SOTBMusic: Jay-Z’s 4:44 – A Brief Review

Jay-Z (he put the hyphen back in, so you know it’s business time) recently dropped 4:44, the album that was partly conceived as a response to Lemonade and (possibly) partly because we hadn’t heard much from Jay aside from rando appearances in the last four years and he needed an exclusive release to get people to continuously keep his name in their mouths for a few weeks. Keep in mind that MCHG dropped on the Fourth of July 2013 in a similarly exclusive deal.

The album is a mix of “black men, stop doing X and start doing Y,” spilled tea about himself and his possible infidelity to Beyonce (and yes, I did just use the word “tea.” Fuck off), and just Jay being Jay in a world of Kodak Blacks and Drake clones. So, expect a lot of slow raps about growing up and manning up. And that’s good, guys. It’s great, even.

The album is pretty much Jay growing up even more so than Kingdom Come was about Jay coming to grips with being a 30-something in a game usually populated by people of younger ages. You’ve even got him coming to terms with his mom being a lesbian and his kids knowing that he’s been on some other shit at points. This is a legit “grown man” album. It may not be as hype from a “let’s turn up and do dumb shit” point of view, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s an introspective project that showcases Jay at–possibly–his most-vulnerable and, in some ways, his best (and worst).

Some people have said it’s a J. Cole album as presented by Jay-Z because of the subject matter and introspective nature. In some ways, I agree with that. But, in others, a Jay release is just that: a Jay-Z release. Not too much can compare to it. While 4:44 isn’t his best album (I still give that to a combination of Reasonable Doubt and The Black Album), it’s one that’ll definitely get people talking and possibly enacting some change (kind of how “Change Clothes” and “What More Can I Say” had people putting the throwbacks away–for a time, anyways). Song-wise, as mentioned, there are a lot of images and lines thrown throughout about maturation and that’s something I can really appreciate–a lot more than I could at 18, 19 when Kingdom Come came out.

The album was definitely needed in this crazy-ass time we’re living in and recently went platinum. So, Jay’s definitely doing something right. If you’ve got Tidal, check out the project below and support dope music in all its forms (and pray it’ll reach Apple Music/iTunes at some point; I really want to cop this one). Also, from a producer’s standpoint, shoutout to No I.D. for manning this entire project.

Speed on the Beat

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