At 4:44am Jay-Z woke up inspired to write. And it was so that his 13th studio album was birthed. The album, 4:44, instantaneously received worldwide reviews; some people loved it, while others (cough… cough… 50 Cent, MC Shan) did not. Whatever side you fall on regarding the 4:44 album, a few things are certain…
First, if you are not tuned into the culture (and by this, I mean Hip Hop culture) you will miss many of the references. Secondly, you need to listen to the album multiple times; it needs to be digested, you need to sit with it, and then, you need to listen to it again… (well, at least I did). Lastly, you need to listen to it with three different lenses. There are interwoven messages from Jay-Z (the entrepreneur), Hov (the artist), and Sean Carter (the father) if you can pick up on it.
So for the people that didn’t like the 4:44 album I’ll ask, “Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?”
The album plays like a poetic memoir: stories of the old, present and future Jay-Z/Hov/Jay/Sean Cater. And like any good storyteller, he is painting a vivid picture of where he came from and takes us along the journey with him. Behind these many layers, Jay-Z’s 4:44 album is talking directly at the black community. Topics explored include:
The politics of the entertainment industry (Moonlight)
Black troupes in America (The Story of O.J)
Affirmations and mental growth for Black people (Smile)
Black excellence (Family Feud)
Black male/father stigmas (4:44)
Legacy and generational wealth (Legacy)
It’s hard to pick a favorite song, but here are a few lines that resonated with me.
Kill Jay-Z: “We know the pain is real, but you can’t heal what you never reveal.”
The Story of O.J: “Please don’t die over the neighborhood, that your mama renting. Take your drug money and buy the neighborhood, that’s how you rinse it.”
Smile: “A loss ain’t a loss, it’s a lesson.”
Caught Their Eyes: “Invisible ink, I had to read things that weren’t there”
Moonlight: “We stuck in La La Land, even when we win, we gon’ lose.”
Legacy: “Generational wealth that’s the key, my parents ain’t have shit so that shift started with me.”
I mean, I could go on and on dissecting the album line by line, but I will leave it up to you to make up your mind. Listen to to Jay-Z’s 4:44 album again, and decide for yourself.