A Breakdown of Hov's Latest Masterpiece: 4:44
By: Kayla Pasacreta
In Jay-Z’s 13th masterpiece, 4:44, he offers a deeply reflective album in just 33 minutes. The production, as expected, is flawless. Hov dropped the track at midnight exclusively to Sprint and Tidal users, leaving everyone scrambling to renew their Tidal subscription. Here's a breakdown of every single track on the album.
Jay-Z’s version of “I Love Kanye”. Hov himself describes the ballad as an ode to his ego. Jay-Z is speaking to his critics – himself clearly being his biggest critic of all. “You walkin around like you invincible…you dropped out of school you lost your principles. This fuck everybody attitude ain’t natural.” Many say this "fuck everybody attitude" line is a shot as his old buddy, Ye. In this song, and much of the album, Hov reflects on his adolescence, mistakes, and lack of maturity. He expresses regret for almost letting his love, Bey, get away.
The Story of O.J.
“Light nigga, dark nigga, rich nigga, poor nigga, house nigga, still nigga” Jay-Z yet again lets us know how woke he is on this track. He pokes fun at OJ not truly identifying as black, but still being viewed as a black man in society. Colorism is real in the black community – but for what? Jay-Z wants y’all to know that despite class, money, or how light your skin is – society still views your ass as black. Jay-Z also schools listeners on gentrification in New York City, by referencing a building in Dumbo that was once worth 2 million, now being on sale for 25 million. Jay-Z does all of this while reminding his listeners how important good credit, financial freedom, and investment is. Yep, Jay-Z schooled us on everything with this 3:52 minute track.
Smile (feat. Gloria Carter)
First, this track drops the secret-everyone-already-knew, that Hov’s mom, Gloria, is a lesbian – and Jay is clearly here for it, he just wants her to be happy. “Living in the shadow, can you imagine what kind of life that is?” Gloria ends the track with a beautiful poem about living in the shadows – in reference to her sexuality, and ends saying, “Love who you love, because it’s time to be free.”
Caught Their Eyes (feat. Frank Ocean)
“I can see a side-eye in my sleep.” Jay-Z reads through all the fake people in the industry. He goes on to say, “These industry niggas, they always been fishy.” He knows who’s real and who’s not. A quote of a man saying Have you no sense of deceny? is one of the last lines to close out the track. This makes us wonder if this is part of the reason for his deteriorating friendship with Kanye.
Hands down the best fuckin’ song on the album. This is Jay-Z’s version of Lemonade – the emotions are raw, real, and he’s finally letting them off his chest. The title, Jay says, is because he woke up at 4:44 AM and wrote it. The ballad is essentially an open letter to Bey about his cheating, immaturity, and unfaithful past. “Please come back to Rome, you make it home…please pick up the phone, pick up the phone.” Jay-Z tell us he made a proposal for them to go steady when she was 21 and much younger than him, but maturity-wise, he still wasn’t ready. In a shocking, heartfelt line, Jay Z confesses, “I apologize for all of the stillborns” – reminding us that Bey suffered from more than one miscarriage before. As Jay-Z airs his grievances, a soulful woman on the background in the track sings, “I’m never gonna treat you like I should.” He goes on to say he sucks at love, and apologizes at all of the women in his life he’s mistreated. He basically admits he didn’t get his shit together in their relationship until Bey had Blue – hence the anger in Bey’s Lemonade? I’ll leave you with this line from the track: “What good is a ménage a trois when you have a soulmate? You risked that for Blue?”
Life’s hard out here man. It took Jay-Z a minute to learn how to treat Queen Bey right - and we suspect this is why Solange had to calmly beat his ass in the elevator.
Jay-Z’s description: ‘Family Feud’ is about separation within the culture. Like, new rappers fighting with old rappers, saying all these things. So, the line is, ‘Nobody wins when the family feuds.’ Jay-Z is basically telling all within the hip hop community to cut the beef out.
Bam (featuring Damien Marley):
“Shawn was on that gospel shit, I was on the total fucking opposite.” Jay-Z the rapper and Shawn Carter the individual are conflicted – how does Hov combine the two to stay true to himself and his aspirations? Jay-Z is describing his struggle to juggle the two personas.
“We stuck in La La Land. Even when we win, we gon’ lose.” This track is a brilliant reference to the Oscars controversy surrounding the black film Moonlight being confused with the white movie La La Land. The title is Moonlight, but the hook is him uttering “LaLa land” Rap Genius describes, “Here, Hov is saying how when the black community experiences a groundbreaking win, they still experience losses of overshadowing and continued hardships. He compares this to the Moonlight/La La Land Oscar mishap that has unfortunately forever associated the two movies together, thus having the very white movie overshadow the win of Moonlight.” Spit that truth, Jay. He also goes on the new generation of hip hop – everything is recycled, everyone is playing a game of catch-up. “Ya'll fuck the same fuckin' chicks…y’all got the same fuckin’ flows, I don’t know who is who” Jay-Z says. Though this line is shady Af, its true – how many rappers have dated Karrueche, Iggy Azelea, Amber Rose, Kylie Jenner…I’ll sip on this tea though.
Hov reflects on his success. It comes with a lot of responsibility.
Did Jay-Z make a will to Blue in song form? Yes. Rapping to his first daughter, Blue, Hov reflects on black excellence and his come up to success. He tells Blue, “Generational wealth, that’s the key.” Yet again, Hov drops some major wisdom and facts.
Jay-Z, well fucking done. You still got it, man. Thank you for the masterpiece. Thanks for dropping so much damn wisdom with this album. I give the album a 10/10.