Jay Z’s latest album is being touted as the response to his wife’s blockbuster album, Lemonade. However, the album does not focus entirely on his infidelity. 4:44 (produced by No I.D.) is a celebration of his cunning business prowess. The album is exclusively available for Sprint and existing Tidal customers. It makes perfect sense considering Sprint bought 33% of Tidal this year. 4:44 allows us to be reacquainted with Sean Carter. Pop rapper Jay Z takes a backseat to personal anecdotes.
4:44 kicks off strong out of the gate, with “Kill Jay Z”. He recounts all of the criticism he has received over the years. He even dedicates a large part of his verses to Kanye West. Perhaps it’s all a gimmick. Nevertheless, it’s entertaining. Jay Z calls himself out for cheating on Beyonce, claiming that he almost “went Eric Benet”. “The Story of O.J.” is a politically poignant and racially charged track. He calls out O.J. Simpson for famously saying “I’m not black….I’m O.J.”. The song samples Nina Simone’s “Four Women”, which is a song that details struggles from four Black women of different hues. He slams the notion that he has sold out. Jay Z’s mindset is creating wealth to leave behind for future generations.
“Smile” also features a sample of “Love’s In Need Of Love”, from the legendary Stevie Wonder. He openly speaks out about his mother’s lesbian lifestyle. The song is uplifting, yet sad. His mother, Grace Carter, closes out the song with a rousing spoken word piece. He’s stripped of pop hooks here and has a hunger like his first album. Ironically, 4:44 is not even 40 minutes long.
Jay Z reveals his close relationship with Prince on the Frank Ocean assisted, “Caught Their Eyes”. “4:44” is his new age “Song Cry”. This time it’s all about Beyonce. He wrote the song in the middle of the night (at 4:44 am to be exact) at home….on Beyonce’s studio microphone. Kim Burrell offers a memorable chorus that is reminiscent of ambulance sirens. Clearly there was trouble in paradise. Beyonce drops in for a guest appearance on the misleadingly named “Family Feud”, which samples The Clark Sisters’ “Ha-Ya (Eternal Life)”. The song deals with the divided state of Hip Hop, not their relationship. He asks for old school and new school to come together.
“Bam” featuring Damian Marley is one the most laid back and radio friendly tracks on the album. “Moonlight” cleverly samples The Fugees classic, “Fu-Gee-La”. He criticizes the stagnant state of Hip Hop. “Even if we win, we lose,” he says. Overall, it’s one of Jay Z’s most cohesive and thought provoking albums in a long time. There you have it; the summation of 4:44 in 444 words.