One thing today’s hip hop industry artists constantly try to portray is Truth. Song after song, verse after verse, they work hard to sell you their story but many of them fail at being transparent and relatable. In an album that contained 10 songs, Grammy award winning artist and business man, Jay Z, did just that and so much more. Humbling himself as an artist, husbandand human being, Jay Z creatively addresses infidelity rumors, his mother, hip hop artists, and life lessons.
“I saw that he, from our initial conversation, wanted to say more and wanted to say some things that he hadn’t said. – No I.D (Producer of Jay Z’s 4:44 album)
- Kill Jay Z: The first song on the album that reintroduced the new Jay Z (notice the dropped hyphen) was probably one of the most self discovering songs I’ve heard in my time.
“It’s about killing off the ego, so we can have this conversation in a place of vulnerability and honesty,”Jay said in an iHeart Radio interview that accompanied the premiere of the album.
The lyrics seemed as if he was killing off an old version of himself that inspired Queen Bey to feature many songs that contributed to the infidelity rumors that had the world talking.
Focusing on more of the controversial issues that were taking place in his life, Jay zeroed in on incidents like the Met Gala incident between himself and His wife’s sister Salonge, “You egged Solange on. Knowing all along, all you had to
say you was wrong,” the shooting of his brother, “F#ck Jay Z, I mean, you shot your own brother. How can we know if we can trust Jay Z?”, and dropping out of school “You dropped outta school, you lost your principles.” This track showed a side that forced the artist to come to grips with life and the lessons that were taught in the event of all of these occasions.
2. The Story of O.J.
Light Nigga, dark nigga, faux nigga, real nigga/Rich nigga, poor nigga, house nigga, field nigga /Still nigga, still nigga.
As a musician and artist myself, I must say that one of the best ways to display your versatility in musical horizon and genre incorporation is by including the musical veterans that made history before you. Jay Z has been one artist who has always taken advantage of sampling legendary hooks and phrases from world known artist and songs.
Opening up the second song on the album with the legendary Nina Simone, which included snippets of her voice from “Four Women.” In that song, from 1966, Simone famously narrated the story of four black women, all of whom are battling the effects of entrenched racism in American society.
In a way, Jay did the exact same thing as far as concept goes. Unifying blacks as “still nigga,’ the rapper goes on to say rich, poor, faux, house nigga… there’s nothing about your shade or title that separates you from other blacks.
He also appears to dispute O.J. Simpson’s well known statement about being able to “escape the color of his skin.”
“O.J. like, ‘I’m not black, I’m O.J.,'” Jay-Z raps. He responds with a very cavalier kind of verbal shrug: “OK.”
This song influentially features Jay Z’s mother, Gloria Carter reciting a poem it seems like towards the end of the song.
Living in the shadow/ can you imagine what kind of life it is to live?/ In the shadows people see you as happy and free because that’s what you want them to see/ Living two lives, happy, but not free….
Love who you love because life is not guaranteed.”
Revealing the sexuality of his mother, Jay Z’s commission of his mother’s preference of love shows unconditional love and respect for her.
“Mama had four kids, she’s a lesbian/Had to pretend so long she’s a thespian,” he reveals. “Cried tears of joy when she fell in love/Doesn’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.”
Each verse showed how he turns anything negative to something positive in the simple act of smiling.
4. Caught Their Eyes
In this particular track, the lyrics exposed an industry in which many if us have heard about but not personally experienced.
“Bruh, I survived reading’ guys like you. I’m surprised ya’ll think you can disguise y’all truths.
Jay speaks on dealing with snakes in the grass in a sense and because of that he keeps his distance from those he can’t trust.
He also goes into detail about his trust issues with industry leaders, by revealing his conversations with the late funk and R&B singer, Prince.
In the final year of Prince’s life, he and Jay-Z became close, publicly praising Tidal as an artist-friendly company and giving the site exclusive streaming rights for his work. Jay Z calls out one of Prince’s former attorneys, Londell McMillan.
“You greedy bastards sold tickets to walk through his house/I’m surprised you ain’t auction off the casket.”
