Friday, July 18, 2014
The Freshman Jinx
On Saturday July 12th at the annual Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival, all eyes were on Rapper Jay Electonica, adorned in a Fruit of Islam [FOI] uniform and flanked with an entourage of Nation of Islam [NOI] believers. After bringing out J. Cole, Talib Kweli, Mac Miller, Jay Electronica finally brought out Jay Z and they performed four songs together before exiting the stage. Since this Festival, many have taken to social media to articulate what they believe to be the significance of this event, and today I want to share my perspective on this subject matter.
Heralding Jay Electronica's performance as an iconic return to take his throne, some have declared him as the rightful King of Hip Hop. Others are defining this demonstration with his Muslim entourage as an Islamic Renaissance of rap music; being led by Jay Electronica as a Farrakhan-like figure, reminiscent of the days when the God MC Rakim defined Hip Hop's Golden [Conscious] Era. Jay Electronica himself appears to echo many of these sentiments with the tweets/photos he's posted after the Festival: LINK
Whatever those sentiments may or may not be, I think that many people overlook the fact that Jay Electronica is a Rapper who has never put out an album before in a music industry he does not control. That in itself is a tremendous amount of pressure and level of expectations that a Rapper putting out a sophomore album doesn't even experience. A sophomore jinx is when artists prepares to drop their sophomore album after putting out a classic freshman album. Because their first album was classic, it's often believed that they jinxed themselves from creating a classic sophomore album because the first one was so good. Aside from A Tribe Called Quest, the Wu Tang Clan, and arguably others, there are not many artists who've been able to escape the sophomore jinx. Since Jay Electronica has only successfully recorded some classic verses as a lyricist, he has set a high mainstream bar to put out nothing less than a classic album, classic music production and classic features on his first long awaited album. This is equivalent to a freshman jinx.
You know, the music industry is a very fickle thing, and just as easy as the media loves you, they can hate you the very next day. Ask Chris Brown. So as I'm sitting back watching all of these Jay Electronica fans sharing pictures of him and his entourage on facebook/twitter and philosophizing about how this is a demonstration of Rap's Time and What Must Be Done, I'm wondering if these people realize they need to actually support him, financially. I wondering if they know what soundscan is, what first week albums sales means, if they understand what "merch" is, a HHQ [Hip Hop Quotable] and what a paradigm shift in an industry they don't control will require. Because if not, then all of this social media posturing will be all for not and this critical mass, or 85% of the people I see acting like they support him, will be one of the main reasons for his freshman jinx if it happens. Let me explain why.
Because Jay Electronica has shown himself to be a Muslim affiliated with the NOI under the leadership of Minister Louis Farrakhan, there are many Muslim believers and those whom are affiliated with the NOI, that have expressed their admiration and support of him via sharing pictures, links and comments on social media. Because he is a Rap Artist, in a music industry, that support is great yet it must be demonstrated in concrete quantifiable terms. In other words, unless this critical mass of people are actually supporting him by buying tickets to his concerts, downloading his album, buying his album in record stores and purchasing his "merch" [merchandise], it would be difficult for Jay Electronica to grow into the cultural arts leader some are declaring him to be. Worst than that, his resources to do more will be limited and you will give the media the means to actually destroy his career. I can see the headlines now: "Iggy Azalea goes Double Platinum, Jay Electronica goes Wood", "Rap's so-called King is Crucified", "Jay Elec-flop-ica's long awaited album is a dud", "Jay Electronica Concert cancelled because of low ticket sales" and etc. Most of my favorite Artists are not mainstream, yet in my opinion, they're some of the most lyrical and creative. In many ways, Jay Z publically knighted Jay Electronica into mainstream Hip Hop on July 12th. So the whole idea that "Jay Electronica makes music for the listeners" is no longer the driving force or marketing strategy of his music going forward. It's business and the bottom line is he must now appeal to the masses.
In closing, I want to encourage those of you who are watching this moment in time, and think/feel that it's truly a paradigm shift in rap music, to get involved. Don't just get involved by sharing pictures, links or commenting on statuses. I'm talking about supporting what you think/feel in concrete quantifiable terms. Just because Jay Electronica is giving Minister Farrakhan a shout out and you're feeling good because you're a registered Muslim in the NOI is not enough. Buy a ticket to his concert even if you don't go to rap concerts; gift it to someone who does! For those of you who are 5 Percenters and kith with Jay Electronica, rep his brand by purchasing his merchandise! And those of you who simply like his music, make sure you buy his album when he drops it. If there is any worthwhile demonstration in all of this, then this is what it needs to be demonstration; financially supporting any creative/performing artists whom we truly believe have something of substance and significance they're offering to this world. Chuck D and other artists have been advocating this for longer than I remember and its importance is still relevant and timely. All of the other empty posturing and "I'm affiliated" politics/pictures mean nothing if we're not invested in artists, or striving to encourage others to invest in them. On a personal level, I am not a fan of Jay Electronica although I do think he is lyrical and I like some of his songs. As an artist myself, artists that have more clarity in terms of their determined idea, a sense of consistency with their body of work and their art itself is what resonates more with me, regardless of the art form or genre I'm critiquing. As I've stated, Jay Electronica is still waiting to release his first album and willfully with his release he evolves to manifest a positive determined idea and body of work that inspires, empowers and educates people.