(ALBUM REVIEW: “4:44” by Jay-Z)
*Featured Image Courtesy: Kevin Winter/MTV1415/Getty Images for MTV
Hip-hop/rap is like bitter gourd for me. It’s something I thought I’d never like because it’s not the type of music I was exposed to or would voluntarily expose myself to. But I’ve come to like it since working with people who made me listen to some of the best from the genre. Like bitter gourd or pumpkin pie, hip-hop/rap is an acquired taste, and I’ve acquired the liking, and hating as well for Jay-Z through his wife, Beyonce. I have always liked Bey – her voice, her face, her body, her body of work, her journey as a woman and an artist, but on top of it all, she is #girlbossgoal for me, and probably for women who want to stay at the top of their game.
I thought everything was doing fine in Bey’s world until the book “Becoming Beyonce” (which I bought from a local bookstore, but is available through Amazon)
…and until the album “Lemonade” (2016). While the book made revelations about Bey-Z or Jayonce relationship issues, the album dabbles entirely on the issues of a very upset woman.
The pain manifested itself in an hour-long film, which aired exclusively on HBO. It featured Bey smashing vintage cars, and delivering powerful spoken parts lifted from the works of Poet, Warsan Shire. The film is included in the album when I bought it on iTunes. “Lemonade” has 12 tracks with almost all songs talking about “infidelity”. So how can you not think of her hubby Jay Z, or at some point, Daddy Mathew Knowles? Half way through the album, I thought of breaking up with Jay-Z like I could do it too. But somehow, I found myself buying his controversial “4:44” album.
It’s on my phone side-by-side “Lemonade”. How appropriate is this layout right? Because “4:44” they say, retaliates to “Lemonade”, and yes, I was writing my blog at 4:04 in the morning just to get the feel of Jay-Z writing his infamous song — I’m sluggish! I’m no Jay-Z!
It’s a 10-track classified hip-hop/rap album by iTunes. The opening track “Kill Jay Z” got my mind off retaliation. I found myself listening to the gist of the life story of Shawn Carter. In three minutes I learned that this guy shot his own brother, grew up without a father, sold drugs, had issues with sister-in-law Solange, and is now struggling to be a better family man.
“The Story of O.J.” is a strong track as well, as it tackles different shades of blackness in a racist society. It samples parts of a Nina Simone song “Four Women” (actually referring to four black women). More importantly, it refers to O.J. Simpson a former NFL running back cum high profile convict recently granted parole after serving 9 years of a 9 to 33-year jail sentence for armed robbery and kidnapping (not for the murder of his wife and a “friend”, thus it was dubbed, “Trial of the Century”).
Since the first two songs weigh heavy on the heart, third track tries to offset bitter gourd-like bitterness left in the mouth with, “Smile”. This one has parts of Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today”, and features the voice of Jay-Z’s mother, Gloria Carter through an outro about her homosexuality. Part of it says:
“The world is changing and they say it’s time to be free
But you live with the fear of just being me
Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be
No harm for them, no harm for me
But life is short, and it’s time to be free
Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed
I tend to fixate on lyrics but this is hip-hop/rap territory. You know how it’s a culture with life of its on — you don’t touch it like politics, religion, or your friend’s ex. But Jay-Z’s words were clear-crisp-sharp as if I get all levels of meaning. In that vein, I thought I understood that “Caught Their Eyes” is talking about Jay-Z’s ego, but as a side note, I love that it featured Frank Ocean (who seems to be a favorite of his); I also like that there’s reggae and dancehall tunes in “Bam (featuring Damian Marley)” but I feel like a total idiot…what could Shawn be really talking about?
The warmer tracks in the album are “Moonlight” and “Marcy Me”. “Moonlight”, Jay-Z said so, is a commentary on how “La La Land” won the Oscars but then the award was given to “Moonlight” (the Academy’s first Best Picture with an all-black cast). “Marcy Me” had Jay-Z being nostalgic about his life in Marcy houses in Brooklyn (his drug dealing days?)
Now we’ve come to the part where I tell you which songs you should be listening to because people would be talking about it, and you don’t wanna be a left out:
“Family Feud” where he speaks about old rappers versus young rappers, but that’s not it, Beyonce sings here that’s why. “Legacy”, because Jay-Z said it’s his will to daughter Blue Ivy (he’d most probably write something for the twins too in the next album), and Blue’s voice was featured in it as well. And then, “4:44”. This song that he wrote at 4:44 in the morning is the album’s title track for a reason. It’s the one song that demands the attention his album’s PR team was probably going for. Hear him out say:
“I apologize/Often womanized/Took for my child to be born to see through a woman’s eyes.”
“You mature faster than me, I wasn’t ready”
“It took too long for this song/I don’t deserve you.”
Bey-Z fans know “4:44” now as the one song that answers to an albumful of infidelity accusations from Beyonce otherwise known as, “Lemonade”. Not that a comparison is called for at this point, but as “Lemonade” takes you to stages of emotion like — Intuition, Denial, Anger, Apathy, Emptiness, Loss, Accountability, Reformation, Forgiveness, Resurrection, Hope, and Redemption (as it claims because Bey really matures faster than Jay), “4:44” meanwhile, takes you to your knees in front of Bey begging her to take you back. ###
Note: This review first appeared on my music review site, yanimusic.wordpress.com.