Jay-Z embraces, tells his story, finds his vulnerable voice, and above all lets everyone into his life as he has lived it.
Album - 4:44
Artiste - Jay-Z
Record Label - ROC Nation (2017)
Duration - 36 minutes
Everyone knows Jay-Z. He’s a lot superhuman these days, as a self-made billionaire, Hip-hop’s clergy, and a forward-thinking veteran that has his hands in many pies. On the home front, there are three kids now, Beyonce is still his wife after a shaky period in their marriage (according to their music anyway) and his streaming company TIDAL is looking good.
Having recently welcomed the birth of his twins (which according to reports are named Rumi and Sir), Jay Z chose this time to drop his most divulgent project. His 13 studio album “4:44” has everything personal about Jay Z and the world around him. There’s honesty, humility, apologies, subs and revelations. Don’t forget the revelations.
A backstory to this album will be Beyoncé’s impressive 2016 album “Lemonade” which revealed that Jay had cheated on her, with ‘Becky with the good hair’. And for a couple that rarely share anything about their personal lives, they pretty much do a fine job commoditizing it for profit in their music. Jay Z addresses this accusations of infidelity on “4:44.” He didn’t deny or excuse his behaviour, he admits that he will “probably die with all the shame” if his trysts cost him his family.
There’s space for the famous 2014 Solange elevator incident, where CCTV captured him receiving punches from his wife’s sister. “You egged Solange on, knowing all along, all you had to say you was wrong.” He tells himself. He also recalls his wooing of Beyonce and in the classic case of mortification declares “I don’t deserve you.”
It’s a confessional, designed, cut and crafted to fit into this album, which in its simplicity is starkly different from his last project “Magna Carta Holy Grail.”
Confessions don’t tell the full story of the project though. “The Story of O.J” captures his entrepreneurial spirit, with a shout-out to the savviness of the Jews. “I bought some artwork for one million… Few years later, that shit worth eight million,” he boasts.
‘Marcy Me’ has Jay reminiscing on time as a drug dealer, rather than the head of a business empire. Family Feud, deals with his advancement, wealth and the infamous “Becky” (“let me alone”) on a track about the importance of black-owned businesses.
To helm the sound on this project, Jay taps No I.D, a man who has been making rap albums long before Hov got his start. No I.D. put together a bare, resonant sound out samples from classics including Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need Of Love Today,” Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” Nina Simone’s “Four Women” and “Baltimore.”
It forms a great minimalistic sound structure which Jay-Z embraces, tells his story, finds his vulnerable voice, and above all lets everyone into his life as he has lived it.
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