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Jay Everyman – The People’s Champ at Manifesto’s Main Event [Article]

Toronto, ON – I’m sure you’ve heard many a conscious rapper promote that they’re about the people. Many talk it, but don’t live it.

Jay Electronica is truly about the people.

Jay Everyman – The People’s Champ at Manifesto’s Main Event

What does that exactly mean? It means that his music and career is earnestly not geared toward financial excess, and that he won’t sacrifice his art for wealth. It means that he sincerely aims to reflect the times, and dissect the human condition from his perspective and share it in his music. It means he’s a true artist, an artist’s artist that seeks to unify people and expose arbitrary divisions that keep us apart. It means that he rapped half of his short set at Dundas Square literally in the crowd. Not standing on a speaker or surrounded by security, but in it, like he was personally talking to everyone around him. He tore through those “Exhibit C” verses with the ferociousness of a wild cat, while the audience’s heads and arms bobbed from kick to snare in a magnificent, synchronized reciprocation of energy. So Hip-Hop.

Then he graciously ended his set instead of cutting short Black Thought’s time slot, though the people were in a frenzy and demanding more. He checked with his DJ twice, asking the crowd what song he should go into next, but fought the itch out of respect for his comrade. But did he return backstage? Nope. He hung around for a while, standing shoulder to shoulder with fans who looked dumbstruck at literally rubbing elbows with their favorite rapper.

Moments earlier, being short on time, I had to conduct my interview with him on his walk to the stage from the Hard Rock Cafe. Moving through the upstairs kitchen, I ask him to reveal something about Act ll exclusively for Toronto. He looked at me with his eyes burrowed in his eyebrows and a smile that suggested, “you cheeky bastard you, nice try”. When I press him to reveal something, anything, he replies, “I don’t know what I can say that I haven’t said already”. Then, when I inquire about production on the album, he says, ” [I] can’t give away too much”.

In the short trip down the elevator, I implore him to touch on the mythical persona he’s developed. “I don’t know if I’ve cultivated that. Apparently that’s something that’s happening. I don’t do nothin’ mystical. I’m on Twitter talking about the Saints. I’ve very public so the mysteriousness and all that stuff, I don’t know where that come from.” Perhaps it’s from the fact that not too much is known about him. He’s not very visible – he rarely does interviews, and when he does, he doesn’t reveal too much. Or it could be the way he releases music, through miscellaneous forums or unverified social media accounts that disappear soon after surfacing.

We’re outside now moving towards backstage with his road manager, some PR people, event coordinators, security, and Toronto rapper Page (a friend of his). Seconds after debunking his mysterious aura, we’re discussing his purported travels to ancient cites. “I try and not necessarily go seek a specific thing. If I do, I still try to stay open to whatever is there for me when I get to a place.” Then I get more direct, asking about the occult themes in his music, such as his various references to UFOs. Does it come from him being a 5-Percenter? “It comes from the Honourable Elijah Muhammad, and Master W. Fard Muhammad, who taught the Honourable Elijah Muhammad. That’s where all of that stuff comes from.”

You still don’t have an exclusive for us? He laughs, “No sir”. We’re backstage now, with the entourage filing in. I wish him a belated happy birthday and say God bless. He pauses to thank me, and sensing that I had many questions left, says to look for him after the show. I think nothing of it, and make my way around to press row.

In the intro that set him up to take stage, a triumphant instrumental sounded his arrival, at the end of which could be heard the voice a certain Sean “Puffy” Combs – a companion of his. In the audio, Puff (hard to call him Diddy when you grew up in the 90’s) says something to the effect of, “He needs to get his shit together and drop something, there needs to be balance in the rap ecosystem.” Mr. Combs can rest assured knowing Jay Elec is in that sense a dedicated environmentalist. The Al Gore of rap if you will, a concerned climatologist and expert observer scrutinizing changing weather patterns, and serving up remedies to help to fix the soul of Hip-Hop Earth.

