Apparently Jay-Z dropped his latest album, “4:44”, but I couldn’t tell from all the quotes and download links people posted. In all seriousness, it was a great moment for hip hop, from the rollout all the way to the differing opinions. As far as the latter goes, there are only 4 details I got from listening to this project.
King of the Double Entendre
As much as we give credit to Fabolous or Lloyd Banks as being punch line kings, Jay should receive the sole crown of Double Entendre king. Many have tried but few have been consistent with it throughout their career. On this project, there are quite a few gems to slide the dot back ( translation for the non-digital: rewind). This is seen when he raps, “I’ve been to Paris at least 2 times/I’ve seen the Eiffel and an Eyeful.” His stout wordplay does not seem to be affected by his age at all. How about the line of “Ya on the gram holding money up to your ear/But there’s a disconnect we don’t call that money over here.” A dope line about rappers who hold stacks of cash to their ear as a telephone which is something not recognized by the older generation. Maybe I over-explained that but it serves as a win for guy who can say so much in what seems like so little.
Black Business Rhetoric
There’s two sides I feel for on the black financial content on this album. As much as I hate to say it, a part of me feels people have overhyped the black business/consciousness rhetoric a tad bit. I feel people are just a character or two from proclaiming him as a conscious MC when that could be far from the truth. Plenty of rappers have preached the same message at more than one point whether throughout history or just within the last few years; prominent rappers at that. Just last year, on DJ Khaled’s “Major Key” album, Nas (you knew it was coming) rapped about supporting black-owned grocery stores while also supporting Bevel, a black-owned business that creates hair clippers intended for black men (My signature fade with the Bevel blade). While there are not a lot of “Puffy’s with Ciroc”, there are plenty of Tristan Walkers (owner/founder of Bevel) who need our support just as much.
But with that being said, it is definitely great to see him use his position to delve more into the economic obstacles that African Americans face. He shows us that being rich is more than just the stacks of money sitting under Instagram filters. There is investing involved (when he references the paintings) and also home ownership. Jay-Z is truly dropping “free game for $9.99”.
Did he record this album on his therapist’s couch? This wasn’t the first time we got a personal Jay-Z but rarely has he appeared to be this vulnerable. On the title track of the album, it almost feels like he was going to bust into tears at any moment. And it’s not just that particular song, but other moments kind of took me by surprise as if I’m not listening to the same rapper. For most of his career, he has always been known to have his private life pretty much…private. Any little dust up or apparent L he is connected to has always been a rumor from a questionable source but not this time around. We are experiencing the honest, vulnerable Hov all in one sitting rather than in the deep cuts of some our favorite albums from him.
Perhaps since he is getting older, we won’t get to hear so much about the materialism. Hov is far removed from the Marcy projects but is still one of the few rappers who can talk Wall Street and street corners. We could probably get more of that intertwined material on (hopefully) future albums. Also, the shots he takes at some of the newer rappers, or just any wack artist in general, could be fuel for more punchlines. This is a legend, who has worked as an artist executive, so he’s seen just about every trend talent that has come thru hip hop. Of course, he is going to have something to say about anything that comes off as wack in the culture.
My overall feeling about this album is that it gives hip hop that megastar within music itself. Rap is a relatively young genre, and all the older rappers I remember have not really touched the relevance that Jay-Z is experiencing now. I usually see this type of excitement of older artists in other genres, but not so much in rap. Things are probably about to change as the MC’s from the 90’s get older, so we will see. But this album makes up completely for the Magna Carta Holy Grail, which I was not too fond of minus a few songs. With 4:44, Jay-Z lets the world know his time is nowhere close to ending.