released his thirteenth solo album, 4:44,
once again gracing us with a phenomenal piece of work. This is the album Jay fans have been anticipating for about a decade. Yes it's true, Hov hasn't put out a solid album since 2007. 4:44
is an album about growth, and not only as a musician, but as a man. On this album, Jay-Z reflects on his impact on hip-hop, how the black community can achieve economic independence, and mistakes he made as a husband and father. He's come a long way from his 1997 debut album Reasonable Doubt,
which featured some of the best rapping the world has ever seen. It was real, it was honest, it was him. Tracks like "Can I Live" and "D'evils" will live on forever. Epic albums like Reasonable Doubt
and the nine that followed it were amazing, but then sometime around 2007, the quality music the Brooklyn native was making was not what it used to be.
But Jay has done more than simply redeem himself with this sweet, ten track album. My first impression was relief. Too often now artists release twenty track albums to make more money from streaming, glad to see what their priorities are. Unless every single track is amazing, an album with over a dozen songs (that isn't a greatest hits album) is self-indulgent. Another thing is the features. It's no secret that Jay-Z can get pretty much get whoever he wants on his album (Kendrick Lamar and Will Smith are featured in his newly-released video called "Episode One: Footnotes For The Story of O.J.'"
). There are four features on 4:44
, all four fit into two categories. First there is Gloria Carter, Jay-Z's mom, on the third track of the album "Smile" and then right after that is Frank Ocean
on "Caught Their Eyes". On the sixth track titled "Family Feud" Beyoncé
adds some vocals and last but not least Jr. Gong himself, Damian Marley on "Bam".
I say these four features fit into two categories because they serve different purposes. Gloria Carter and Beyoncé's features were less about music and more about the personal growth Jay has had and how the women in his life are largely responsible for it. On "Smile", Jay-Z reveals that his mother is a lesbian and had to hide who she was because of the pressures of a homophobic society. It represented personal growth and feeling comfortable in your own skin, even outside, where everybody can see. Hov says on the song that he just wants to see his mother happy and smiling. Throughout the song, Hov reflects on how he was able to turn hard times into smiles with lines like "Flyin' paper planes through the projects. Now the whole projects on my jet."
Beyoncé's feature is pretty much the most talked about part of the album. Any mention of the Carter family on 4:44
is all the Beyhive could talk about for days. She didn't just add vocals to this album, Queen Bey contributed to the story her husband paints for us. On the title track, Jay-Z all but confirms what Beyhive knew all along after Beyoncé released her visual album Lemonade
, Jay cheated multiple times. Throughout the song he apologizes for all the wrongs he did, at one point he reveals that he was mistreating and stressing his wife out so much that she miscarried multiple times. He admits his faults and that it took him too long to come to this conclusion. "Look, I apologize, often womanize. Took for my child to be born. See through a woman's eyes. Took for these natural twins to believe in miracles."
The other two features with Frank Ocean and Damian Marley are simply just great music. "Caught Their Eyes" is not the first time Ocean and Jay have worked together. From the beginning of Ocean's success, Hov saw something in the emerging artist that many people did not see. The talent and chemistry between the two of them undeniable, their track together is both groovy and intellectual with lines like "Solipsistic, admit it, I see you there. So it seems, so you seem. I can't tell if your image or are just the flare. In my dreams, in my dreams." However Frank referencing "solipsism," the belief that the only things that are real is the personal experiences and thought of an individual, is actually right up his alley when it comes to his creative genius.
"Bam" with Damian Marley of course has reggae influences that are easily heard in the instrumental and in the hook that Damian sings himself. In addition, it also has some pretty heavy New York hip hop vibes.
It's hard to believe that the guy who wrote "Big Pimpin'" in ‘99 is the same guy who released 4:44
. This is the type of album that all legends should make once they're done growing up, not only does it do them good but also their audience can benefit as well. I'd like to think that Hov made this album not only to reflect on his own life and shortcomings but to also give advice to the younger guys. Jay-Z dropped one of his best albums in a long time and it is most certainly a contender for best album of the summer.