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Thedford was born on September 19, 1976, in the Magnolia Projects of New Orleans, renowned for having some of the highest crime rates in the country before being flooded during Hurricane Katrina. Thedford began rapping after hearing his uncle rhyme. By the age of 19 Jay Electronica left New Orleans to pursue his musical career. Living a mostly nomadic lifestyle, he found refuge in cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit, Denver, and briefly in Atlanta. From club to club, and stage to stage, Electronica had gotten booed off and denied because of his Southern accent and slang. "In my earlier years from when I first left home, I was embarrassed from being from the South," Thedford stated. "Not in general, but as a rapper because all of the negative things that people in the States put on the South. " Electronica’s career really took off in Detroit when he linked up with Detroit native Johnnie Last. In Detroit, Electronica met producer/engineer Mike "Chav" Chavarria, now a regular collaborator, who introduced him to both J. Dilla and Mr. Porter. It is here that he recorded his Style Wars-era music with several J. Dilla beats, meeting the producer subsequently to ask for permission to use the recordings as a demo.