Something’s got Jay-Z in his bag. The rapper works through his feelings on nearly every song on his protégé Jay Electronica’s decade-in-the-making debut album A Written Testimony. He confronts the idea of his own death, mourns loved ones, and tries to inspire others — all in-between flexing. Despite what some of his other lyrics say, billionaires have problems, too (it’s just that “a bitch ain’t one”). Case in point: The final song on the album, “A.P.I.D.T.A.,” was written the night basketball legend Kobe Bryant, a close friend of Jay-Z’s, died in a helicopter accident. From the lyrics alone, it doesn’t seem like Jay-Z’s in a great place, but, let’s be real, who is? With an anxiety at a high level across the globe, meditate on some of Jay-Z’s thoughts and feelings from A Written Testimony.
“Shiny Suit Theory”
First released in 2010, Jay-Z role plays as a shrink telling him his dreams are delusional and lets anxieties about his lifestyle slip through. “Boy, you must be off your rocker / If you think you’ll make it off the strip before they ‘Pac ya,” he raps, referencing Tupac’s assassination on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s the first of a couple of references to tragic deaths. Jay-Z’s not stressed about going peacefully surrounded by loved ones.
Jay-Z drops another famous murder reference on “Universal Soldier.” “Thinkin’ I was the last one Allah would lay his blessings on,” he raps. “I was tryna not to end up like Tony in the restaurant.” At the end of HBO’s The Sopranos, Tony Soprano is shot (and potentially killed) in a diner.
Jay Electronica is Doc and Jay-Z is Marty in this time-bending track. Rapping over “Get the Gat” (1992) while a remixed Rihanna sings “Higher” (2016), they contemplate the past and worry about the future.
“When I die please don’t tweet about my death (death) / Tryna get mentions, bringin’ attention to yourself / Please don’t post some pic from in the club / With some quote you stole like we was tighter than what we was / Tryna get likes from my love / If you can’t go by the crib then give my momma a hug”
He’s said it before and he’ll say it again: No fake friends.
During the album release live stream, Jay-Z revealed that they wrote “A.P.I.D.T.A.” (“All praise is due to Allah”), the night Kobe and Gianna Bryant died. Bryant and the Carters were close friends, and Beyoncé sang at his farewell. So, needless to say, the song is about grappling with grief.
“I got— I got numbers on my phone that’ll never ring again / ‘Cause / Allah done called them home, so until we sing again / I got texts in my phone that’ll never ping again / I screenshot ‘em so I got ‘em, I don’t want this thing to—”
In a world where we’re always connected, Jay-Z mourns those he can’t pick up and call. “Sleep well, sleep well,” he repeats. “Lately I haven’t been sleeping well, sleeping well”