Jay Electronica Disguised His Voice To Avoid Hip-Hop Prejudice

'I was embarrassed from being from the South,' he tells Mixtape Daily.

The O.D.: A Mixtape Daily Exclusive

Hearing the commanding voice of Jay Electronica on the microphone, one probably couldn’t detect his New Orleans roots. Years ago, like many MCs from the South, Electronica experienced some hip-hop prejudice when people heard the Southern twang in his voice — so he started disguising it.

“I would go somewhere — I would go to an open mic and when they heard my accent and not understand what I’m saying, it would just be a door-closer,” Jay told MTV UK on a recent trip to Europe. “I made a point in being able to speak in a certain way that I wouldn’t get the door closed on me. All of these things make me who I am now, you know.

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“I have to admit, you know, a few years ago, I wouldn’t have admitted this — or maybe I wouldn’t have been conscious of it in a way to admit or be embarrassed — but in my earlier years from when I first left home, I was embarrassed from being from the South,” he added. “Not in general, but as a rapper because all of the negative things that people in the States put on the South. Like, ‘The South, they’re slow. They move slow, they think slow, they’re less intelligent. They’re less exposed, they’re underexposed, they’re more sheltered.’ So as a rapper — I’ve been rapping since I was 10 years old — I always had a feeling of ‘I’m gonna show you’ because we down here doing it. Not that I was embarrassed necessarily — I don’t know if that’s the correct word — but I know that when I left home, if someone had heard my accent and heard where I was from, the door was immediately closed.”

Electronica said he had to adapt and become a chameleon on the mic. While trying to break into the music industry, he moved between different cities such as New York, Atlanta and Chicago.

“I kind of stiff-armed my roots for a couple of years,” the Brooklyn transplant continued of his journey. “Then my sister told me one day, ‘You know, you act like you’re ashamed of being from home.’ It was like a reality check. I checked myself. I mean, this is years ago, but now I’m at a place where I understand where I’m from. I understand my culture and I’m more proud to be from there than associate with somewhere else.”

Despite trying to hide his roots early on, Jay thinks back to the early days of New Orleans hip-hop with a smile.

“I’m from New Orleans and there’s a certain type of music,” he explained. “I come from a bounce culture — bounce music. You been to New Orleans a couple times, you probably heard of the bounce music. It’s a part of me; I grew up with bounce music. It’s call-and-response, it’s trance, it’s tribal, it’s communal, it’s African, it’s based in Africa … the energy of it.”

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