5 of the Best Songs from JAY-Z’s ‘4:44′ Album
When the trophy case is full and your bank account is stuffed to the point the term ‘backing up the Brinks truck’ would be a bit of an understatement, where does one go from there? What is the motivation for staying at the top of your game and putting skin back into it after the final score on the proverbial board is clearly in your favor? If you’re JAY-Z, that motivation is the love for the sport, the need to convey his thoughts, and to pass along jewels to the next generation while putting the present and past in context. With his legacy intact, a new album from JAY-Z is but a gift, and the god emcee has decided to return to bless his disciples with another testament of parables out of the book of Hov with 4:44, the thirteenth solo LP in his catalog and his first since 2013’s Magna Carta Holy Grail.
Exclusively produced by No I.D., with JAY-Z himself getting production credits on multiple songs, 4:44 is a first for the Brooklyn deity, who has never handed over the reigns to one producer for an entire project. However, Hov’s decision pays off, as No I.D. turns in ten compositions that provide him the space to touch on his innermost thoughts and the more personal aspects of his life, including his marriage, fatherhood, his relationship with his parents, as well as the responsibility he feels he has to his community. 4:44 may not eclipse JAY’s previous classics, but is an album to be marveled at, as it is another glowing display of the rap talent of one of the greatest artists of all-time, regardless of genre.
With 4:44 being in heavy rotation and the talk of the music world, here are five songs that moved me.
“Caught Their Eyes”
“Bruh, I survived readin’ guys like you/I’m surprised y’all think you can disguise y’all truths,” Jay Z sneers on “Caught Their Eyes,” a Frank Ocean-assisted selection from 4:44 that serves as a P.S.A. to the snakes in the grass preying on his downfall. Produced by No I.D., who chops up a samples of “Baltimore” by Nina Simone, “Caught Their Eyes” also includes shots towards Londell McMillan, the adviser to deceased music icon Prince’s estate, whom Hov became at odds after the estate levied a lawsuit against Tidal. Frank Ocean, who tackles the hook, joins forces with JAY-Z yet again, with the two creating another banger to add to their catalog of collaborations.
Beyonce lends her vocals to the 4:44 standout “Family Feud,” a No I.D. produced offering that analyzes the relationship between the older and younger generations within the rap and black communities. “Nobody wins when the family feuds,” Jay laments, preaching a message of evolution and progression over urgent percussion and electric piano keys.
“I’m from Marcy Houses, where the boys die by the thousand, JAY-Z spills on “Marcy Me,” an ode to his native land from 4:44 on which Hov waxes poetic about the past and present of Brooklyn as he knows it. In contrast to previous dedications like “Where I’m From,” which were rife with the grim realities of the mean streets up Bed Stuy, “Marcy Me” comes from a more nostalgic point of view, in line with the continuous maturation of JAY-Z.
“The Story of O.J.”
Inspired by the various documentaries and scripted series surrounding O.J. Simpson’s 1995 murder-trial, JAY-Z uses the racial undertones that many drew from the event to fuel his examination the plight of black people in America and beyond. “Please don’t die over the neighborhood
that your mama rent in/Take your drug money and buy the neighborhood, that’s how you rinse it,” he advises, weaving a bit of financial literacy into his bars on this immaculate selection from JAY-Z’s latest.
Gospel singer Kim Burrell’s voice gets sampled and chopped on 4:44’s title-track, the album’s finest moment and one of the more impactful compositions in the discography of Hov. Addressing his own infidelity towards Beyonce while issuing an apology to his wife and family over heavy-handed percussion and horns, JAY-Z comes clean, baring his soul and atoning for his selfishness and immaturity. Finding strength in vulnerability, Shawn Carter is more present than ever on “4:44,” the pinnacle of his latest album.