The arrival today (June 30, 2017) of Brooklyn-born rapper Jay Z‘s 13th studio album, 4:44 had social media buzzing in the wee hours of the morning. Part of the hubbub was connected to lyrics that appeared to confirm items brought up by Beyoncé on Lemonade, including infidelity and multiple miscarriages that challenged their nine-year marriage.
Distributed exclusively to Sprint customers and Tidal subscribers, the album was produced by No. I.D. aka Earnest Dion Wilson, the executive vice president and head of creative at Def Jam. The album includes features by Frank Ocean, Damian Marley and his mother, Gloria Carter, who is revealed by Jay-Z as being a lesbian in the track she’s featured in, titled “Smile.” Beyoncé is also included on album, adding in some vocals on “Family Feud.”
In terms of spilling lemonade, “Kill Jay-Z” is the juiciest track on the album in that he claps back at Kanye West’s concert criticism of him implying that West has real issues. (“Fuck wrong with everybody?” is what you sayin’; But if everybody’s crazy, you’re the one that’s in sane.”) and also speaks about almost losing Beyoncé because of infidelity, comparing his situation to Eric Benét, whose cheating led Halle Berry to divorce him. In the same song, he fits in a shot at Future, pointing out his son is being raised by another man with the line, “In the Future, other niggas playin’ football with your son.”
More personally revealing than prior efforts, the album stays rooted in Jay’s engaging flow and his ability to paint the portrait of a multi-faceted individual inspired at turns by his deep appreciation for family and loyal friends, but also a love for accumulating wealth. Underpinning it all is Jay Z’s belief he’s no better or worse than anyone and is still very much a work in progress, striving to grow, evolve and become a more decent human.
Track List plus song notes provided by Jay-Z
“‘4:44’ is a song that I wrote, and it’s the crux of the album, just right in the middle of the album. And I woke up, literally, at 4:44 in the morning, 4:44 AM, to write this song. So it became the title of the album and everything. It’s the title track because it’s such a powerful song, and I just believe one of the best songs I’ve ever written.”
“The song ‘Bam’ with Damian Marley, it’s just jammin’, it’s just like the song. But it’s secretly Shawn Carter saying, ‘Man, you need a bit of ego.’ It was because of me and the things that I’ve done, this is JAY-Z saying you needed a bit of ego for us to arrive at this point.”
“Caught The Eye”
“’Caught The Eye’ is a song that’s dealing with just being aware of your surroundings. There’s a line in it, and it says, ‘Your body language is all remedial, how could you see the difference between you and I?’ Just being so sharp about your surroundings.”
“‘Family Feud’ is about separation within the culture. Like, new rappers fighting with old rappers, saying all these things. So, the line is, ‘Nobody wins when the family feuds.’”
“The first song is called ‘Kill Jay-Z’ and obviously, it’s not to be taken literal. It’s really about the ego. It’s about killing off the ego, so we can have this conversation in a place of vulnerability and honesty.”
“The song is just about what it is, it’s like a verbal will. Just a song about speaking to my daughter. She starts the song off, and she says ‘Daddy, what’s a will?’”
“‘Marcy Me’ is a nostalgic walk through Marcy, and it’s about that hopefulness, that feeling of ‘Man, can I really do this? Can I really be one of the biggest artists in the world?’ You have these dreams, ‘Can I be one of the biggest basketball players?’ We have these dreams.”
“The hook is ‘We stuck in La La Land/Even if we win, we gonna lose.’ It’s like a subtle nod to La La Land winning the Oscar, and then having to give it to Moonlight. It’s really a commentary on the culture and where we’re going.”
“‘Smile’ is just what it is. There are gonna be bad times, and those bad times can do two things: they can get you in a place where you’re stuck in a rut, or it can make your future that much better because you’ve experienced these things.”
“The Story of OJ”
“‘The Story of OJ’ is really a song about we as a culture, having a plan, how we’re gonna push this forward. We all make money, and then we all lose money, as artists especially. But how, when you have some type of success, to transform that into something bigger.”
Official track list
1. Kill Jay Z
2. The Story of O.J.
4. Caught Their Eyes
6. Family Feud
9. Marcy Me
Check out the for “The Story of O.J.” and stream snippets below: