Live: Joell Ortiz and Jay Electronica Command A Tough Crowd At Highline Ballroom


Possibly more people onstage than in the crowd here.

Joell Ortiz/Jay Electronica
Highline Ballroom
Tuesday, June 30

After basically booing both CyHi Da Prynce (who I–and I guess only I–actually like) and Big Krit off the stage, an extra hard NYC crowd made it clear that they weren’t going to make it easy for any newcomers last night at the Highline Ballroom.

But around 11 p.m., the vastly underrated Joell Ortiz finally took the stage: “Brooklyn stand up!” he called out proudly. His set was a mix of devout borough pride and family loyalty, performing songs like “Block Loyal” and shouting out the people who stayed with him through dropped record deals and other luckless woes. Not only did he shout them out, but he brought them out, with cameos from pretty much everyone and their mom. DJ Premier, Joe Budden (who I’m pretty sure hasn’t left home since Tahiry broke up with him and he stopped posting quasi stalker-ish but wildly entertaining footage of her online), Fat Joe, Sean Paul, Styles P, and Jim Jones were all onstage at different points last night, paying homage to Big Pun and Biggie while giving us a taste of new stuff like “Call Me”, a song about a middle-school breakup and pretty much the cutest thing I’ve ever heard. I wasn’t entirely sure how Sean Paul, who by the way has a Mohawk these days, really fit into the crew until he sang “Gimme the Light” and Ortiz announced, “Now I’m definitely gonna get some pussy tonight!” Okay, fair enough.

As the clock struck midnight, the elusive, still album-less Jay Electronica came out, bookending his set with “Exhibit A” and “Exhibit C,” in that order. In between were a couple J Dilla tributes, a serene acoustic rendition of “Act 1,” a slightly spiritual monologue (making it ever so clear why he and Erykah Badu have a child together), an explanation of a bet between him and Jim Jones about whether or not women like to be choked during sex, a chilling song (“Dear Moleskin”) he wrote during a time of severe depression, an untitled piece made up entirely of a MySpace exchange he had with a groupie, and a few puffs from a blunt from an audience member, all proving that he’s come a long way since getting booed at Nokia Theatre just two years ago.

And after he finished his set by jumping into the crowd, I even got to ask him a quick question (before pretty much peeing in my pants) about when we’ll ever get to hear a full version of “The Ghost of Christopher Wallace.” His answer: “In about a month.” That means new Jay music! Maybe even an album someday? We’ll see.