Shiny Suit Theory

I have to admit it. I once was (and still am a little) caught up in the Jay Electronica hype. After listening to the Willy-Wonka-&-Eternal-Sunshine-sampling “The Pledge” in 2009, I thought I heard the future of hip hop excellence. Ridiculous lyrics, flow, content, style, and depth.

I’ve since tried to temper expectations, though they peaked again when I was in New York City last year. I attended an event to celebrate the publishing of the Anthology of Rap and heard Touré “decode” the lyrics of “Exhibit C”. The song had already impressed me, but Touré’s lyrical analysis took it to new heights.

Now that Jay Electronica has signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, I am again lowering expectations, as the demands for commercial success (presumably) corrode the art. But I have to admit, their collaborative introduction via “Shiny Suit Theory” was good. It was made better by the fact that Jay-Z decided to put some effort into his verse (pre-Watch the Throne, he had not impressed me lately).

It’s even got some scattered science references for your ear lobes.

I’ve copied the lyrics below so you can follow along, though if you want more you should follow along on the pre-explained Rap Genius site. Interesting references are bolded, with my comments in italics.

Hook – Jay Electronica
I’m sailing on a cloud they trailing below
My shrink told me it’s a feeling they don’t ever know
     [The mental health / psychotherapist theme runs throughout the song.]
I pack up all my sins and I wear them to the show
And let ’em go, let ’em go, let ’em go, let ’em go
I’m sailing on a cloud they trailing below
My shrink told me it’s a feeling they don’t ever know
I pack up all my sins in every L that I blow
And let ’em go, let ’em go, let ’em go, let ’em go

Verse One – Jay Electronica
In the land before time
A land before altar boys, synagogues and shrines
Man was in his prime
Look how far I go in time just to start a rhyme
     [There is a lot of braggadocio in rap. But my favorite boasts are ones that make an          intellectual claim – in this case, Jay-E puts the story he’s about to tell about P. Diddy        into some so-deep-he’s-referencing-Littlefoot context. Whether we should indeed              idealize pre-agricultural hunter gatherer human society is a fascinating question for        another time.]
The method is sublime you get blessed with every line
I’m in touch with every shrine from Japan to Oaxaca
The melanated carbon-dated phantom of the chakras
     [Another claim to how deep in time he is. Radiocarbon-dating is, of course, a way              to measure the age of rocks that are very old. Presumably he’s referencing early                humans and not dinosaurs, given that carbon dating only works for samples up to            60,000 years old. That doesn’t get us near Litlefoot, who along with all other                    dinosaurs, lived over 160 million years ago. Also, I’m not sure if “melanated” is a              word, though we all know what he means. On a side note, radiometric dating was            invented by New Zealand super-scientist Ernest Rutherford in 1905]
Me and Puff, we was chilling in Miami
     [Nothing scientific here, but its a good time to explain the title of the song, “Shiny           Suit Theory.” I’m pretty sure that the shiny suits Puffy and Mase used to wear in the         90’s symbolize Diddy’s desire to make cash over good music, setting the stage for the       story within this verse. All the more interesting as Diddy tried hard to sign Jay-E,             who snubbed him for Roc Nation]
He said: “N**** fuck the underground you need to win a Grammy
For your mama and your family
They need to see you shined up
You built a mighty high ladder, let me see you climb up
N**** what you scared of?
Terrorize these artificial rap niggas and spread love
Pollinate they ear buds
     [Great pollination reference. Instead of flower buds, we’re talking the ear buds you          plug into your ipod]
Like you supposed to, spit it for the culture
Pay no attention to the critics and the vultures
They rather have a shot of Belvy just to spite you
They casting judgments because they feel they got the right to
F*** them! I let the dice roll like the father did
I got to shine it’s in my blood I’m a Harlem kid
     [Part of the reason I love so much is that, every now and then,          their explanations are both hilarious and educational. Their explanation of this line          via Harlow’s hierarchy of needs is a perfect example of why I love them]
I treat my babies right, treat my ladies lady like
Hit them with a remix to make sure that they play me twice
I thought you said it’s the return of the black kings
Luxurious homes, fur coats and fat chains


[Verse Two – Jay-Z]
In this manila envelope the results of my insanity
Quack said I crossed the line between real life and fantasy
     [Jay continues with the psychotherapy theme]
Can it be the same one on covers with Warren Buffet
Was ducking the undercovers, was warring with motherfuckers?
Went from warring to Warren, undercovers to covers
If you believe in that sort of luck your screws need adjusting
In the world of no justice and black ladies on the back of buses
I’m the immaculate conception of rappers-slash-hustlers
My God it’s so hard to conceive
     [OK. This is a religious and overtly antiscientific reference. But it’s so clever I wanted      to highlight it. The “hard to conceive” line after the “immaculate conception” line              takes it to the next level].
But it all falls perfect I’m like autumn is to trees
     [Pretty straightforward analogy. When autumn comes, chloroplasts die, leaves lose        their green color and fall off the tree. Likewise, when Jay-Z is putting thought into his      lyrical craft, he makes rhymes and metaphors fall immaculately.]
The doc interrupted, he scribbled a prescription for some Prozac
He said: “take that for your mustard, boy
You must be off your rocker
If you think you’ll make it off the strip before they pop ya
N**** you gotta be psychotic
Or mixing something potent with your vodka
It takes a lot to shock us
But you being so prosperous is preposterous
How could this nappy headed boy from out the projects
Be the apple of America’s obsession?
You totally disconnected with reality
Don’t believe in dreams
Since when did black men become kings”

Well done Jay and Jay. I’m cautiously optimistic about an album some day.

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