4:44

 RohanCan I just say “Nigga neva go Eric Benet”?

Logan: Eric Benet is the original Meek Mills. He got his L without even trying. He wasn’t even in the conversation.

Cassandra: That line really sums up who he (Jay-Z) would have become if he didn’t work it out with her (Beyonce).  He woulda been THAT dude. Everywhere he went for the rest of forever everybody would have said “You fucked THAT up?” “You fucked BEYONCE off?” 

A lot of my women friends, I know how much work we do.  We try to evolve. We try to learn. We try to change. And there's a lot of dudes I grew up with that just seem super stuck. So its good that he’s now saying I’m gonna evolve too. And it’s so refreshing.

Rohan: In a lot of cases the men don’t have to evolve. Society allows them not to.

Vernon: I know many people who are saying But wait, he may have just admitted to cheating on Beyonce.  But that’s growth though. Do we want him to just stay that person who would’ve ended up like Eric Benet?

Cassandra: He would have faded into obscurity.

Logan: He woulda been dead.

Cassandra: It was brave for a street dude to come out and say I’m going to therapy. I’m going to save my marriage.

Vernon: I think that’s been this whole year in black music, just really pointing the black community towards the self help

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
Cried tears of joy when you fell in love
Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her
I just wanna see you smile through all the hate
Marie Antoinette, baby, let ‘em eat cake
— Jay-Z "Smile"

Cassandra: His mom came out on a Hip Hop album. That’s definitely a first.

Vernon: I always knew his mom was gay. One of my friends used to live in the same community as him, so when she transferred to our school she was like Everybody know his mom a lesbian. I was just like No we didn’t. Thanks for the news!

Cassandra: What he is doing is so timely.

Logan: Even in taking the risks, and being brave, and putting out truths on this and that, he still did it in the most Jay-Z way possible.  He didn’t really say anything that we didn’t already know. We been knew he cheated on Beyonce since the elevator fight. Even in confession he does it in an arms-length Jay-Z kinda way.  I think what’s notable is what he DIDN’T say.  He gave us NO hints as to who Becky is. NONE. There is no reason to be messy.

Vernon: Thinking of the song “Smile” takes me to conversations I’ve had about how coming out of the closet isn’t just a queer persons thing. Sometimes family members as well have to admit to themselves, like parents have to admit to themselves that their child is gay, like Jay-Z had to admit that his mother was gay.  

Logan: He’s up to quadruple entendres at this point. I saw the lyrics written out and it’s really even more poetic than I thought while I was listening. He seemed to really reel himself in. He kept it pure and brought it back to basics. 

Cassandra: I think a lot of lyricists could take a master class from Jay on cutting out the bullshit and telling your story. He’s very efficient.

Vernon: One of the things that struck me is when he mentioned Tupac’s nose ring. I think that he’s holding masculinity accountable there.  He was saying that we would’ve clowned dudes for wearing a nose ring until Tupac made it cool. And having Frank Ocean on the album to me says he’s breaking down a lot of walls for people.

Cassandra: He was the guy who crossed over the threshold and became SUPER rich, and people were criticizing the fact that he was wearing sandals instead of Tims. Like, you want him to wear Tims to the beach? It’s absurd. Be real. Be a human.

Rohan: Gotta stay hard at all times.

Vernon: People are saying that this album is speaking to “Lemonade”, but I think it’s speaking more to “A Seat At The Table”.

Rohan: I’ve been saying the same thing.  It sounds more like "A Seat At The Table", just in its clarity, it’s confession.

Logan: I feel like this whole album is a dig at Kanye West.  He used No I.D.’s production for the entire album. NO I.D. was Kanye’s mentor. So that’s Jay saying Look dawg, you are still replaceable. You can see yourself out and we’re still gonna be good over here.

Vernon: There are a few tracks on there that sound like they were produced by Kanye!

Rohan: Did you see the album art? It looks like its referencing The Life of Pablo. Same color scheme and black font.

Logan: No ID produced his ass off. That’s one of the first things I noticed. Production is top notch.  It is savant level sampling.  It was uncluttered. It was bare bones and simple, yet lush and complex at the same time.

Rohan: It didn’t have the grandiosity of a Kanye record. It didn’t have the anthem. 

Cassandra: Jay doesn’t have Kanye’s anger. Kanye’s still at war with himself and it comes through in the music.

On first listen, I paid attention to the music more than lyrics. I’m the same age as Jay, and the whole album felt like a salute to the music we grew up on. So grown. Like Nina Simone. He has enough money to clear those samples, and this is what it looks like.

Rohan: For his whole career he has boasted about dealing and the lifestyle that it afforded him. It’s good to hear him talk about how that haunts him.

Vernon: Like selling drugs to your own community, to family members. HE SAID THAT. And it needed to be said.

Logan: He also alluded to the time he shot his brother. Jay-Z really a crab ass nigga in a lot of ways (laughing), but at least he can admit it.

Vernon: That is a quality that my favorite writers have.  The ability to be real with yourself. There is something to that.

Logan: I hear people calling this shit a classic already, on that bullshit, like 48 hour classic. I don’t know if it is or not, but I can tell its an inflection point like the Blueprint was. He’s setting the blueprint for how to be an elder statesman in hip hop and still make relevant music without playing yourself. I don’t know if it’s a classic.  All of his classics had that one track. When you think about the album, you think of that track.  This one is such a solid work as a unit. Nothing really stands out far enough to take away attention from the rest.

Cassandra: I’m also thinking about the new Tribe album and De la. These are old heads still making relevant stuff. In that company, he’s doing damn well.

Rohan: I think this project, more than any other, showcases Jay-Z’s talent as a poet.  No ID’s production gave him so much space. It’s like a superhighway.

