After not hearing much from Jay-Z since 2013’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, he dropped his 13th album today, 4:44, and it was well worth the wait.
The entire Internet is responding very well to Jay-Z’s album, according to data released by Twitter.
So far, there have been over 810K Tweets mentioning Jay-Z or 4:44 and there have been nearly 230K Tweets mentioning Beyonce in that same timeframe.
Some of the most Tweeted about songs so far are “The Story of O.J.” and “4:44.”
On 4:44, we hear Jay like we have never heard him before; open and vulnerable.
The man who never responds to rumors let go of his ego and gave his fans what we have been waiting for, the unadulterated truth, from the rumors about cheating on Beyonce, to his mom being a lesbian.
He’s super introspective throughout this album acknowledging his past and how that could affect his kids. Jay explains everything in his classic compelling storytelling way and No I.D.’s production brought it to life.
He starts off the album with Kill Jay-Z, a song where he talks about “killing off the ego, so we can have this conversation in a place of vulnerability and honesty.” In one of the lines, he says, “You know you owe the truth to all the youth that fell in love with Jay-Z” and proceeds to have an open dialogue about his past selling drugs, shooting his brother when he was 12, dropping out of school, and almost losing Beyonce.
“The Story Of O.J.”
The song features a sample of the song “Four Women” by Nina Simone, in which she talks about struggles that four black women with four different skin tones faced, and the song opens up by her talking about her black skin. Jay ties this into the chorus that says “light nigga, dark nigga, faux nigga, real nigga, rich nigga, poor nigga, house nigga, field nigga, still nigga, still nigga” because regardless of what your status is, you’re still black in this racist society. He talks about being smart and using his drug money to start a business instead of just being “on the ‘Gram holdin’ money to your ear.”
“Smile” featuring Gloria Carter
In what could be a new LGBT anthem, Jay-Z talks about the bad times in life with a pride theme. “Those bad times can do two things; they can get you in a place where you’re stuck in a rut, or it can make your future that much better because you’ve experienced those things.” For the first time, Jay-Z confirmed that his mom is a lesbian by saying, “Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian…cried tears of joy when you fell in love. Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.” He includes the first two lines from Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need Of Love Today” and I love the outro with Gloria Carter singing about how it’s okay to come out.
“Caught Their Eyes” featuring Frank Ocean
In this song, Jay raps about “being so sharp about your surroundings.” He talks about coming from where friends would kill their friend and show up at the funeral hugging their family like Tupac from “Juice.” He’s learning from other people’s mistakes and being cautious about what, and who, is around him. Of course, Frank Ocean’s voice carrying the chorus gives this song the perfect touch.
“4:44” featuring Kim Burrell
Jay-Z finally comes clean about the cheating on Beyonce in this song. He actually named the entire album after this song because he woke up at 4:44 in the morning and wrote it. The number 4 is also an important number to him and Beyonce. He admits to being a bad husband and “not being ready” but the best part of this song comes at the end when he addresses his children. “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 probably die with all the shame.” He understands that he will have to tell his kids what he did and when that day comes, they may not ever look at him the same. Kim Burrell and Hannah Williams lent their vocals for this emotional and transparent song.
In this song, Jay-Z addresses the separation between the “old hip-hop heads” and the “new rappers” and pretty much Jay-Z is saying, “Nobody wins when the family feuds.” He repeats the phrase, “What’s better than one billionaire? Two”. Why are we hating on other rappers when they are still getting money? We should be collectively lifting all of each other up because we’re all ultimately on the same team. Jay-Z puts it as “That’s like sayin’ I’m the tallest midget.” Beyonce also makes a guest appearance on this track.
“Bam” featuring Damian Marley
In this uptempo song, Jay-Z talks about himself, Shawn Carter, and his alter ego, Jay-Z and how they both needed each other to get to this point. “Shawn was on that gospel shit” while he channels his inner feelings of rage and aggression through Jay-Z. He sends a little jab at 50 Cent but mainly brags about his lifestyle and he was really one of the first to do it.
Sampling “Fu-Gee-La” by Fugees, on this song, is like a subtle nod to “La La Land” winner of the Oscar, and then having to give it to “Moonlight.” “It’s really a commentary on the culture and where we’re going,” Jay-Z said via an IHeartRadio interview. Being in La La Land is like a dreamy state of mind and instead of inventing something new, people would rather sound like clones of each other. He also uses the La La Land metaphor to address that even when blacks experience an astronomical win, they are still overshadowed.
In my favorite song from the album, Jay talks about how he used to dream about being the biggest artist in the world when he was a kid. He says things like “Jam Master Jay was alive I was mixin..Back when Rodman was a Piston..Mike was losin’ to Isaiah, but he soon get his sixth one” that really bring the story to life because instead of using dates, he cleverly ties in icons from sports and tv culture. He’s from Marcy Houses in Brooklyn, which is a public housing project, and uses that for the song title which is a play on “Mercy Me”. The Dream’s perfect vocals carry the song out.
Jay-Z closes the album by giving his “verbal will”. It opens with Blue asking, “Daddy, what’s a will?” which my heart melted when I heard that. But he gives his verbal will talking about giving his money to his family, his stake in Roc Nation, TIDAL, and all of his other investments going to his kids, wanting to start a society “just like the Negro League” and leaving his legacy for her. It ends with Donny Hathaway singing “someday we’ll all be free” which is him predicting that his kids will make their stamp on this world and leave their own legacies for their kids.