‘4:44’ Review: JAY-Z Instills Knowledge In A Generation Where “Real Rap” Is Becoming Extinct
In the words of JAY-Z himself, "And the winner is Hov." Shawn Carter released his 13th studio album, 4:44, on June 30th. The album features thirteen tracks and only runs for thirty-six minutes. Musical appearances are by Gloria Carter, Damian Marley and Frank Ocean. The album is a success because of Jay's ability to spread knowledge, not only to the younger generation, but doing it for 'the culture' as well.
"You wanna know what's more important than throwing away money at a strip club? Credit," Jay-Z boasts on The Story of O.J. Needless to say, with 21 Grammys and twelve albums prior, Jay has nothing else to prove. His approach to make a concise album that is very straightforward is commendable. At this point in his career, he doesn't need to put out an LP that has more than ten tracks.
As much as I am a Kanye West fan, Jay-Z's jab at Yeezy was rightfully deserved. While on his Saint Pablo Tour, Ye ranted to his audience about his brother JAY not calling to check on his mental health. Hov finally answered back on the perfect intro track referencing The College Dropout artist. He pointed out how much fame has changed him and how he's becoming 'insane.' He said, "You walkin' around like you invincible. You dropped outta school, you lost your principles. I know people backstab you, I felt bad too. But this 'fuck everybody' attitude ain't natural. But you ain't a saint, this ain't kumbaye. But you got hurt because you did cool by 'Ye."
Kill Jay Z, which serves as the intro track, is genius. JAY-Z is looking at his old-self and having a realistic conversation. It sets the tone for the album. Without JAY-Z wanting to essentially kill his old ego, he wouldn't be able to talk about sexuality, confrontation, black entrepreneurship and infidelity as he does as the LP unfolds.
The best songs on the album are The Story of O.J, 4:44, and Family Feud. The Story of O.J tackles entrepreneurship as a black man in America and realizing who is in power. Not to mention, the visual released for the track is incredible. The black and white animated video reflects the true meaning of the song. 4:44 is the fifth track on the work and the reason why JAY decided to title the LP after it. In this track, listeners are able to hear Hov in his most vulnerable and apologetic state. In 2016, Beyoncé released her LP Lemonade, which had messages of being cheated on by her husband. JAY used 4:44 as his response to tell his side of the story. He admits that his infidelity wasn't worth it. He asks himself, "You risked that for Blue?" The song is lovable because everyone can relate to it on some level. Also, the track has one of the best beats on the album. In some essence, the song gives off Jay's "Song Cry" vibes.
No I.D., who serves as the producer on the album, spoke to RollingStone about helping JAY-Z get his vision across. He went into depth about how the beats and JAY-Z's flow help portray the right message. He said:
"This album is about Shawn Carter, Jay-Z, opening up, and me scoring that... You're with Beyoncé, but what is that really like? What's the pressure? What's the responsibility?.. A lot of the thought process was, I held up classic albums and said, "What were the good parts and what were the mistakes?" Sometimes these classics, the continuity is what makes them classic, and then you have these examples of reaching for the single or the radio record. Albums I was pointing to were like Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, Confessions by Usher, [Jay-Z's] The Blueprint, [Nas'] Illmatic, [Kanye West's] My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I analyzed the mistakes and tried not to make those mistakes. We wanted 10 really good songs where at no point are you like, "I know what you're trying to do, you could've kept that one." Sometimes you look back 10 years later and you go, "I see why you did it then, but 'No, thanks' today." By March, we were into that [process]."
If you listen closely to Family Feud, then you can hear Queen Bey's vocals in the background supporting her husband. On this track, Jay talks about culture, new rappers and the OG's having unnecessary beef. The track stands out because of the beat, Beyoncé's vocals of course, and Jay's hilarious/carefree approach. One of the standout lines on this song is, "Ain't no such thing as an ugly billionaire, I'm cute."
So on a scale of one to ten, the album gets a solid 9.1. It was genius for JAY to only release ten solid songs so his messages don't get misconstrued. He is not only giving knowledge but also admitting how he messed up as a man. Between the beats, various samples (including the unforgettable Nina Simone), and his
double triple-entendres, the album can easily be classified as a classic.
Can we get an "Amen" as JAY says on "Family Feud"?
"Amen," Beyoncé already answers for us.