So I haven’t felt like doing a review of a whole album but Jay-Z’s latest release, 4:44, would have been a great candidate. By the time I listened to it I had already taken in too much outside thoughts to get across an untainted opinion. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed this album. The introspection and owning up to his past faults was incredibly mature and not something many rappers have the experience to write about. Jay-Z has a unique perspective on the industry. He’s pretty much conquered his genre, married one of the most beautiful women ever (don’t @ me) and is rich to a point that it should translate to wealth. Think of rappers you consider the best; how many of them are in the position Jay is in?
In any case, while 4:44 as a whole is excellent, some tracks have stood out to me and lodged themselves into my brain. First off, “Moonlight” is such a well made song. The instrumental isn’t hard hitting but makes me nod hard regardless. Add in different pitched “La La La” vocal samples and it’s definitely one of my favorite listens on the album. The song is influenced by the snafu at the Oscars last year but outside of that, Jay spends a great deal of time talking about new rappers and how dumb they are (in so many words). He’s from a different era and criticizes the current one from his POV. The random bass drum drop outs, Jay’s flow and the old head, “What are these youngins doing??” lyrics. I love everything about this song.
Another is “Marcy Me” with it’s Motown-like drums, heavy reliance on pianos and once again the prevalence of vocal samples throughout the song. Jay-Z reflects on his time growing up in Brooklyn in the Marcy houses. The instrumental matches the mood of the lyrics as reflective and some clever wordplay really accomplish the goal that was set. “Think I just popped up in this bitch like a fetus? Nah Pregnant pause” Hahaha that’s awesome.
Obviously the title track is special. I looked up the sample for this song because I had assumed it was some black women in the 60s ripping it up. I was wrong, it’s Hannah Williams and it was released just last year. The original is amazing and has similar themes of infidelity which is why the sample that was chosen is so perfect (like no shit Justin). This album has no traditional bangers and I think that’s why I like it so much. That is not a crutch Jay could have leaned on. Gimme a beat that slaps and I care less about the message. To No I.D.’s credit though…the production is INCREDIBLE. This song is incredibly personal about Jay and Bey’s relationship and how he did her wrong. It’s great, just listen to it.
I’m not about to go through every song but I wanted to mention a couple other parts that I liked:
Giving out “Million dollars worth of advice for $9.99” is great on “The Story of OJ.” Jay-Z is letting his fans in on the secrets financial success which I think is hilarious.
“Family Feud” features a lot of Beyonce vocals in the background and Jay’s cockiness is back. They’ve built a crazy empire of a life and that could all crumble if they are at odds with each other. It’s dope. Amen.
“Adnis” is cool even though there isn’t much happening. The simpleness and subdued nature of the instrumental feels like at any time it could break into something much more grandiose. Jay’s voice has more dynamics than the beat but no by much. The subject matter is a bit dark but still a really good song.
Maaaaan, I really like 4:44…like the whole thing. Perspective and production are the things that really set this apart for me. Jay-Z is technically great from a rapping stand point and it seems he poured his soul out onto this album. Three songs have made it onto my playlist but I regularly listen to all of it straight through.
Welp. This wasn’t quick at all.