Logan: “The Story of O.J.”.  What can we say that he hasn’t already covered in the song?

Cassandra: He (O.J.) really thought that he was THAT dude that he was above it, he was gonna surpass race, and that he was no longer black. That was Hov saying O.J. tried it yall. It doesn’t work.

Rohan: Can we talk about the shots, the subliminal shots? There’s SO MANY. And all of them were knockout punches.

Logan: Subliminal shots at Drake. Subliminal shots at Future. Subliminal shots at Migos.

Rohan: Subliminal shots at you. Subliminal shots at me.

Logan: Talking bout guns you never gon use. And its not just Migos, its this whole culture of…

Cassandra: “Cooking up dope with an uzi?”

Logan: YES.

Rohan: The brilliance of Jay-Z is that he weaves these shots seamlessly into his subject matter so that if you’re not paying attention, they could go unnoticed. But you notice, because you are paying attention. Because its Hov.  On “Kill Jay-Z” he talks about facing the prospect of losing his family: “I don’t know what you would’ve done in the future other niggas playin’ football with your son.” 

Logan: And that ain’t even a diss. It’s just true. Like damn.

Rohan: It’s FACTS.

Logan: With 4:44, he kept it short. And that means you have a lot of confidence in the work. It reminds me a lot of Common’s BE. One producer, its got a real vintage feel to it and its short.

Vernon: I like how in the song “Family Feud” he references the Al Sharpton selfie, so we know he wrote it in the last 2 weeks and it made it to the album!

Rohan: I think it was savvy to reference Bill Cosby to sort of establish some distance as if to say, “I’m not THAT guy”.

Logan: PILL Cosby. (chuckling)

Let the record show that Al Sharpton caught shots at the end of American Gangster and I’m glad he’s still catching shots from Jay-Z.

Rohan: I originally heard that 4:44 was supposedly a tribute to President Obama. It was just someone taking a wild guess.

Cassandra: And you KNOW Obama is listening to it. Doesn’t that make you happy? Like he could just be sitting here with us choppin it up and have opinions about it.  I had a whole dream that Michelle Obama was hangin out with me. I was so sad when I woke up. Like DON’T LEAVE! DON’T LEAVE!

Vernon: The track called Moonlight. 

Everybody: OOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH!

Vernon: He referenced La-La Land.

Logan: Even when we win we gon lose.

Y’all niggas still signin’ deals? Still?
After all they done stole, for real?
After what they done to our Lauryn Hill?
And y’all niggas is ‘posed to be trill?
That’s real talk when you behind on your taxes
And you pawned all your chains
And they run off with your masters
And took it to Beverly Hills
While we in Calabasas
And my head is scratchin’
’Cause that shit is backwards
That shit ain’t right
— Jay-Z "Moonlight"

Rohan: You ever see an old boxer, or a basketball player who you once loved, but lately you’ve been feeling they’ve lost it? They’re washed up. But then they have one game. ONE GAME, where they remind you of who they were at every stage in their career. They show flashes of all the moves you onced ooohed and awwwed over.

Logan: Yeah. Kobe’s last game. 60 points.

 

Rohan: I feel 4:44 is like that. I feel like this broke trap music for a split second. Like Wait, we been listening to this BULLSHIT? I don’t think trap music is bullshit, but it felt that way while I was listening to this album. Trap music is alotta things but it ain’t poetry.

Vernon: Just hearing Beyonce saying amen on “Family Feud” coming in with that harmony.

Logan: Her harmony game is so sick.

Rohan: Did it remind anyone of that Amerie track?

Vernon: YES. And Amerie is the queen of summertime.

Rohan: I think this move (4:44) really shows Jay-Z’s greatness. If there was any doubt before.

Cassandra: Yeah I think everyone expected him to just fade to black after Lemonade.

Vernon: I read an interview that said that Beyonce listened to every song and gave her approval. And I just feel like with Lemonade, she set him up for the opportunity to give his half of it.

Cassandra: What they’re doing is like the greatest thing for black love and all love. Basically saying WE GO THROUGH SHIT. And you make decisions on how you’re gonna fix it.  They’re opening up conversations for people.

Rohan: These are statements that only he could make and affect that many people with it. He’s a leader whether he wants to be or not.

Vernon: That could be what 4:44 told him. Jay-Z you can’t be talking about runnin the streets no more, unless you talkin about buying the street.

Rohan: People criticized him for bragging about buying art on Magna Carta Holy Grail. In 4:44, he answered them by explaining that its more than just flaunting status, it’s an investment for his children.

  Conor McGregor holding the money phone

Conor McGregor holding the money phone

Vernon: There’s already videos and memes saying A whole buncha niggas are erasing their Instagram pictures of them posing with money.

Lil Boosie responds to Jay-Z critique

Rohan: You know what’s better than throwing away money in a strip club?

Everyone: CREDIT.

Logan: It reminds me of "Fuck a jersey, I’m thirty plus. Give me a crisp pair of jeans,nigga button up". He changed the game with one line.

Cassandra: People started wearing button ups HELLA fast.

Vernon: He’s also giving so much knowledge. Talking about owning your masters, and speaking to legacy.

Rohan: He is saying things that I think every Jay-Z fan has wanted him to say for years.  This is like Moment of Clarity the album.

Take those moneys and spread ‘cross families
My sisters, Hattie and Lou, the nephews, cousins and TT
Eric, the rest to B for whatever she wants to do
She might start an institute
She might put poor kids through school
My stake in Roc Nation should go to you
Leave a piece for your siblings to give to their children too
TIDAL, the champagne, D’USSÉ, I’d like to see
A nice peace-fund ideas from people who look like we
— Jay-Z "Legacy"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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