Headliners: Jay Electronica at BoMA

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

That's not to say Jay Elect doesn't deserve the attention. The New Orleans native spent the latter part of the '00s simmering as one of hip-hop's most buzzed-about underground talents in large part because the guy's got skills.

His quick-hitting, free-associative rapping is bolstered by a production style that often forgoes drumbeats in favor of moody soundscapes built on percussive piano and guitar samples.

Jay Elect's artistic cred is unassailable, yet he's also played a masterful promotional game that caused hiphopdx.com to label him "more like a myth or urban legend than an actual rapper" in 2008. Here's a look at how he brought the pot to a boil.

Rap over soundtrack music to a hip indie film:

Jay Elect's first big break was "Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)," a five-part, 15-minute sound collage built around samples from Jon Brion's score from "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Sampling Gene Wilder's freak-out from "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" added to the track's dreamy demeanor.

Sleep with Erykah Badu:

Hey, it worked for Andre 3000. Badu and Jay Elect welcomed daughter Mars Merkaba on Feb. 1, 2009.

Travel the U.S., Jack Kerouac-style:

The nomadic emcee has lived everywhere from Atlanta to Philadelphia to Denver to Detroit. Broadening his scope to a global level, he spent the past few weeks performing in London.

Rap with elite producers:

"Exhibit C," Jay Elect's biggest single, was produced by Just Blaze. Its rich soul sample, soaring strings and thunderous kick drum are the latest evidence of the prodigious emcee's ability to translate his freewheeling flow to a more conventional setting.

Produce for elite rappers:

Jay Elect is most often compared to Nas, so it seemed preordained that he contributed a beat to Mr. Illmatic's self-titled 2008. The stark piano sounds behind "Queens Get the Money" were culled from the "I Am Sam" soundtrack.

Position yourself as a spiritual guru:

Jay Elect often peppers his lyrics with references to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The website for promotional company Decon Media features video of the rapper venturing to the Far East, painting his face and participating in some sort of spirit walk.

Eschew traditional release strategies:

Besides a slew of unofficial mixtapes, Jay Elect has only released songs in bite-size bundles. The man knows how to keep demand high.

When: 9 p.m. Friday, March 5

Where: BoMA, Downtown

Web: myspace.com/jayelectronica