I don’t rip through albums all at once. I don’t have the attention span for it, most of us don’t. Apparently the Jay Z album was binge-worthy though! Within the first 24 hours of its release my timelines and feeds were FLOODED with so many of you raving about how fire 4:44, the latest from S. Carter, was. At first I was deterred by the cult-like affinity for this new-new but then I caved and I’m glad I did. After making my way through this album at a snail’s pace, I do have to say it’s one of a kind, worth several listens, and a refreshing addition to today’s hip-hop repertoire.
I’m not giving you a track by track review of this album. You’ve got ears and a brain. You can do that on your own, but here are a few solid reasons why you should fuck with it.
1. Lyrical Merit
I won’t venture to say it’s Jay’s best….or even his best in recent years (as Rodney. Carmichael suggests recently on Morning Edition) because ….how do you determine that? Hov has range. Listen to the majority of his albums within a 20 year span and you’ll hear at least 10 different versions of Shawn Carter unique from the last. In that, I can’t use some arbitrary metric to rank his work. What I DO know is that Jay Z hit some fucking feels when he was writing this.
The majority of the buzz we’re all hearing is likely about the title track 4:44…..because people love using one song to grade an entire album. But it is good….this track is layer upon layer of confession after confession. It’s not really fair to evaluate this entire album on the basis of being low-key gossip queens dying for Jay to spill all the tea and clear up speculation….but I know you love that shit.
When I’m referencing lyrical merit I’m talking about this album having actual content, depth, a means for him to air out some pretty real shit. Infidelity, domestic abuse, and a tumultuous childhood, Jay unleashes it all. You don’t have to be a reformed KingPin or a product of the projects to relate to any of that. I don’t care who you are….unloading all that he did takes cajones. Plus it’s provocative and gets the people going 😉
2. Ample (dope) Samples
If you can’t properly rip a nice chorus from an oldie to make a modern day banger, you will probably never work with Hov…..So many of his songs contain obscure samples that get finessed into something incredibly catchy. Jay Z has worked with a host of acclaimed producers to give each of his albums a different flavor while still retaining that Hovesque style. No I.D. ,4:44’s BeatLord, was no exception and he massacred this album from the instrumental perspective.
Chill, no need to shred these beats apart like messy pulled pork to figure out what’s what. Several audiophiles have already done the work for you. Check out XXL’s guide to the samples on the album. Also do yourself a favor and spring the $3.99 to download the WhoSampled app (it will level all of your playlists the fuck up).
No I.D. pieced together A1 beats and that certainly made some of the oh-so-real and super-woke lyrics that much more palatable for some listeners who may not have otherwise been able to digest the flow.
3. Because You’re Old Enough to Get It Now
Like many of the Just About 30-club, when Jay Z was making his breakthrough I was too young to be in the midst of the hype about some new rapper from out Marcy. When I got older (and started getting down with Napster/Limewire etc) I jogged back to revisit his work. Among my favorites were (obviously) Reasonable Doubt, Life& Times of S. Carter, and MTV Unplugged (Jesus I forgot how good Can’t Knock the Hustle sounds live).
The downside to time-traveling back to those albums was that I missed out on the excitement of it sounding good, being socially relevant (universal standpoint), and resonating with me (personally) at that particular time. To me, that’s sort of the trifecta for decent new hip hop. I missed the boat on Reasonable Doubt, I was 9 when it dropped. I didn’t have the perspective to appreciate it the way that I would now. 4:44 has some ReasonableVibes. It tackles relevant social topics, each beat is tasty, and features content other than slanging dope…(I mean that’s there but there is other more relatable stuff in there too!)
4. Everyone’s Doing It
I know you wanna be unique and yea, the Illuminati is probably at work here, but you should take a listen. This album is going to be the focal point of several conversations at that next barbecue or Happy Hour. You don’t wanna be that loser in the corner with no input because this album was “too mainstream”.
Test drive it, take a listen, and let me know what you think. The masses might be jockin’ Jay Z for a reason not the season.
Comment, like, share, and think freely ❤