Much like the second song on the album, Jay Z fills the melodies of the track with an honest and transparent apology. In 2016 Beyonce released her Lemonade album which peaked high on Billboard’s top 100 while simultaneously addressing many of the suspected rumors referencing Jay Z’s infidelity scandal.
In a interview with iHeartRadio, Jay-Z explained the origins of 4:44‘s title.”
“I woke up, literally, at 4:44 in the morning, 4:44 a.m., to write this song,” he recalled. “So it became the title of the album and everything. It’s the title track because it’s such a powerful song, and I just believe one of the best songs I’ve ever written.”
In a slew of apologetic rhymes the producer pulled from a new-retro cut sample of Hannah Williams and the Affirmations’ “Late Nights and Heartbreak,” which is itself a story of romantic issues and infidelity.
“Not meant to cry and die alone in these mansions/ or sleep with our backs turned/ we’re supposed to vacay until our backs burn.”
He even mentioned the couples previous miscarriage.
“I still mourn the death, I apologize for all the stillborns/ ‘Cause I wasn’t present, your body wouldn’t accept it.”
And when it comes to his wife he says she had a lot to do with his new album 4:44
“I always call Bey our de facto A&R. Pillow talk is the strongest conversation on the planet,” he shared with New York Times. ”Every song has to get past her ears, in my eyes. She came by a lot and played a good part in helping us get over hurdles on certain records. Of course she’s genius-level with that.”
6. Family Feud
Jay-Z spoke with iHeart Radio and gave a explanation for “Family Feud” that was very much meaningful to the Hip Hop and black families/communities today.
Many artists today brag about this car and that car, this girl and that girl (or all the girls in some cases). This compare and contrast between other artists and their status or level of higher up has created an invisible line of competition often resulting in differences between two rapping opponents.
He also observes the fact that he didn’t have the right “tools” because he lacked positive male role models during his childhood.
“We all screwed ’cause we never had the right tools/I’m tryna fix you.”
Jay attempts to address all his scandals and controversies while offering wisdom about responsible adulthood and business management for fans and rappers on the come-up.
This song features the late Bob Marley’s son, Damian Marley. In a reggae styled track “Bam” samples Sister Nancy’s 1982 dancehall classic “Bam Bam.”
Producer No I.D took creative approach with Jay by including a variety of instruments and sounds.
Showing off his credibility in the song Jay says
“Don’t you ever forget, Jigga got this sh#t popping’/ I pulled out the pot when we was outta options.”
Jay-Z takes aim at unknown competitors in “Moonlight”
“Look, I know killers – you no killer”; “I don’t post no threats on the Internet/I just pose a threat”; “Please don’t talk about guns that you ain’t never gon’ use.”
Jay Z showed a very nonchalant attitude toward those who claim to be who they’re really not, all while still keeping it civilized and class.
9. Marcy Me
Jay-Z recalls his origins in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn’s Marcy Houses in this track. He makes a lot of references of how things used to be when he lived in the Marcy houses.
Using maternal contraceptive metaphors he emphasizes how he never abandoned where he came from hence the title ‘Marcy Me.” He explains his love for his humble beginnings and tries to connect with people from the reminisced era to never forget him.
One of my favorite albums on the track Jay picks such an intelligent, yet statement-making way to close out the album with his “Legacy.” Jay speaks directly to Blue, sharing his blueprint for passing wealth on to the children and the children’s children of his new formed dynasty.
“My stake in RocNation should go to you/Leave a piece for your siblings to give to their children, too.”
Teaching his children to empower the black community as he and his wife have done and continue to do, He urges Blue and the twins to “fund ideas from people who look like we.“
All in all this album has literally been on repeat as I sit and gaze out of my bedroom window. To hear such empowering words along with a bit of honesty and transparency all in one project really marks the erasing of separation from new school and old school.
Jay has shown the world that he is nothing less than human and the blessing of love forgiveness and a united culture can really change the world. 4:44 should be an album that accolades the people of color, our culture, from Jay Z himself to “we”…. the people.