Just when you thought Jay-Z had the keys last summer, think again..
4 years since his last album, Magna Carta…Holy Grail, rap genius, Jay-Z brings us his 13th studio album, 4:44, his most personal body of work to date. On it we see a side of Jay never before seen, baring his soul on songs where he uncovers some of his deepest, darkest inner most thoughts, sharing the bitter truths on former relationships with friends/family, and apologizing for the pain brought to his marriage through his infidelities. While listeners may be fixated on shocking secrets Jay sheds light on, like the rocky relationship between him and Kanye, betraying Beyoncé, or his mother finding love as a lesbian, this album goes further beyond Jay-Z being unexpectedly outspoken.
With 4:44, listeners get “a million dollars worth of game for $9.99” in which Jay-Z drops jewels on black enterprise, bridging the generational gap, acceptance, growth, the need for cultural change, and much more. Class is in session as the master teacher prepares us for more life stories told through rap to remind us Hov did that, so hopefully you won’t have to go through that.
“Financial freedom my only hope. Fuck living rich and dying broke..”
At age 47 with 20+ years in the rap game as an artist/multi-millionaire mogul, Hov has million dollar advice to share on how to be financially fluid. He first starts to touch on the topic with his song “The Story O.J.,”with a beat sampling Nina Simone that tickles the keys and a concept that tickles the nerve to push the culture forward. With this track, Jay-Z reminds us that no matter what your stature as an African-American, you will always be that and no monetary value will change that. He also offers words of wisdom of how black people can create a cultural shift by making smarter decisions with their money instead of losing it such as investing in real estate, establishing a sense of credit, entrepreneurship, and ownership in the music business.
“Y’all out here still takin advances, huh?
Me and my niggas takin real chances, uh
Y’all on the Gram holdin money to your ear
There’s a disconnect, we don’t call that money over here”
He again revisits the importance of ownership in his song “Smile” :
“Fuck a slice of the apple pie, want my own cake
Chargin’ my own fate
Respect Jimmy Iovine
But he gotta respect the Elohim as a whole new regime
Hov even calls attention to UMG record label executives, Lucian Grainge, and Doug Morris (And in case you’re wondering, yes, they are) in “Moonlight” to stress the point that the rich get richer while black creatives are the ones fueling the fire that is the music industry, while the white man simply reaps what we sow.
“Lucian is cool but Lucian don’t write
Doug ain’t this tight, so
Fuck what we sellin
Fuck is we makin?
Cause their grass is greener
Cause they always rakin in more”
“Pretty much, if anyone’s getting handsome checks it should be US”
In addition, Jay-Z establishes a strong point in focusing on black business throughout the album. You hear him reiterate the significance of strength in numbers and uniting as a people in our purchases on “Family Feud.”
“Nah, we did that, Black-owned things
Hundred percent, Black-owned champagne
And we merrily merrily eatin off these streams
Y’all still drinkin Perrier-Jouët, huh?
But we ain’t get through to you yet
What’s better than one billionaire? Two
Especially if they’re from the same hue as you
Y’all stop me when I stop tellin’ the truth”
“You know you owe the truth to all the youth that fell in love with Jay-Z”
Father knows best as Jay also decides to put on his dad hat and school the new school on his new album. He takes time to offer some tough love on “Moonlight,” a song with an ingenious idea of his critique on the rap game and how the culture won’t get anywhere if we keep repeating the same bullshit habits, inspired by the movie Moonlight losing to LaLa Land at the Oscars.
On the hook, he draws attention to repetitive mumble rappers and those who fumble with their money making moves…
We got the same fuckin flows
I don’t know who is who
We got the same fuckin watch
She don’t got time to choose
We stuck in La La Land
We got the same fuckin moves
And in his verses gives certain suggestions, especially on social media..
“I don’t be on the Gram goin ham
Givin information to the pork, that’s all spam
Please don’t talk about guns
That you ain’t never gon’ use
Y’all always tell on y’all self
I’m just so fuckin confused”
As an OG in the game, Hov is simply trying to lend a helping hand. In fact he’s one of the few that wants to bridge the gap. In “Family Feud” he sticks up for the younger generation and wants those old and new to embrace each other.
