Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)
You know what hip-hop needs more of in 2014? Jay Electronica and Mos Def (uh, I mean, Yasiin Bey—sorry, I’m still getting use to calling him that, though I do think it’s an ill name). Both Jay and Bey have popped up randomly over the past year (they even appeared together on a record with The Bullitts), but during a 2013 that saw full-lengths from everyone under the hip-hop sun, both these guys were relatively quiet on the scene. Aside from guest appearances on Mac Miller’s LP and Big Sean’s “Control” with Kendrick Lamar (and his soundtrack appearances with The Bullitts), Jay Elec was mostly just seen frolicking with his lady-mate Kate Rothschild out in London (and seen not dropping the long-awaited Act II: The Patents of Nobility). As for Yasiin, he put out some ill shit with Mannie Fresh and was caught on tape performing live a few times, but other than that, he stayed pretty low-key, too.
As new rappers come forward and claim their spot in the game, let’s never forget that these are two of the illest MCs currently residing on planet Earth. So while we wait for them to re-emerge and tuck everyone’s 2014s in (are we ever going to get that joint Simpatico EP?), let’s revisit five Jay Electronica and Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey) collaborations that are still worthy of heavy rotation. Do remember.
1. Curren$y ft. Mos Def and Jay Electronica “The Day”
MTV News reported back in 2009 that these three were actually forming a supergroup called Center Edge Territory. At the time of the report, Curren$y stated that they connected at Dame Dash’s DD172 facility and had six records done, and that there were plans to do a full-length project. Well, it’s now 2014, and all we’ve heard is the Ski Beatz-produced goodie “The Day,” which ended up on Curren$y’s tree-friendly Pilot Talk LP. But hey, we’re not complaining. With joints this fire, we’ll take what we can.
Have you listened to this recently?! This was an ill moment for J. Cole. Doubters definitely recognized when he held his own on the track with the Black Star boys, and as for Jay and his “semi-buzz,” well it only got crazier after appearances like this. The young man from New Orleans had found a home in New York, and he was certainly surrounding himself with the right people. Shouts to Hi-Tek on the beat, too. Shit is butter. And you already know Mos comes correct in the cleanup spot, but please, hold your applause until the ceremony ends.
3. Ski Beatz ft. Jean Grae, Jay Electronica, Joell Ortiz, and Mos Def “Prowler 2″
“Prowler 2,” which was featured on Ski Beatz’s 24 Hour Karate School compilation, was another joint pumped out of DD172. As Ski put the boom back in bap, both Jay and Bey came on the track with two of the best verses of 2010. After a solid opening by Jean Grae, Jay Elec stepped in with that “black dragon rap,” spitting, “Salt rivers flowing out my eyeballs, pierced side, broke legs, bearing my cross/The old heads told me life wasn’t a game, but mine steady feeling like pinball, dodgeball/Chasing freedom, establish a kingdom, and build a stone castle out of thinwall, drywall/I’m a keep going ’til God call or the sky fall, or they blast me on a grassy knoll and try to blame Oswald.” Then Yasiin followed Joell Ortiz in the cleanup spot once again with some stream of consciousness bars, like, “Never closed, hella flows, ice cold, never froze, me and the exceptionals/Too high to get over on, Abdul-Jabbar tippy-toes, game point, pick and roll, give and go, no ordinary miracle/Freedom Fighters’ spiritual, eagle eye aerials, sun spot mountain top, fresh water fountain drop.” Lyrics, fam. Lyrics.
4. Mos Def & Jay Electronica “Holiday”
Just Blaze played this track—which was rumored to be for Jay and Mos’ Simpatico project—one night during a sit-in on Shade 45’s Tony Touch-hosted show Toca Tuesdays, and the audio rip thankfully made its way to the blogs for all to download, play, and rewind. Yes, the song gets cut off towards the end of Jay’s verse, so we don’t really know what the full recording sounds like, but according to Just, it was never finished anyway. Damn this is fresh.
Oh, and for those keeping score at home, you may recognize that the sample from this beat was also used on Prodigy’s Sid Roams-produced The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson EP cut “Black Devil.” Very dope flip.
5. Jay Electronica ft. Mos Def “Exhibit A (Remix)”
There was some confusion surrounding this song. Many were calling it “Exhibit B,” but then when it was requested by a fan at a show in San Francisco, they explained that it was actually a just a remix of “Exhibit A,” featuring the same beat with an added Mos Def verse (and some extra Jay bars too). And that’s exactly what this is. But according to a Jay Electronica interview with Red Bull Music Academy, there is in fact a totally different and unheard “Exhibit B” that’s “on a hard drive somewhere.” Come up off that, fellas!
*Bonus* The Bullitts ft. Yasiin Bey, Jay Electronica, and Lucy Lui “They Die By Dawn”
Jay Electronica has worked with songwriter/producer/filmmaker The Bullitts before, and then early last year, him and Yasiin appeared together on the title track for his movie They Die By Dawn (Jay also appears on the soundtrack cuts “Murder Death Kill” and “Close Your Eyes”). It’s a bit more recent than the rest of the joints on this list, but we’re throwing it in as a bonus for good measure.
Okay, enough of the nostalgia, gents. Let’s hear some new shit already! Yo Jay, just drop that Act II and fuck the game up, we dare you.
Read all previous NahRight features HERE.