What ensued was the aforementioned raucous raising performance. A back to the future hip-hip show – some ol’ time killing. In about 20-something odd minutes, he bodied that Yonge and Dundas stage.

After the show’s end, the Manifesto festivalgoers slowly began dispersing. Artists filed out, chased by throngs of reporters, event organizers and fanatics. Ciphers formed, hosting would-be MCs who were galvanized by what they had just witnessed. Ladies, and very soon afterwards fellas, started lining up for the after party at the Hard Rock across Dundas Square.

While browsing through clusters of people who were still milling about in the post-concert hype, I spot Jay. He made small talk, snapped pics, gave hugs, shook hands, and exchanged smiles with people. If you didn’t know he was a rapper, he was indistinguishable from everyone else, except all the attention was on him. To my surprise, as he sees me approaching he says, “I ain’t forget about you”. Seconds later, he heads backstage and takes each person with him, arguing with security to ensure that everyone got through.

I perched myself on a ledge, watching the mob of fans and media flock around him. He was doing his best to address each person’s request (picture here, hug there), and fielding questions and requests from all directions. I hang back and observe. Mindbender in particular – an artist and rap aficionado who can be found at practically every hip-hop event in Toronto mouthing the words to virtually every song – gave Jay more than an earful until it got awkward for all those around. His road manager finally intervened and set him up in a tent, where press people and fans lined up outside waiting their turn.

Next to me away from the crowd, I spot a friend I haven’t seen in years, nervously drying his sweaty palms on his sweater. He’s an MC. “I’m going to spit something for him man, I wrote something. I hope he likes it. I’m going to spit something,” he says, barely keeping himself together. I encourage him, and he works up the courage to approach his idol. Jay obliges, and even takes his iPhone out to tape the freestyle. My friend delivers and spits a dope sixteen, which garners “aaahs” from everyone around.

He practically collapsed when Jay told him he’d blast the freestyle video out on Twitter. The young MC slowly peeled himself away from the group. He looked like a shell-shocked victim that had just survived a bombing raid and was observing the destruction around him. With glazed eyes looking straight ahead but nowhere in particular he mumbled, “I just rapped for Jay Electronica. I just rapped for Jay Electronica,” before walking off into the night. A minuscule, classic hip-hop moment in a classic hip-hop night.

Written by Atkilt Geleta for HipHopCanada
Photography by Ajani Charles for HipHopCanada

Jay Everyman – The People’s Champ at Manifesto’s Main Event

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  2. Manifesto Is Dope

    You forgot about the part where he wasted 5-6 minutes of his set talking about sexually choking women to a crowd of thousands…sounding like an idiot and alienating tons of people and families.

    Jay Elec can suck a dick….or choke on one since he likes choking so much.

  3. Wordsmith

    nice one..LOL at the Mindbender part!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Atkilt

    @Manifesto Is Dope..I think it was less than 5/6 mins but yeah it was inappropriate given kids in the crowd. As for your last statement, thousands of kids read this site too so shouldn’t you watch yo’ mouf? Just saying..

  5. JU7

    Yea thats cool. Blame the Rapper for his language and make no mention of how inappropriate it was to have children out at 10:30 at night at a Hip-Hop concert knowing people were freely smoking weed and whatever else. Don’t bring you kid to a concert.

  6. a daughter of yemonya

    I was quite excited upon hearing about JE’s signing with JZ (I am no fan of JZ’s music but when he speaks I do enjoy to hear him and knows he exhibits signs of simple brilliance…the dichotomy…hmmm). I thought the signing could be a push for more intelligible music, and interplanetary audible lyrics and images being heard in mainstream airwaves. I was born and grew up alongside hip hop and now that I am an adult I am looking back at not only my development through the years but hip hop’s as well… I am curious…

