I understand that I have limited expertise in the matter of Rap, but I have a lot of feelings about Jay-Z’s new album, 4:44, and today’s post is my exploration of those feelings.
There are several things about this album that make it a one of a kind, revolutionary release.
Jay-Z is known for being particularly private, especially in respect to his home-life, her highness, Queen Beyonce, and any rumored infidelity on his part. He addresses the incident-gone-viral when Solange assaulted him, and even more surprisingly, also addresses the events surrounding it- relating to said affairs.
In an uncharted move for someone in the usually macho-centric genre, the premier track, “Kill Jay Z”, is a direct assessment and ultimate vulnerable admonition of how egos can prevent personal and professional progress.
Die Jay Z, this ain’t back in the days
You don’t need an alibi, Jay Z
Cry Jay Z, we know the pain is real
But you can’t heal what you never reveal
Moving forward with the self-reflection, on 4:44 he also raps
Look, I apologize, often womanize
Took for my child to be born
See through a woman’s eyes
Took for these natural twins to believe in miracles
Took me too long for this song
I don’t deserve you
I don’t know their lives, I’m not in their home, so I don’t think it would be fair to comment on how the meaning of those lyrics makes me feel. However, I will give credit where credit is due, and admit that this song’s confession takes a lot of kahunas.
“The Story of O.J.” has me feeling a multitude of emotions. In a discussion with iHeartRadio, Jay-Z said, “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.”
I believe that his message in this song is incredible in that regard and I believe the intent was solely positive and reflective.
I also understand that as a young white woman, and despite my empathetic efforts, I will never understand the struggles and experiences of the black community.
However; from one minority to another, one line jumped out at me. The fact that a stereotype commonly associated with the Jewish community, takes place in a song that so deeply analyzes currently perpetuated African-American stereotypes, just seems to me, as a tone-deaf and hypocritical cheap-shot.
You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club?
You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America?
This how they did it.
I understand that rap is often driven by machismo, and the subsequent use of bombast. However; I don’t accept that as an excuse. The track would have packed just as much of a punch if the line made no mention of Jews. In an article for Tablet, Armin Rosen writes “We also shouldn’t immediately assume that it’s Jay-Z himself who’s even talking here, strictly speaking. Relative artistic merits aside, teasing out the relationship between speaker and artist is no less important to understanding a rap song than it is to understanding a Shakespearean sonnet.” Be that as it may, a stereotype is still being perpetuated- regardless of who is specifically doing the perpetuating.
In 2006, Jay even appeared in a PSA about the dangers of anti-Semitism. See below.
The message in the video seems clear and incredibly powerful, making his inclusion of the aforementioned line even more puzzling.
Gloria Carter, Jay-Z’s mom, uses the track Smile as a platform to come out as Lesbian. The track has both her and Jay’s feelings about the life-changing moment. This particular song serves as a sort of discussion, and we are all just witnesses, offering yet another unique look into the life of the Carters.
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 all the hate
Marie Antoinette, baby, let ’em eat cake
Gloria Carter ends the track with these lines:
Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be
No harm for them, no harm for me
But life is short, and it’s time to be free
Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed
“Lesbian women are all too often erased or excluded from narratives surrounding LGBTQ people… By sharing her truth with the world, Gloria Carter is increasing visibility of lesbian women of color at a critical time and sending a powerful message of empowerment to the entire LGBTQ community that is perfectly timed with the end of Pride Month.” GLAAD
Sending the Beeyhive into a tizzy yet again, Jay also references “Becky” in “Family Fued.” Becky, of course, is the moniker given to Jay-Z’s alleged mistress, referenced in Beyonce’s tell-all, Lemonade.
Yeah, I’ll fuck up a good thing if you let me
Let me alone, Becky
A man that don’t take care his family can’t be rich
I’ll watch Godfather, I miss that whole shit
My consciousness was Michael’s common sense
I missed the karma and that came as a consequence
It sounds like his acknowledgement of the constant shit he has received ever since Beyonce famously sang the line about “Becky with the good hair,” and his plea to move on from it.
My mother always says, “act don’t react.” This seems to be the basis of 4:44. Instead of individually and immediately responding to all of the seemingly life-altering moments of the past few years, he took a step back and comprehensively tackled them head-on and with dignitas.