When JAY-Z drops an album, the whole hood stops. We try to decipher every bar and the whole world has an opinion. But how can you critique what you don’t fully understand?
What takes your favorite rapper 23 songs, only took JAY 10 — and we guarantee 35 minutes out of the 36 minutes, 11 seconds that 4:44 is comprised of went right over your head. Take Billboard‘s 5 Things That Jump Out On First Listen (the site should’ve honored the album’s complexity and given it one more listen!) No shade, no shade.
But luckily for you lightweights, Hov took a few moments on iHeartRadio’s The Beat to at least explain the larger themes surrounding each track. You can start there.
On “Kill Jay-Z”
“The first song is called ‘Kill JAY-Z’ and obviously, it’s not to be taken literal. It’s really about the ego. It’s about killing off the ego, so we can have this conversation in a place of vulnerability and honesty.”
On “The Story of O.J.”
“‘The Story of OJ’ is really a song about we as a culture, having a plan, how we’re gonna push this forward. 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.”
“‘Smile’ is just what it is. There are gonna be bad times, and those bad times can do two things: they can get you in a place where you’re stuck in a rut, or it can make your future that much better because you’ve experienced these things.”
On “Caught Their Eyes”
“‘Caught The Eye’ is a song that’s dealing with just being aware of your surroundings. There’s a line in it, and it says, ‘Your body language is all remedial, how could you see the difference between you and I?’ Just being so sharp about your surroundings.”
“‘4:44’ is a song that I wrote, and it’s the crux of the album, just right in the middle of the album. And I woke up, literally, at 4:44 in the morning, 4:44 AM, to write this song. So it became the title of the album and everything. 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.”
On “Family Feud”
“‘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.'”
“The song ‘Bam’ with Damian Marley, it’s just jammin’, it’s just like the song. But it’s secretly Shawn Carter saying, ‘Man, you need a bit of ego.’ It was because of me and the things that I’ve done, this is JAY-Z saying you needed a bit of ego for us to arrive at this point.”
“The hook is ‘We stuck in La La Land/Even if we win, we gonna lose.’ It’s like a subtle nod to La La Land winning the Oscar, and then having to give it to Moonlight. It’s really a commentary on the culture and where we’re going.”
On “Marcy Me”
“‘Marcy Me’ is a nostalgic walk through Marcy, and it’s about that hopefulness, that feeling of ‘Man, can I really do this? Can I really be one of the biggest artists in the world?’ You have these dreams, ‘Can I be one of the biggest basketball players?’ We have these dreams.”
“The song is just about what it is, it’s like a verbal will. Just a song about speaking to my daughter. She starts the song off, and she says ‘Daddy, what’s a will?'”
He makes it all sound so simple, doesn’t he? If you’re a real JAY-Z head, you knew 4:44 was deeper than rap the moment you pressed play. When you find a hidden gem, tweet us!