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jay z

Release Date: June 30 2017

Genre: Hip-Hop

Label: Roc Nation

Length: 36:11

Written by Jabir McMillian


Click the above image to buy Jay Z’s new critically acclaimed album 4:44

Introduction: 

The King is back! The prodigal Marcy legend, H to the Izzo, Shawn Carter has returned with some new (Tidal-exclusive) material. White, Black, Oriental, everybody stops whatever they’re mishandling to put paws on this man’s tapes. As someone who was raised as Hov was eating after his hungry days, I haven’t gotten to experience a fantastic Jay-Z project. As I recall, American Gangster didn’t get as much attention at the time as we like to give it now (because it was Jay’s last worthwhile project), Blueprint 3 shut it down on the charts and radios, but perfectly represented the levels of consumerism & capitalism that enveloped the former elite emcee, and Magna Carta was a fustercluck. I mean that came out corny, but so did the album, so…

Anyway, this isn’t a day to remark on former failures by one of the most notable musicians EVER, this is a day for hope and prayer. I think the rap game is usually better when Jay puts out classics, but he has stiff competition in the new age. Did the music match up to the figure? You’ll get my opinion right now:

Kill Jay-Z – So we’re immediately graced with an up-tempo introspective ballad where our hero takes a strong look at his flaws in the mirror. Jay remarks on some his more notable life events; beef with Solange, stabbing his brother, recent falling out with Yeezy, and it’s really a fantastic sip of the JUICE we been wanting from this man, not a single art-rap or richer than thou reference in the ENTIRE song. No I.D produces the entire project and you also get a sample of the production style, laid-back, quite noiseless, not too much flair to be had. The most applause-worthy benefit from this choice is how noticeable the soul-sampling is, it even evokes the memories most have from the era where Hov solidified his legacy, the Kanye-curated Blueprint 1 and The Neptunes-carried The Black Album. It’s far more notable in the former, but both projects were woven with heavy sampling and heavy spiritual vibes that were basically deserted for the remainder of Jay’s time until now. It’s a real gorgeous aura that’s created and I think this intro does a fantastic job of getting the hairs on the listener’s necks perked. Rate: 8/10

The Story of O.J – “I’m not black, I’m O.J….” Okay, if y’all was getting chubbed up during track 1, this one is gonna have you busting out your drawstrings. I mean Jesus, this might be the most DIFFERENT track Hov ever dropped. This is something you’ll see during the Acid and Henny-inspired dreams from Jay Elec or after a long Samurai session from Lupe, not Shawn damn Carter my dude. So essentially, the plot follows as Jay breaking down how a brotha can really go from a scrappy drug dealer (or a status as bleak) to a billionaire. As he puts it, “you can call it bougie, Im like, that’s fine, but I’m trying to give you million dollars of game for $9.99.” A lot of us wondered for the longest, how Jay couldn’t fuse being INCREDIBLY rich, with helping the well-being of the African-American people on wax, and man. He knocked it out the park. Also, if you couldn’t tell, the title is basically irony, it’s the complete opposite of what Jay’s aspiring to do on this. Other things to note: No I.D and Young Guru flip Nina Simone’s “Four Women” for a godly backdrop and TIDAL hosted arguably the best video of 2017 as visuals for this classic. God-tier song, nothing else to say. Rate: 10/10

Smile (feat. Gloria Carter) – If you still here by some luck, I promise you one thing. I won’t drop an essay EVERY song. Getting past that, the longest track on the album here, mentions some of Jay’s lowest memories and how he rose out of dire straits. Doesn’t centralize around finances as the last track did, just an uplifting ballad and hook that I’d think everyone can appreciate. Jay really comes heavy with the punchlines here, mentions (relatively) cheap jewelry, Jewish execs, the Elohim, his mother being in the closet so long, she’s a lespian, fantastic one-liners run amok here. Not much flow switches, but the beat does some acrobatics I’d say. Hi-hats are frequent, “oooh-ooohs” weave around, and I guess Jay’s name carries so much clout he can get Stevie Wonder to bag bak on his promise to stop allowing samples to be cleared, as the great (who I share a birthday with!!!) appears on the hook and throughout. All of this magic closes on a poem by Mama Carter herself. It’s just really one of those listens you can’t help but appreciate. I seen dudes who don’t like this joint, but seen the value in the lyrics alone. Rate: 9/10

Caught Their Eyes (feat. Frank Ocean) – Alright, time to get concessions boys. Every track on here is tryin to say something tangible, that’s no lie, but this is really the first breather we get here. Jay’s just speaking on his permanent status of being aware of the snakes in his industry. The largest event of relevance is Prince delivering his masters to Jay for safe care, and getting it snatched away for max money making. Everything else falls in line with that. My favorite line, and personally a top 5 line on the album, “I’ve been to Paris at least two times; I’ve seen an Eiffel, I’ve seen an eyeful,” another slight to Kanye likely. Real Island type vibe I get. Let’s get to the DEEPEST joint up next. Rate: 7/10

