Entertainment Music

Review: Jay-Z’s 4:44 ditches clichés and bares all

By Murissa Barrington, Postmedia Network

Jay Z speaks onstage during the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Ceremony 2016 at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on December 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)

Jay Z speaks onstage during the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Ceremony 2016 at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on December 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)

Entertainment Review

Jay-Z’s 4:44 ditches clichés and bares all

4.5 stars

  • Artist: JAY-Z
  • Country: U.S.A
  • Genre: Hip Hop
  • Release date: June 30, 2017
  • Duration: 36:11

Rap king Jay-Z’s new album 4:44 has officially been declared a hit after going platinum in five days. Released exclusively on Tidal last Friday, 4:44 is the album that’s got everyone talking. From the confessions of cheating on his wife Beyoncé to addressing his failed friendship with Kanye West, 4:44 is about baring it all and sharing wisdom.

The album runs on a smooth and mellow note, suitable for an album full of self-reflection. These beats are definitely not meant for the club.

Kill Jay Z starts things off by essentially killing off everything that the man, biz wiz and the rapper used to be. Though off-melody at points, the introductory track still manages to set the tone for the album where he talks to and scolds his former self for the poor decisions he made in the past.

Commenting on his relationship with Queen Bey, Jay reveals his infidelities almost ended his marriage. “You egged Solange on/knowin’ all along, all you had to say you was wrong,” Jay-Z raps, confirming suspicions that the infamous elevator fight between himself and Solange was more than an ordinary in-law dispute.

Standout tracks include, The Story of O.J., Bam and Caught their Eyes, which seamlessly pairs timeless production by No I.D. with Jay’s signature smooth flow.

But it’s the heavily-debated single, The Story of O.J., that turns this vinyl work of art into a self-help audio book. Using a sample from Nina Simone’s Four Women, Jay-Z encourages black youth to be smart about money and invest in properties instead of dying in gang wars over a neighbourhood their “momma renting.” To some, the song can be interpreted as either a scathing critique of a culture he used to belong to or it could be seen as Jay trying to educate and uplift a generation who are making the same mistakes as their elders.

However, Jay-Z doesn’t nail it 99% of the time: Marcy Me, an ode to Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, where he grew up, falls flat. Despite good intentions, the song lacks life and is easily forgotten amongst an otherwise complete album.

At 47, it appears the rap god has reached a personal and professional catharsis. 4:44 is a solid offering that refreshingly lacks all of the bling and facades found in today’s mainstream rap music.

Yep, Jay-Z might still have 99 problems but this album ain’t one.