JAY-Z’s 13th Studio Album “4:44” Is Out & Here Is All You Need To Know…

4 years after the release of “Magna Carta Holy Grail“, JAY-Z returns with his 13th studio album, “4:44“. The much anticipated album includes 10 tracks and features Damian MarleyFrank Ocean and his mother, Gloria Carter.

However, Beyonce‘s vocals can be heard on “Family Fued” as well as his daughter Blue Ivy on “Legacy

The album premiered exclusively on Tidal Friday morning and from the lyrics, JAY-Z seems to be apologizing for cheating on Beyonce.

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4:44 goes on to address the betrayal Beyoncé divulged on Lemonade. In ten tracks clocking in at just over 35 minutes, Hov makes short work of releasing his most confessional body of work to date. With a feature from Beyoncé, and spoken bits from their daughter Blue Ivy and Jay’s mother, Gloria Carter, the album also ranks among the rapper’s most personal. It’s a family — ahem — affair, but others were invited into his creative home to build this album. Let’s dive into the nuts and bolts.

Rollout

The first hint of 4:44’s existence came in early June with mysterious ads from Tidal promoting nothing else but that timestamp. Eventually, teasers for an NC-17 film starring Mahershala Ali, Lupita Nyong’o, and Danny Glover (which has yet to materialize in full) called 4:44 cropped up. Several more teasers for the visual project followed — as did leaks of photos of other actors like Emile Hersch and Jesse Williams supposedly involved with the visual component — with a later announcement of the album. On June 30, 4:44 was released as both a Tidal and Sprint exclusive. Anyone who subscribed to Tidal before June 26 reportedly gained access to the album; the rest, however, will only get the album if they sign up for Tidal through Sprint. This window of exclusivity will reportedly expire in a week, and the album will then be made widely available. In addition to streaming on Tidal, 4:44 will play in full on loop for 24 hours (until July 1) across various rap-focused U.S. radio stations through a partnership between iHeartRadio and Roc Nation.

Major Players

Jay-Z: He’s credited as the executive-producer of his own album, as almost always has been the case.

No. I.D.: The legendary Chicago beat architect and Capitol Music Group exec produced every single song on 4:44, which is a first for Jay-Z. The two last collaborated on 2013’s “Holy Grail.”

Beyoncé: In many ways, Beyoncé is the central figure of 4:44. She’s seemingly for whom much of the album was written, and she adds ethereal vocals (and a few strategic “amens”) to the intimate airing-out of the Carters’ dirty laundry, “Family Feud.”

Gloria Carter: Prior to 4:44’s release, Jay had teased a song called “Adnis,” named after his father. But on the album, it’s his mother who shows up. “Smile” tells the story of Gloria Carter living as a closeted lesbian all her life, then absolves her of forced silence by giving her a voice at the song’s end. Gloria closes “Smile” with a poem that doubles as her public coming out:

Living in the shadow

Can you imagine what kind of life it is to live?

In the shadows people see you as happy and free

Because that’s what you want them to see

Living two lives, happy, but not free

You live in the shadows for fear of someone hurting your family or the person you love

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

Smile

Blue Ivy Carter: As she’s wont to do, Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s oldest child has popped up on another one of her parents’ albums. This time, Blue provides the opening to “Legacy,” with a simple, innocent question that has only complicated, mature answers: “Daddy, what’s a will?”

Frank Ocean: Another Jay-Z album, another Frank Ocean feature. This is the third Hov album, following Watch the Throne and Magna Carta Holy Grail, that Frank Ocean is featured on. He sings here on “Caught Their Eyes.”

Damian Marley: Recently, photos of Jay-Z in Kingston, Jamaica, surfaced — though it’s unclear when they were taken — which showed the rapper in the Marleys’ Tuff Gong Studios with Damian Marley and reggae legend Sister Nancy. Marley confirmed they were working on a song for Hov’s album, and we now know it was “Bam,” which samples Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam.”

Kim Burrell: Despite being filmed makinginflammatory homophobic comments, gospel singer Kim Burrell was featured on Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed” last year. She curiously shows up again as a background singer on “4:44,” just moments after Jay-Z’s mom preaches a word of her own about true freedom for queer people.

The-Dream: A longtime collaborator of the Carters, The-Dream sings background vocals on “Marcy Me.”

Young Guru: A trusted member of the Def Jam and Roc-A-Fella family, Young Guru engineered 4:44, like so many of Jay-Z’s albums.

