A. —Keith Murphy5. He’s Not On Bad Boy
It was the kind of cryptic display that one would rarely associate with the hit making, Sean John-pushing, Ciroc-peddling uber entertainment mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs. But there he was on Twitter expressing his frustration over Jay Electronica’s surprising pairing with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. “Damn it hurts in a whole other way when someone you felt and I mean really felt was your Friend, Betrays you,” Diddy tweeted on November 15. For the influential music vet, the move was an apparent shock to Diddy after he reportedly took the underground savior under his wing and recorded the track “The Ghost Of Christopher Wallace” with Electronica, prompting many to speculate a possible move to Bad Boy was in the making.
While the public shot was later clarified by Diddy (“Jay Electronica…I’m proud of you! I’m happy for you. I love you! I congratulate you…I’m not mad at you! All I wanna do is see you win! All love.”), a fierce debate was ignited. Was Jay Electronica better off with team Jigga or team Diddy?
“I think Jay-Z recently has had more prestige at this point,” says Pitchfork’s Ryan Dombal. “Diddy’s Janelle Monae Bad Boy signing last year and even to a certain degree his [managing] of Rick Ross—those artists are more artistic than a lot of what he has done this decade. It seems like that’s where Diddy’s head is at this moment, so I don’t think it would have been a terrible look for [Electronica]. But at the same time, Jay-Z never had a period where he lost credibility, especially when you look at the past artists he signed while he was at Def Jam from Rihanna to Jeezy.”
Billboard’s Mariel Concepcion agrees, adding that while Diddy’s own star-making pedigree should never be questioned (After all, the Harlem-born music visionary is responsible for the careers of such multi-platinum superstar acts as Notorious BIG, Mase, and Faith Evans, selling over 75 million records during his Bad Boy reign), he may have some issues with sharing the spotlight.
“If you are a new artist looking to sign with a label it’s important to have a crew that is going to back you up,” explains Concepcion. “That’s not to say that Electronica would not have exceeded with Diddy. But Diddy is now trying to put out his own music with Dirty Money. He’s doing him right now. So I think Jay Electronica needs someone that’s going to focus on his music and his career and I believe Jay-Z has that team already in place.”
4) The Underground Needs A True Crossover Star
During the ‘80s and ’90s, the underground hip-hop scene often times anointed the trends and future stars of the movement. Artists as diverse as Run-D.M.C., MC Lyte, N.W.A., Geto Boys, Nas, and Eminem all initially garnered acclaim on subterranean levels, often times working their way up the rap food chain whether it was through relentless touring, rap battles or a series of guest appearing on songs. Yet in today’s rap world, it is par-for-the-course to witness MC’s sidestep the underground altogether, going straight for the pop-or-bust ring.
According to AllHipHop.com founder Chuck Creekmur, Jay Electronica signals a return to a time when there was a synergy between the mainstream and the underground. “This is why [Electronica] signing with a major superstar like Jay-Z is so important,” Creekmur says. “The underground and commercial worlds have got to find some common ground in order for hip-hop to be viable and to continue to survive. The way most people envision it is the underground somehow lives independently of everything else, survives and sells millions of records. But that’s never been the case. There’s always been a marriage between the underground and the mainstream…until now.”
“I think Redman is a good example of this,” Creekmur adds. There was no major deal when he signed to Def Jam Records back in the day. Yet he was able to have the whole Month of the Man campaign with Method Man, which was huge. And no one saw that as some huge, corporate, devil worshipping union [laughs]. It was pure hip-hop.”
3. Because Monie Love Says So
Living up to the hype can be a daunting and at times crushing task for any musical artist. Indeed, it remains to be seen if Jay Electronica will be able to cope with the intense pressure of being hailed as the next underground savior. The history of hip-hop is littered with the bodies of would-be-contenders who struggled mightily to show-and-prove beyond the buzz (Remember Canibus?). However, rapper Monie Love, who faced similar lofty expectations before the release of her much-anticipated 1990 debut album Down To Earth, believes Electronica will be able to deliver on the hyperbolic raves.
“I know what it feels like to be a Jay Electronica…to be called the next best thing since sliced bread,” Monie says of her time under the intense glare of the hip-hop spotlight. Before the British rhymer and member of the influential rap collective the Native Tongues signed a recording deal in the United States, she was already being hailed as the female MC who would completely reshape the game following career-defining appearances on De La Soul’s “Buddy” and Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First.”
“Benny Medina (legendary former head of Warner Bros. Records’ urban music division and manager of such superstar clients as Jennifer Lopez and Sean “Diddy” Combs) went back to the U.S. like, ‘There’s this girl from the England…she’s really dope,’” recalls Monie, a former radio DJ at Philadelphia’s Power 99 who currently host the Sirius satellite show Ladies First.
“The record labels started to make their bids to get my U.S. and Canadian rights. Warner Bros won the bid, but what’s interesting is another heavy courting session started with me and Russell Simmons’ Rush Management, which was the monopoly management company at the time. They had everybody from LL Cool J and Public Enemy to A Tribe Called Quest! Russell used to send his boys to take me out to dinner and get me tickets to Showtime At The Apollo…all kinds of stuff just to get me to sign with his management company.”
Monie Love continues: “Jay Electronica reminds me of that time when I was grinding and free styling at every club that I could get into just to prove I was worth the buzz. “I had the opportunity to see him perform at Luxe Lounge in Philadelphia March of this year. My friend introduced us and we just started talking about music. That time with Jay gives me faith again that there’s someone who is able to capture the spirit of the culture I came up in. He seems to embody everything that epitomizes an MC. It was a very spiritual hip-hop night for me.”To continue the “5 Reasons Jay Electronica Signing To Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Is Great For Hip-Hop”- CLICK HERE!