“4:44: is the thirteenth solo album from American rapper Jay-Z and was released on June 30th through Roc Nation. The album was solely produced by No I.D. and Jay-Z and features artists such as Frank Ocean, The Dream, Beyonce’ and more. The album had heaps of anticipation from the hip hop world and the album was teased through banners that were erected through the streets of New York and Los Angeles, and it wasn’t long before banners started to appear all over the internet. “4:44” was released exclusively to Tidal customers but a physical release has been confirmed which will feature two bonus tracks.
So where did the title of the album come from? Believe it or not “4:44” was chosen as the title because Jay-Z woke up one morning at 4:44am and started recording at his house using Beyonce’s microphone. This album marks the first time Jay has solely worked with one producer but No I.D. says that he was reluctant at first to work on it. He cited feeling “uninspired” and “didn’t think he had anything at the time” but talks about researching Quincy Jones as inspiration to begin work with Jay-Z.
Many critics have said “4:44” is a response to Beyonce’s 2016 track “Lemonade” which alleges Jay-Z was unfaithful, you could almost call this album the second part to the Carter soap opera. Rolling Stone magazine wrote, “Jay-Z takes a pro-black stance, addresses intergenerational conflicts in hip-hop and talks about marital troubles after many had interpreted lines for his wife Beyoncé’s 2016 album Lemonade as alluding to infidelity”. “4:44” is named after a track in which Beyoncé’s husband apologizes for his womanizing, not being emotionally available, all of it. His matter-of-fact flow slows to a simple. “And if my children knew / I don’t know even what I would do.” Quite how Jay-Z is planning to keep daughter Blue Ivy off the internet should prove very interesting.
There’s a lot to talk about this album lyrically, like on the track “Smile” does Jay out his own mother with the lyrics “Momma had four kids but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long, she’s a thespian.” Mrs Carter Sr weighs in with a poem at the end: “Love who you love.” The song “Kill Jay-Z” is another track that touches upon the Carter saga, last year Jay’s former producer/collaborator Kanye West had a breakdown on stage which included a mild rant about Jay-Z “having the power to have killed him”. But with his lyrics Jay-Z might just still be a little sore about that, “You got hurt cos you did cool by ’Ye / You gave him $20m without blinking / He gave you 20 minutes onstage.”
Seasoned Jay-Z fans may not recognize there idol on this album as his lyrics of dope dealing and his dense 90’s flow is almost non existent as were exposed to a much more personal and private life of the rap star. The album contains sample sounds from artists such as Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and Donny Hathaway with Rolling Stone commenting that “4:44” is “sample-heavy at a time when so much of rap has moved away from that sound”.
“4:44” has received positive reviews from critics worldwide, with Metacritic giving it a score of 78 out of 100 based on 6 reviews. The Telegraph gave the album a perfect score stating it was flawless almost by saying “It’s a highly personal work bravely opening up the artist’s very human flaws as an example to others, locating in his own suffering a path towards forgiveness, redemption and, ultimately, a better world. There is little braver than admitting your mistakes and trying to change your ways. By embracing vulnerability, Jay Z has taken a step towards genuine wisdom.”
Critic Pitchfork named the song “Smile” as the Best New Track commenting “JAY-Z is near peak form as a rapper. There are sneaky internal rhymes (“Everybody wave bye to the guy you thought you could lie to”) as he rips into people who’ll rip the album from Tidal, casting his own business success within the black American struggle. In a classy move that’s also a tearjerker, the final word goes to his mom.” And last but not least Rolling Stone Magazine called the album “a stunning, raw and mature apology that’s as much an ode to partnership and family as it is an example of how vulnerability can make for truly excellent art.”
Lyrically this album is sheer genius with the topics that Jay-Z touches upon are as truthful as it comes. The let down though of this album is the direction he took with the production side of this album limiting himself to just one producer. I would of liked to have seen a little diversity with some of today’s great in crowd record producers like DJ Khaled, Mike WILL Made It, people who are starting to create a little traction in the hip hop world. Don’t have any expectations for this album before you listen to it, even with the hype that surrounded it, if you’re expecting the HOV of the 90’s to emerge you’ll be waiting a long time.
Rating: 2 / 5
“4:44” tracklist and credits:
- Kill Jay-Z
- The Story Of O.J.
- Smile (featuring Gloria Carter)
- Caught Their Eyes (featuring Frank Ocean)
- Family Fued (featuring Beyonce)
- Bam (featuring Damian Marley)
- Marcy Me
(All tracks written and produced by Shawn Carter and Dion Wilson. Co-Writing credits also include The Dream, Lauren Hill and Wyclef Jean)
*Image Source: NewYorker.com