Review: Jay-Z's "4:44"

Jay-Z, 4:44, album cover

Jay-Z, the rapper responsible for over a hundred million albums sold, and the only hip-hop artist to be inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame released his fourteenth studio album “4:44”. At first listen it sounded a little different (at least the content), but on further inspection “4:44” is historically classic Jay-Z. When others rhymesmiths would sport gold herring bone chains to the event, Hov would illuminate the whole show with platinum bejeweled chains showcasing the highest cut, color and clarity.  While other rappers pulled up in the Benz; Jay would be detailing the Bentley.  Your favorite emcee brags about buying the bar, well Shawn Carter was stocking it with Armadale Vodka and now Dusse Cognac.  

Video shows with countless segments of artists touting their high end basketball shoe collection pale in comparison to Jay-Z selling his interest in the Brooklyn Nets to Jason Kidd. Other rappers baby mothers took to Instagram to air their dirty laundry; Jay’s wife was immortalizing his personal business in song. (Of course sometimes sh** go down when it’s a billion dollars on the elevator.) Literally his sister-in-law’s hits became hits.  When your favorite rapper’s label been turning out acts that have been going triple trash; Mr. Carter’s artist go platinum with no features.  Popular artist rhyming about “Groupie Love”?  What does Jay do? He wife’s arguably one of the most beautiful and talented woman in the world.  When the majority of the climate of hip-hop presents patterns of prescription drug use, excess, apathy, and misogyny; Jay does what he always does.  He one-ups the competition, and directs the conversation, and culture. On this occasion instead of materialism he ushers the discussion to family, social justice, wisdom and fiscal responsibility. 


The No-ID exclusively produced “4:44" starts off with “Kill Jay-Z" a lyrical exercise in choices, and regrets. Hov illustrates his struggle to let go of past conditioned behaviors and mindsets. He also takes Kanye to therapy where he diagnoses, prescribes and doses the “Life of Pablo” rapper in a few bars.  In “The Story of O.J” he laments about attaining wealth, and success and still being perceived as inferior.  Jay-Z also stresses living within your means, and the importance of credit.  Mr. Carter even regrets past purchases, and advises spending money on things that appreciate with value.  On “Smile” Shawn channels his inner self-help guru telling us to take the good with the bad, and informing us that happiness is a state of mind. He even raps an anecdote in support of gay rights.  With the help of Frank Ocean Jay delivers a crash course in discovering deception on “Caught Their Eyes.”  Jay-Z warns us to stay focused on the phony, and that to beware of compliments because they turn into competition.  The rapper even declares his disgust for the mismanagement of the late Prince’s estate.  

Official 4:44 Listening Party at Estate Creative Agency in Raleigh, NC, Friday, June 30th

The howling title track "4:44" is an open letter to Beyoncé where he apologizes for womanizing, stillbirths, his failures as a husband, and his desire not to lose his family.  “Family Feud” is a song where Hov discusses his frustration with the divide of the old guard and the new guard.  He can’t get someone with greater success to mentor him, and the younger generation doesn’t want to be mentored.  He also regrets his Michael Corleone mentality of industry domination that hindered him from developing meaningful relationships in the business.  On songs like “Bam” and “Moonlight” the emcee gets back to his bread and butter, and explains that his peers don’t have the fortitude to hold his position in the street as a criminal. Also, they don’t have the creativity, or work ethic to be a successful artist.  The soulful “Marcy Me” is Jay reminiscing about his drug dealing past, the birth of his verbal skills, memorializing murderers, and the era that he came up in.  The light horned “Legacy” is Mr. Carter’s living will to his family tree, and his desire to break the chain of poverty.  He also discusses the hypocrisy of his father, and how it influenced his religious choices.

From dealer to dad. Hustler to husband and Marcy Project Menace to Media Download Mogul. Jay-Z’s “4:44” is an audio monument to his evolution.  Although one thing remains the same. From block to boardroom he is the best that has ever done it.