Steve Wyreman: No. I.D.’s production value on 4:44 would not be what it is without the instrumentals to back it up. Almost all of the guitars, pianos, bass, synths, and even organs you hear on songs like “Story of O.J.,” “Bam,” and “Marcy Me” were played by Steve Wyreman (of No. I.D.’s own Cocaine 80s collective).

Jay-Z’s Annotations

As part of Roc Nation’s deal with iHeartRadio to stream the album countrywide on radio for 24 hours, Hov provided his own brief song descriptions. They are unsurprisingly vague, although somewhat useful. (Fun fact: 4:44 got its name from Jay-Z waking up at 4:44 a.m. to “write” the title track.)

Here are his annotations for each song:

 

Notable Lines

All the water-cooler talk around the world on Friday will likely revolve around every line Jay-Z speaks on this album seemingly in response to Beyoncé’s Lemonade, particularly his admission of infidelity (by way of a reference to Eric Benét cheating on Halle Berry, and the return of the infamous “Becky With the Good Hair”) and that Solange’s actions in that elevator were justified. These are just a few of the highlights you’ll want to memorize and analyze before speaking to anyone this weekend:

Kill Jay Z”: “You egged Solange on / Knowin’ all along, all you had to say you was wrong / You almost went Eric Benét / Let the baddest girl in the world get away / I don’t even know what else to say / Nigga, never go Eric Benét.”

“Family Feud”: “Yeah, I’ll fuck up a good thing if you let me / Let me alone, Becky.”

“4:44”: “I suck at love, I think I need a do-over / I will be emotionally available if I invited you over / I stew over what if you over my shit?”

And then there are the lines that have (almost) nothing to do with marital drama, but are either just plain funny or memorable for their candor. The Al Sharpton reference even suggests parts of this album were recorded as recently as two weeks ago:

Family Feud”: “Ain’t no such thing as an ugly billionaire, I’m cute”; “Al Sharpton in the mirror takin’ selfies / How is him or Pill Cosby s’posed to help me?”

“Moonlight”: “We stuck in La La Land / even when we win, we gon’ lose.”

“Smile”: “Niggas’ll rip your shit off Tidal just to spite you / Ahhhh what did I do?”

More “Smile”: “Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian / Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take”; “My therapist said I relapsed / I said, ‘Perhaps I Freudian slipped in European whips.’”

“Legacy”: “Your seed, married his seed, married my seed / That’s how we keep Carter money all in the family.”

Disses

Elsewhere on the album, Jay-Z takes hip-hop to task. Most notably, he puts a target on the back of his (former?) Throne partner Kanye West with shots that seem to respond to Kanye’s own onstage complaints about their friendship.

“Kill Jay Z”: “I know people backstab you, I felt that too / But this fuck everybody attitude ain’t natural / But you ain’t the same, this ain’t Kumba Ye / But you got hurt because you did cool by Ye / You give him $20 million without blinking / he gave you 20 minutes onstage, fuck what was he thinking? / ‘Fuck wrong with everybody?’ is what you saying / But if everyone is crazy, you’re the one that’s insane.”

Kanye’s “30 Hours”: “I hit the gym, all chest no legs.”
“Bam”: “Uh, niggas is skippin’ leg day just to run they mouth.”

“Niggas in Paris”: All of it.
“Caught Their Eyes”: “Don’t big bro me, don’t big homie / I’ve seen pure admiration become rivals / I’ve been to Paris at least two times / I’ve seen the Eiffel, I’ve seen an eye full.”

Future is also the recipient of a Jay-Z low blow that makes a laughing stock of Future’s disdain, with Russell Wilson being a stepfather to Baby Future.

“Kill Jay Z”: “In the future, other niggas playin’ football with your son / You had lost it, 13 bottle of Ace of Spade what it did to Boston.”

After Prince’s death, Tidal argued it had an agreement with Prince to be the sole source to stream Prince’s catalogue, which Prince’s estate has since fought against in court. On behalf of Tidal, Jay-Z raises a big fat middle finger to the proprietors of Prince’s estate, namely Prince’s former lawyer L. Londell McMillan, on this album.

“Caught Their Eyes”: “I sat down with Prince, eye to eye / He told me his wishes before he died / Now, Londell McMillan, he must be color blind / They only see green from them purple eyes / They eyes hide, they eyes high / My eyes wide shut to all the lies / These industry niggas, they always been fishy / But ain’t no Biggie, no lazy eye, huh / This guy a slave on his face / You think he wanted a master with his Masters? / You greedy bastards sold tickets to walk through his house / I’m surprised you ain’t auction off the casket”.

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