The Most Personal Lines From JAY-Z's '4:44' Album
After weeks of cryptic, “4:44”-inscribed posters appearing on web pages and streets in both New York City and Los Angeles, and the release of three 30-second black and white commercials -- “Adnis,” “Kill Jay Z" and "MaNyfaCedGod, respectively featuring Mahershala Ali, Danny Glover and Lupita Nyong’o -- the main event that was responsible for all the clamor surrounding the mystery has finally been unveiled. JAY-Z’s thirteenth solo album, titled 4:44, is here.
Fans waited breathlessly for the 10-track effort to be liberated, and scrambled to sign up for TIDAL memberships in time. Beyoncé left the world burning with questions after the release of her most intimate album to date, Lemonade, in April 2016. Could 4:44 be the response we’ve been waiting for? And what other subjects would JAY address on his first album in four years?
Well, the album is finally here, and JAY-Z has given us the answers. Scroll below for the rapper's most introspective lyrics from his 4:44 album.
“Kill Jay Z”
“And you know better, n---a, I know you do/ But you gotta do better, boy, you owe it to Blue/ You had no father, you had the armor/ But you got a daughter, gotta get softer”
The album’s opener finds a pensive JAY-Z in a tete-a-tete with himself, as he faces the demons of his formative years while also grappling with the what-ifs of his actions. Speaking on the song’s message in an interview with iHeart Radio, JAY-Z explains that in “Kill Jay Z,” he’s “killing off the ego, so we can have this conversation in a place of vulnerability and honesty."
“You almost went Eric Benét/ Let the baddest girl in the world get away/ I don't even know what else to say”
JAY-Z’s infidelity with “Becky with the good hair” was the cornerstone topic of his wife’s album Lemonade. On “Kill Jay Z”, the rapper compares his marital woes to that of R&B singer Eric Benet and his most famous relationship, with then-wife Halle Berry – which ended due to Benet’s infidelity.
“I don't even know what you woulda done/ In the future, other n----s playing football with your son/ You would’ve lost it”
JAY-Z ponders on what his infidelity could’ve done to his relationship with his children, as he references the demise of Future and Ciara’s rocky relationship, with Ciara later marrying Seattle Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson.
“The Story of O.J”
“Light n---a, dark n---a, faux n---a, real n---a/ Rich n---a, poor n---a, house n---a, field n---a/ Still n---a, still n---a”
Money, power, and race are all factors that cause a rift amongst artists in the hip-hop community. Here, JAY-Z is pleading for unity. “'The Story of OJ' is really a song about we as a culture, having a plan, how we're gonna push this forward,” JAY-Z explains. “We all make money, and then we all lose money, as artists especially. But how, when you have some type of success, to transform that into something bigger.”
“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 the hate”
The first verse of “Smile” centers mainly on JAY-Z’s mother Gloria Carter, who comes out as a lesbian on the track through a spoken-word piece at the song’s end. JAY-Z discusses how society caused his mother to mask her sexuality, and how seeing his mother living her true self brought the rapper to tears.
“Caught Their Eyes”
“My crash course was much tougher/ 'Round friends who kill they friends then hug their friends' mothers/ And show up at the funeral, complete with blank stares/ Invisible ink, I had to read things that wasn't there/ Memories may sneak down my cheek/ But I could see a side-eye in my sleep”
JAY-Z’s adolescent years had a profound impact on his life, as he reflects on growing up in the midst of crime, which taught the then-young rapper about the company he kept, and “just being aware of your surroundings.”
“I wasn't ready so I apologize/ I've seen the innocence leave your eyes/ I still mourn this death, I apologize for all the stillborns/ 'Cause I wasn't present, your body wouldn't accept it”
On his most famous emotional ballad, “Song Cry”, young Hov laments the end of a relationship, where the trappings of success – “It was the cheese, helped them bitches get amnesia quick” – and his pride caused him to lose his woman. Fast forward to today, Hov’s a father, husband and businessman, and while infidelity played a part his marital issues, JAY-Z throws all pride out the window and uses the nearly three-minute confessional to apologize for his wrongdoing, addressing Beyonce's miscarriage and his absence.
“4:44' is a song that I wrote, and it's the crux of the album, just right in the middle of the album,” he told iHeart Radio. “It's the title track because it's such a powerful song, and I just believe one of the best songs I've ever written.”
“I'm clear why I'm here, how about you?/ Ain't no such thing as an ugly billionaire, I'm cute”
JAY-Z explains that he’s well aware of his purpose in life and isn’t concerned with people’s perception of him mainly because he has “handsome checks." The song finds JAY-Z speaking directly to the black community, as he provides wisdom on supporting “black-owned things,” and addressing the ongoing feud between the old school and new school rappers, advising rappers to stop the divide and come together so everyone can win.
“Generational wealth, that's the key/ My parents ain't have s--t, so that ship started with me/ My mom took her money, she bought me bonds/ That was the sweetest thing of all time, uh”
Blue Ivy’s voice opens up “Legacy”, JAY-Z’s “verbal will," as the rapper celebrates black excellence while imparting wisdom to his daughter about generational wealth, and the power of black knowledge. JAY-Z’s mother first taught the Brooklyn native about wealth from a young age, giving him the resources to build his own empire.