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Jay Electronica: The vagabond MC

You never know what he'll do next, or where he'll do it

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Jay Electronica is a modern day hip-hop enigma – a heralded (to the point of hyperbole) beat maker and MC uninterested in self-promotion. Having produced the critically hailed intro song, "Queens Get the Money," on Nas' latest album (Untitled), his star has never shone brighter. Yet he's almost impossible to track down. He even took down his MySpace page for a time, which for some would be the equivalent of buzz suicide.

Through the much-heralded tracks he has leaked via the Internet, Electronica shows off his agile, explosive flow, which sounds something like a hungrier Nas. Though his tendency to eschew traditional hip-hop subject matter causes some to mistakenly classify him with up-and-coming hipster rappers like Wale and Kidz in the Hall, he's weirder and more experimental than they are, rapping over beats with no drums and hitting esoteric pop culture notes.

Witness his Act 1: "Eternal Sunshine: The Pledge," an ambitious 15-minute track he composed by cutting up the score of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He raps over Madlib beats with aplomb, and has ripped into tracks produced by the late Detroit producer J. Dilla in a way few can. He has hinted at numerous future projects, including a collaboration with producer 9th Wonder.

His music is undeniably compelling, but it's only part of Electronica's story. Raised in New Orleans' Magnolia Projects, he's lived as a nomad for the past decade or so, stopping over in cities including New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Denver, Washington, D.C., and even Atlanta – where he befriended DJ/producer Sol Messiah. Eventually, he signed to Erykah Badu's Control FreaQ Records. (Beyond musical endeavors, the two also have a baby on the way.)

Before appearing on the new Nas album, Electronica managed to snag the cover of Urb magazine in April '07. And lately, he's been working closely with superproducer Just Blaze.

While the future is unclear for such an elusive talent, it's definitely worth tuning in for more.

Jay Electronica opens for Nas, Talib Kweli. $37-$39. Thurs., July 31. 7:30 p.m. Center Stage Theatre, 1374 W. Peachtree. 404-875-9364. www.centerstage-atlanta.com.

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