It’s no surprise that any time the Carters speak the world listens and if an album is dropping it’s an event. Game-changing and evolutionary doesn’t even fit the criteria. There have been many changes in hip-hop, and especially over the last decade or so, but to date when JAY-Z demands attention, he gets it. With ads and promo revealed just weeks prior, the 4:44 seen had the people guessing; as the weeks went on the promo got crazier, wrapping buses and billboards all over. The speculation was confirmed. JAY is back.
As soon as JAY-Z decided to hyphenate his stage name once more, the anticipation grew as fans knew JAY was up to something huge with the release of his thirteenth solo studio album, 4:44, on this past Friday. June 30th was marked on everyone’s mental calendar and since the weekend has passed, we’ve all had time to listen countless times and develop an honest opinion; as honest as iconic rapper and entrepreneur, Shawn Carter was on this one. The now father of three used this body of work as a diary deemed autobiographical piece. It’s his most vulnerable to date.
Leading up to the release, the 47-year old genius dropped hints exclusively on Tidal at clips of videos and songs, giving us all something to look forward to. As soon as the clock struck midnight on June 30, 2017, everyone was signed into Tidal for the exclusive listen to the album in its entirety. Official album release parties took place over major cities, including NYC held at JAY’s 40/40 club, which only makes sense.
Produced solely by No I.D., the project graces us with 10 tracks of pure stripped down truth and thought-provoking realness. It’s no secret that JAY always brings the rawness, but he out did himself this time. With an album full of samples, an animated short reel was also released for one of the most popular songs, “The Story of O.J.” This was also released exclusively on Tidal, which samples classic Nina Simone and sheds light on the history of Black America.
Many are calling the album a response to wife, Beyonce’s LEMONADE. It’s bigger and deeper than that. Hov is dishing refreshing stories and truthfulness for the culture. “Kill JAY-Z” takes the lead, with JAY clearly confessing about his last year’s strained relationship with Kanye West and also infidelities; even calling out Eric Benet. On “Smile”, JAY makes the biggest confession about his mother’s sexuality and how it may have had an effect on her previous drug use.
The album title cut “4:44” may be one of the deepest tracks JAY has ever written.
“I still mourn this death, I apologize for all the stillborns
‘Cause I wasn’t present, your body wouldn’t accept it
I apologize to all the women whom I Toyed with you emotions because I was emotionless”
“I never wanted another woman to know
Something about me that you didn’t know
I promised, I cried, I couldn’t hold
I suck at love, I think I need a do-over”
“And if my children knew, I don’t even know what I would do
If they ain’t look at me the same
I would prob’ly die with all the shame
“You did what with who?”
What good is a ménage à trois when you have a soulmate?
“You risked that for Blue?”
If I wasn’t a superhero in your face
My heart breaks for the day I had to explain my mistakes
And the mask goes away and Santa Claus is fake
And you go online and see”
For Blue’s tooth, the tooth fairy didn’t pay”
The Brooklyn-born rap legend has grown and proven that it’s never too late to learn from your mistakes. Even at this point of his life and career, JAY is becoming a new man; wisdom does come with age. 4:44 is the proof.
JAY spoke candidly with iHeartRadio’s The Beat to discuss the creative and thought process behind each track alongside the release of 4:44. He details why 4:44 is the title track and the inspirational time and how the title was created. Read all of JAY’s meanings behind the music and for now listen to the album on Tidal.
Photos from DirectLyrics, DJBooth, Hypebeast, Mass Appeal, Power 92, XXL