War With The Dragon: Jan 13 2004
(The Greatest Album you’ll never hear)
Jay Electronica has a congeries of songs floating around. All told, there might be five albums worth. Thankfully, I was blessed to experience one of his first sequenced projects — War With The Dragon — and it’s the classic that you’ll never hear.
Like most artists, Jay E views his next work as his best work; he won’t even listen to WWTD his damn self. Before it was a titled project, WWTD was a collection of ten songs that he recorded over the Winter of 02/Spring of 03.
Once completed, he drove from Detroit to NYC to put it in Diddy’s hands (but that’s another story). Ismail Latif and I heard it for the first time, May of 03. We were prepared to wrap a van with Jay E’s image, press up some CDs, and hit the road, selling the album state-to-state. It was that good. But Mr. Electronica wasn’t done.
He headed back to Detroit on 14 August 2003. Me? I missed an interview with WPVI due to the fact that I was in Mexico City (yet another story for another day) and had to take a job with Sean John/Rocawear at Strawbridge’s in The Gallery. The last week of December, I received a package. It was a CD from Jay.
The first new song, “Something to Hold On” made me cry. One of the characteristics that endears audiences to Jay E is his openness; to know his music is to know him. If you want to know Jay Electronica’s heart, “Something to Hold On” is a good start.
“Something to Hold On” was the song I used as an intro for the sistas, that or “Hey Nineteen.” If you grew up in the 70s/80s, love Steely Dan, and know the significance of the Number 19 in the Nation of Islam, you’d enjoy the title’s double entendre. If you were a sista, you’d enjoy an intelligent love song.
And that’s just three songs. WWTD was an hour long project, a blend of tempos, topics, “Feel Good” is a Southern anthem, “Soldier from the UPT” is a lyrical bomb, there was even a Bounce record — well — Jay E’s version of a Bounce record. It was the best album that I heard in almost a decade. Because what people call “consciousness” is deeply internal with Jay, his lyrics drip with scripture, lessons, and real life, it’s never forced or corny.
But Jay wasn’t done. He had one more song to add. “What’chu Sayin’” was that song. Look, in another world “What’chu Sayin” would have been a HUGE single. I’m talking “My Melody” Huge. “Halftime” Huge. Had he recorded that song ten years earlier, I would have taken my CAU refund money and pressed some white labels of it. Check out this rhyme construction:
Every page of my poetry’s like a rhyme from the clip
The mic is always in my holster right on top of my hip
Niggas get flipped
When the hollowtip spit at they melons
You niggas is Missy misdemeanor my niggas is felons holla
Me and Big Dame Lord of the Rings the Twins Towers
Knockin other motherfuckers out the ring like Apollo Creed
You wanna get bleed the blood run up
And get done up until sunup
Down south they call me white man cause I hang MC’s
Get em open with ease
Then pick em off like fleas nigga please
That song…that song was like a call to arms. When he came back to Philadelphia, we were on a mission; we sequenced the songs, burned hundreds of copies of the album which we then handed out from Center City to Landsdowne, from Chestnut Hill to South Street.
I still believe it’s one of the best albums that no one has ever heard (damn that What The F*ck is a Jay Electronica, no disrespect, but it’s a smorgasborg of songs from different eras). Some of the songs are online, many aren’t. He’s recorded a cool hundred songs since, many of which are online for free, but this one…was intended to be an album…War With The Dragon will always be a favorite…that and the REAL Lock, Stock, and One Smoking Barrel (an entirely different, eight song project…but that too is another story).