4:44 – First of all, the intro is some deep ass backdrop to Metropolis type. Like this could easily be the theme song to a Fox crime drama. Some epic sample choice from No I.D. Track sampled is Hannah Williams’ “Late Nights and Heartbreaks”, which shares thematics with this song: infidelity. Yes, this is what most of our community has been looking for, Jay answering Lemonade and (to some degree) references from A Seat at The Table by the Knowles sisters. So Hov personally references his other relationships, even actually admitting to a ménage a trois situation apparently. Some deep ish. Asking for forgiveness on record must be difficult. Easily the most we’ve seen bared by Jay in relation to his partner, and probably the most worthy song of being the title track. Some tidbits: his main partner, and the “Becky” referenced later, happens to be Gwyneth Paltrow PLUS every song on this album was apparently reviewed by Bey, so nothing here is new to her. Just leaving you with that. Rate: 10/10

a jay-z-billboard

Family Feud – First vocal contribution given by Beyonce, she handles the background vibes quite well. Keeps the airy vocals going delivered by classical figures that were frequent in the past few songs. Jay gets back to his victory lap tour, essentially proclaiming himself as a figure that can mend the bridge between “old and new niggas.” A high bar to reach for, but isn’t that essentially Jay’s entire career. Being an old head himself, and publicly shouting out many young rappers that have influenced him leading up to this project, he does actually execute what he’s preaching. I would say this generation has led to more separation than any prior, and it’s good we got somebody FROM INSIDE THE COMMUNITY trying to dead the beef. Rate: 7.5/10

Bam (feat. Damian Marley) – The track name seems to find footing from two sources: A. The sample, Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” (last sampled by KANYE WEST of course…), and patois, defined as an interjection of a sudden happening. Both are obviously pretty incremental towards the structure of this album, Kanye and Jay choosing now to stop the passiveness and going back to the braggadocious rap KING. This song interjects whatever laid back vibe you were on to give you dance hall, an upbeat hook, the importance of Jay’s ego, and lording over as only Jay could do, with a certain tidbit reading as:

“Uh, niggas is skippin’ leg day just to run they mouth

I be skippin’ leg day, I still run the world

I pressed ahead of your team with one finger curled

I’ll line you all up with one finger wave”

To save you the time of looking up the relevancy, it’s another Kanye slight. Kanye’s gonna have to knock this man upside the head with some Red Octobers to win back some respect after this album, and that’s my favorite artist of all time. Rate: 7.5/10

Moonlight – No I.D and Jay pick another iconic sample, this time a Fugees classic. And naturally this classic was last flipped by a notable Jigga associate, this time it being Nasir Jones. Jay seems to be hellbent on passing up dudes that passed him up over the last decade, and I gotta call that admirable. Anyway, this song speaks on the community embracing the real and for them to stop faking for the gram, their homies, financial gain, or all of the above. I never watched Moonlight but apparently it had the first all-black cast win an Oscar. That’s pretty incredible. This song isn’t, nor is it better than “Nas Album Done”, but it is another solid listen and the subject is one of the most vital today. Rate: 7/10

“Jay-Z sampled The Fugees classic Fu-Gee-La song. Listen to it below to spot the similarities” 

Marcy Me – A lot of substantially inner working for this track, here’s a few I looked up. Hov begins by referencing the song “Unbelievable” from his former homie and the man who basically fathered him, Notorious B.I.G. We also get vocals from the godly Marvin Gaye. ON TOP OF THE DREAM APPEARING. The video for this is gonna be legendary, can’t wait for it, Hov put a lot into this one. I love hearing him wax poetic about his raisings, as let’s face it, 80s-90s N.Y is pretty much the golden standard for environments in hip hop. You’ve never heard a good rapper not drop a classic in describing the scenery. Never. If the South was releasing nothing but trash rappers, it wouldn’t get half a bar from most rap fans. But the core fans? They’ll give any promising New York artist a listen. That ain’t got nothing else to do with this song though, it’s just a cool ass good ass nod to Hov’s life. Definitely a great part of the ride that’s been this album. Rate: 8.5/10

Legacy (feat. the first ever appearance of a speaking Blue-Ivy Carter) – I’m like 99% sure Blue hasn’t spoken on any other Jay tracks to this point. You can sue me and take my job here if she has. In any case, that first bar sets the stage for Jay to lay out the ultimate goal for his career. Shawn has always had the appearance of the biggest stunter in the game, that’s no lie. But there’s been an underlying goal, watch closely to the moves of the Carter family. He’s aspiring generational wealth, to be the black ROCKEFELLERS (tongue forcefully piercing thru my cheek as I write this). I don’t think I’ve ever heard a track really aspire for this particular goal, at least not as the sole purpose of creating said track. I mean Jay even references a track that does do that, but I haven’t heard it. So salute to Jigga for putting on THIS generation to a topic that could impact TWENTY generations on. Perfect emotional tidbit from Jay’s mind, and that’s really the only way he could close this album out. Rate: 9/10

Conclusion: 

I’ll let you know right now, there’s like 3 bonus tracks coming, and they’re each tougher than the last. Unfortunately, I don’t have said tracks, but bonus tracks don’t make an album (they do make them better however). The album makes the album. And this album made an album that could be a classic album in 10 years when we’re looking back at albums. See, Jay probably saved a decade of old-jigga rap that we could’ve had sprinkled in over 2 or 3 of his funky unnecessary projects, but he didn’t do that. That’d be too easy and potentially forgettable. No, at a time where his placement in rap has seriously questioned (and some even say forgotten), Jay comes through temporarily assimilate Drake and Kendrick’s (and the field) hype into a beast that’s much larger than their own comprehension. But deeper than the hype, Jay has proved that once again, you can go conscious if that hasn’t been your lane for a minute, and you can still sell. Even though conscious WOKE rap has been the wave for a couple years, dudes like Drake and Kanye haven’t been willing to take that risk for an entire project. I ain’t asking Drake to come through with a kufi to the next Cavaliers game, that’s not my mans lane. Just stop with the stunt music bro, you the biggest artist, at worst second-biggest. Drop some deepness like you did when you was skating on in Houston. That goes for everybody. Jay has given you a lane to experiment. Take it.

The final verdict for Jay Z’s 4:44 is a 9/10, and a must-listen if you appreciate anything tangible topically and are black.

Album rating: 9/10

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