I think the best albums come from real life experience. You can tell when an artist has been harboring emotions and has undergone true growth. Jay-Z’s latest project, 4:44, has proven to be a breath of fresh hip-hop air. The album is naturally going to resonate with a certain group of people. The group of people who have already played wild and fast games in their 20’s and started to slow down in their 30’s. The group who is looking back like, “Man I wish I would have done this and that.” Hopefully, it will fall upon a few younger ears that don’t want to waste time making the same old mistakes.
Jay opens up the album with “Kill Jay Z”, a song about self-reflection. At some point in life, we all should face our own demons in order to progress. Besides admitting he let himself down, he calls out a few others including his protege, Kanye West. Jay admits to almost losing his wife in an Eric Benet fashion referring to his infidelity to ex-wife Halle Berry. Eric Benet’s current wife must have felt offended by hearing he “lost the baddest girl in the world” because Benet sent a tweet out reassuring everyone he is in fact currently married to the baddest girl in the world (Prince’s ex-wife, Manuela Testolini).
“The Story of O.J.” strikes a few nerves in the industry as Jay touches on the financially uneducated rappers who flaunt their advances on social media. He references the labels that African Americans have placed on each other since the days of slavery. These labels separate from African American culture and promote self hate. At the end of the day the world is still going to view you by the color of your skin no matter if you’re light, dark, rich or poor. He lectures gang members to stop fighting over neighborhoods you don’t even own. While he can’t really judge anyones bad choices, he teaches you to at least take those illegal funds and invest in some property. Financial freedom should be your ultimate goal and for those who are wiling to listen he is handing out million dollar game for $9.99. He shakes his head knowing that instead of supporting black business he knows people will still steal his music off his streaming service Tidal.
It seems like Jay isn’t the only one who has done some self-reflection. Gloria Carter, Jay-Z’s mom has stopped living in secrecy and embraces being a lesbian. Jay lets her know he loves her no matter who she decides to love. She is included in the song reciting a poem at the end about living your life for your own happiness and not everyone else’s approval.
The most shocking song on the album is probably “4:44” where Jay-Z opens up about cheating on Queen Bey. He admits to letting her down daily and how it took having a child to make him realize the pain he was causing. Most women do mature faster than men and Jay knew he wasn’t ready for the type of love they had coming. He understands now that the ratchetness or a ménage à trois could never compare to his soulmate and family. He’s worried about his daughter finding out his mistakes and letting her down in the future. This song is a precautionary tale to let you know those minutes of pleasure aren’t worth the lifetime of disappointment that will come to your entire family. My only thought on this is since she still stays with him does that make her a strong woman or weak in his eyes? That’s a whole different topic though and is based on personal experiences.
“Family Feud” addresses the current wedge between new hip hop vs. old hip hop. This topic was a must to include on the album as the current sound has turned a completely different direction. While he feels the younger generation has a lot to learn he reminds the OG’s that 2Pac had a nose ring and maybe you shouldn’t be so close minded. Continuing with the theme of the album, he wishes that their was more support within the hip-hop community. He knows that a man that doesn’t take care of his family can’t ever be rich. He doesn’t understand as a black consumer why you would drink other liquor brands when Puffy owns Ciroc.
Jay-z does some reminiscing in “Bam” and “Marcy Me”. While he has grown and prefers admiring million dollar art, he doesn’t want you to forget that HOV really lived the street lifestyle before social media flexing became the norm. “Moonlight” is a message to the younger hip-hop artists who are living a manufactured Hollywood life. They all look the same, sound the same, and mess with the same chicks. While he can respect that hip-hop can’t stay in the same place forever, he feels like the new artists fabricate images and aren’t making smart moves regarding labels. He talks about how the labels are stealing money from artists and know many artists feel obligated to take bad deals because they are in debt from all the fake flexing. It’s a trap and he is here to point you in another direction.
Jay mirrors a boy turned into a man, husband, and father. A man who has made mistakes and can readily admit to them is an advantage in its own. In “Legacy” he preaches generational wealth. He is proudly leaving his children, Blue, and the newborn twins, with a legacy to carry on. The red queen’s race is when you’re working overtime just to keep up with the Joneses. Who really wants to live rich for others and die broke? You may not be able to make sense of this if you don’t have children to pass your earnings on to but I believe that he wants you to think beyond your immediate family too. He wants to empower the African-American race as a whole and encourages black people to look out for future generations.
There are many gems that can be found on this album that some will take as an insult. It’s understandable because some people just want to hear music made for fun and live for the moment (They aren’t ready for heavy knowledge). Jay said he didn’t have the tools to success handed to him coming up. His experience was more of trial and error. But even if someone did hand him this valuable knowledge in his younger days I’m sure he wouldn’t have listened either.