JAY-Z has been having quite the year. He made history as the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, restyled his moniker once more, oh, and did we mention that he and Beyoncé welcomed two new heirs to music’s reigning royal family? On top of all that, he has finally gifted impatient fans with his latest full-length album, 4:44, which is quickly being praised as one of his best yet.
The new LP dropped today, though is only available exclusively for Tidal and Sprint subscribers to purchase/stream. This corporate partnership was announced shortly after the album’s confirmed release date and follows Sprint’s purchasing of 33 percent of Tidal’s stake earlier this year. It is unknown if 4:44 will remain a project exclusive to these subscribers or if there will be widespread availability at a later date.
It may not feel like the Carter family patriarch has been absent from music, partly because of the long list of collaborators he’s worked with in the time since his last album release, including DJ Khaled, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Frank Ocean, and Drake to name a few. But believe it or not, it’s been four years since Hov dropped Magna Carta… Holy Grail, a fact that makes the title of his latest work all the more fitting.
Since 4:44 was announced (and confirmed to have a visual component to it), fans were left wondering if the collection would be an artistic response to his wife’s acclaimed visual album Lemonade, which fueled speculation that JAY-Z had been unfaithful in his marriage. The effort’s opening track titled “Kill Jay Z” seems to confirm the infidelity rumors with the lines “You almost went Eric Benet / Let the baddest girl in the world get away / I don’t even know what else to say.”
This theme returns in the deeply personal title track, as Jay pours his heart out to his family in agony that he couldn’t be a better man for his wife and children. The sincere lyrics are full of regret, and offer perhaps the most intimate look at the famously private couple (“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 / Took me too long for this song / I don’t deserve you”).
However, 4:44 is just as powerful in the cultural and political themes explored, most evident in “Family Fued,” “Moonlight,” and “The Story of O.J.” He gives nods to music legends of the past, including Michael Jackson, Notorious B.I.G., and Prince and critiques the lifestyles of younger rappers who lose their fortune and promise just as quickly as they earned it.
He brings all these stories together in the closing track “Legacy,” featuring daughter Blue Ivy. The hip-hop veteran acknowledges all his success and legacy which will ultimately live on through his children, but remains humble in admitting that the road to get there was not an easy one, and he understands that so many others will struggle like he did without ever making it big.
It has not been announced if Mr. Carter will immediately head on tour to promote the album, though he is expected to appear at major festivals this fall, including the Budweiser Made in America festival, The Meadows Music and Arts Festival, and Austin City Limits.
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