“And old niggas, y’all stop actin’ brand new
Like 2Pac ain’t have a nose ring too”
With this song Hov wants nothing more than to put the UNITY back into community tying everything together with clever metaphors and choir-like vocals from Beyoncé in the background.
“We all screwed cause we never had the tools
I’m tryna fix you
I’m tryna get these niggas with no stripes to be official”
Additionally, he sends a message to his kids as well as the youth. In “Legacy” he talks about how he’s created a dynasty of his own and wants to pass it down to his children for years to come.
“Generational wealth, that’s the key
My parents ain’t have shit, so that shift started with me”
“We know the pain is real but you can’t heal what you never reveal”
Along with focusing on being financially free, Jay-Z also makes it a note to free yourself, first starting with living in your truth. On 4:44, you hear a lot of Jay-Z’s progressive journey and his personal growth. After years of living in the dark through his deceit, he admits his wrongs on the song “4:44” apologizing in an emotional open letter that puts “Song Cry” to shame. Ruining millions of “relationship goals” everywhere, he brings to light the pain he’s caused in his marriage with Beyoncé and in his other relationships.
“I apologize to all the women whom I
Toyed with your emotions because I was emotionless
And I apologize cause at your best you are love
And because I fall short of what I say I’m all about
Your eyes leave with the soul that your body once housed
And you stare blankly into space
Thinkin’ of all the time, you wasted it on all this basic shit
So I apologize”
Hopefully with this song and apology, men will learn from Hov sharing his experiences. I mean after all, he sets trends from everything else. He had young men throwing away their throwback jerseys and trading them in for button ups and boycotting beverages like Cristal, leading to a steady decline in sales, so maybe we can count on this for the fate of faithful relationships.
Jay learns to accept to his pain in other ways. Old habits die hard as he still keeps one eye open like CBS and watches out for envious attitudes on “Caught Their Eyes” with Frank Ocean. As a product of his environment Jay-Z used his moving and maneuvering as a street hustler as a survival tactic to stay sharp and keep it corporate thuggin.
“I survived readin’ guys like you
I’m surprised y’all think you can disguise y’all truths
I seen eyes wide as they’re about to shoot
You can be a hairpin off and you can trigger your Roots”
He takes it further to embrace these roots, and celebrates his Brooklyn upbringing on “Marcy Me” as a way to solidify who he is as a person and remind others on where he’s come from and how far he is now. His days on the block may be behind him but that urban jungle remains concrete to his foundation.
Streets is my artery, the vein of my existence
I’m the Gotham City heartbeat
I started in lobbies, now parley with Saudis
I’m a Sufi to goofies, I could probably speak Farsi
That’s poetry, reek of coca leaf in my past
Came through the bushes smellin’ like roses
I need a trophy just for that”
Another key aspect Hov highlights is one that is aimed towards the concept of forgiveness. Instead of hiding from the pain of the ones he hurts, he finds away to forgive himself on that album. In turn he forgives others as well, one of those people being his father. Although he mentions his father’s absence in several songs like “Moment of Clarity” from The Black Album and “New Day” from Watch The Throne, he discovers a new sense of purpose and positivity for the lack of his dad’s presence on the new album.
“Someday I forgive him
‘Cause strangely our division led to multiple religions
I studied Muslim, Buddhist, and Christians
And I was runnin’ from him, He was givin’ me wisdom
See how the universe works?
It takes my hurt and help me find more of myself”
We’re expected to hear more on a song “Adnis,” initially previewed as a brief snippet in a visual for the album and but won’t debut until sometime Friday, July 7th. With Hov being a father now, he’s learned some daddy lessons himself and is now inspiring a new generation of kids that came from broken families being able to break the cycle to start their own and continue to flourish, now happily.
While ideas such as power in the Black dollar, hip-hop unity, and other concepts addressed on 4:44 aren’t exactly foreign to the culture with artists such as Nas, Common, and Black Thought leading the discussion over the years, it’s dope to get a sense of it Hovito’s way. So, “gather round hustlers, that’s if you still living, and get on down to that old Jig rhythm..” Listen to 4:44 available exclusively on Tidal and get the good word. “Hall of Fame Hova did it all without a pen” but I think you might want to take notes on this one.
What are your takes on 4:44? Leave a comment 4 me.