Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen veteran hip-hop artist Jay-Z promoting his fourteenth studio album, “4:44,” with subtle black and white commercials featuring actor Mahershala Ali and actress Lupita Nyong'o in separate pieces. Being that this is Jay-Z’s first album in four years, it did not take long for fans to get excited at the thought of new Hov, but I was skeptical.
When Jay-Z dropped “Magna Carta Holy Grail” in 2013, as a Jay-Z fan, I was extremely disappointed. Quite honestly, I have not enjoyed a full Jay-Z album since “American Gangster” in 2007. There have been songs here and there that I have liked, but nothing has grabbed my attention. I found myself losing interest in Jay-Z as an artist, which was disappointing because he was one of the first artists who piqued my interest in rap music.
However, I still held a glimmer of hope. When Jay-Z dropped this album on June 30th, I was not in a rush to listen to it. I initially fell asleep when it first dropped that night, but I listened to the album the next morning, and I must say, I was satisfied as not only a casual listener, but also as a Jay-Z fan.
Ever since Jay-Z announced he had a project coming out, all I wanted was a great, grown man album. I was expecting a classic album or even an album in the vein of “The Blueprint” or “Reasonable Doubt.” I understood that Jay-Z is a 47-year-old man, and his content has greatly changed since he first came out in the mid ‘90s.
I just wanted Jay-Z to rap about mature topics over great beats and to not conform to today’s trends, which he fell victim to on his last project. Thankfully, he gave me exactly what I wanted.
I have to give a major shoutout to No I.D. for the amazing production because it felt and sounded so good to hear Jay-Z rapping over soulful production again. I can tell Jay-Z was taking this album more seriously than he did his previous album, in the content, production and raps. The song “Marcy Me” was some of the best rhyming I’ve heard Jay-Z do in a long time.
However, I feel like the star of the show was the content that Jay-Z chose to address. Jay-Z has been introspective before, but he still maintained a level of privacy while opening up on his album. He spoke about his failures of being a husband, his infidelity, fatherhood, accepting his mother coming out as a lesbian and much more. Being that I have listened to all of Jay-Z’s albums, I can confidently say he has never been this introspective on a full project before.
But it did not stop at introspection. Jay-Z was also speaking on black economical issues, generational wealth, financial responsibilities and even his faults as a businessman. When listening to this album, I felt I connected with Jay-Z because at the end of the day, he is still human. He didn’t make himself seem invincible on this album. He left the braggadocios raps at the door and at this point in his career, I can appreciate that.