    I have just recently (yesterday) come upon Jay’s comment and have gone through a myriad of emotions and at the very root of it I am confused and concerned at the state of the world especially as it relates to women. My husband and I have been avid appreciators of J.E. and his music, lyrics and overall character (from what we of course are privy to). I too understand we are all human…however, I do find this situation very baffling on many levels but mostly unsettling metaphysically, karmicly (not sure if it’s a word but I hope my gist is gotten;)) spiritually and even generationaly…I digress

    My husband and I went to a Mos Def concert in ATL and JE opened for him, we were just as excited to see him perform…his energy was off the charts his flow was fluid and his charisma was aces. After his set he did something very different he led the whole audience in a non religious, universal yet sincere and divine word of non specific prayer. I thought the words he chose were poignant but the whole act quite different we both felt (after discussing on the way home that evening) that that prayer really set another tone for that evening and the crowd seemed more united (maybe it was just us). No one heckled him, told him to shut up…I fact many of us united hands, hearts and spirits. And I am unsure of whether he did it at each and every concert but that is a thought worth pondering. BTW both Mighty mos and JE ROCKED IT that night!!

    I feel that had I gone to his concert in Seattle and he began or ended his set with the question he is NOW posing to audiences worldwide, I would have felt entirely different, not to mention the energy of the crowd. I know I would have left the building until Mos came on and then maybe would haven’t even stayed for his concert only feeling he could be “guilty by association” especially if it was polled at every concert…again I digress a bit…

    After the concert, a friend of our was good friends with Mos and wanted to introduce us which was an added bonus of the evening so we waited outside and while we were waiting we were graced by JE…he wasn’t talking to everyone either, but he came and spoke to us (a group of sisters and my husband) and we inquired about his daughter and her well-being and he beamed a ray of light and broke out his cell phone and shared pictures and a brief story about Mars. Being a mother of two, a wife, daughter and aunt I felt his joy radiate and was touched to be a part of that moment with him…So fast forward to the present when I heard, read and meditated on the poll/bet he is posing I found my disturbance in these points here…
    (Like you I know that consenting adults do what they like when they like and that’s one thing so rough sex, violent sex to each their own) BUT when attending a concert and having the person I am coming to see pose a question of this nature: 1.knowing there are minors present (he make his disclaimer in the video of him in Seattle) 2.knowing women are present and I am assuming this next point (based on the words he prayed at his previous concert) but 3.knowing the seed you are planting by stating a question of this nature in the minds of the public, the universe over and over again really upset me, saddened me and also alarmed me, at the lack of respect and consideration for the women from whence he came from and fathered. It alarmed me also because I had just seen a clip of Kanye’s new video Monster and there are many images just in the 40 second preview of women (mannequins) hanging from ceiling and Kanye kissing dead looking women, while fondling their genitalia, and knowing the connection between KW, JZ and now JE and praying that this is not the next level of abuse on women. I really am not against nor in support of the conspiracy theories but I am aware of my ancestors and spiritual guides and the knowledge of the power of words and ritual and I do stand firm in stating that this is a dangerous thread to “gamble” with…I know for a fact if his under aged daughter went to a concert and this was a topic of discussion AND GODDESS forbid a choking/sex incident like this occurred to his under aged daughter IT WOULD BE NO LAUGHING MATTER.

    I am aware as adults we are all given choices and it is up to us as individuals to make our choices (right or wrong) and deal with the outcomes (positive or negative). The reasons as to the “whys” of this question are mute to me…was it a pub stunt, is it an initiation, was it “male” humor, is it really just a bet, is it linked to a song or was it simply a joke. However, the repercussions are what concern me.

    I know we all make thoughtless mistakes and because I know of second chances I am prayerful that JE will step up and admit to his irresponsibility of this poll and right the wrongs that he has set into motion…and if he doesn’t I can no longer support this brother based of the fact that I am a woman, daughter, sister, wife, and come from a divine line of women.

    I am grateful to you for this blog and posting and making a united stand.

    Peace, love and positive motion with the ocean by the light of the moon goddess…
    a daughter of Yemonya

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