Photos by Scott Heins for Okayplayer
With the annual indie-music blowout that is CMJ Festival descending once more upon New York City, one very special rapper helped kick off the 2015 festivities. Enter: Jay Electronica. The ever-ethereal MC-poet did indeed step down from his fortress of hip-hop solitude Tuesday night, delivering a brief but relentless set that reminded any and all parties why now, even after all these years, his material is well worth the wait.
Escorted by a pair of fellow Five Percenters, Jay took to the stage at Santos Party House just before midnight and went right in, unleashing the rhythmic fury that is “Exhibit A” upon the crowd. A sea of hands shot up–pointer fingers and Roc Nation signs cut the air–as Electronica’s voice was amplified by a polyglot PA. There is, in this blogger’s opinion, no other fanbase so intricately learned in their hero’s rhymes as Jay Elect’s; perhaps it’s a supply and demand issue, but more than likely its on account of his syllable-for-syllable supremacy over the game.
Electronica frequently went a cappella during his 35 minute set, delivering lines from “Road to Perdition” and “Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)” with no regard for a sonic safety net. And between these songs, these standalone pillars of modern hip-hop, the man admitted to having plenty of patience for turning up and wilin’ out to the music of rap’s modern mainstream. However, he stressed that what passes for dope today will soon be forgotten, giving way to the authentic, quality rap that a precious few still bring to the table. Jay didn’t go quite so far as to say that he himself is making timeless, dynamite hip-hop, but then he never needed to in the first place. His fiery CMJ performance drove that point home. By the time “Exhibit C” finally dropped, the crowd had become a collective chorus. The roar of Jay Electronica’s talent inhabited all of us.
Get a glimpse of the action in our photo gallery above and, if you’re in NYC, make plans to see a CMJ showcase or two with the help of our 2015 Okayplayer guide to the festival.