JAY-Z Airs and Owns His Grievances

Three seconds into 4:44, there’s a call to kill Jay Z. It’s quick and painless. Five seconds later you hear the word “fuck Jay Z,” and it becomes clear what’s happening, and the MC/mogul himself confirms it in a personal note. “Jay Z” represents a combination of ego and arrogance that can’t exist on 4:44, especially if Shawn Carter the human is going to lift the veil from his personal transgressions and embark on a journey of self-revelation and accountability. Sorry, Jay Z had to go. It’s no coincidence how the Roc Nation head’s name is styled in album opener’s “Kill Jay Z” song title, but written as JAY-Z in the artist’s credit. The dash is back, this is Hov speaking.

Now that that’s out of the way, there’s a laundry list of things for him to address, and JAY wastes no time getting into them. On “Kill Jay Z,” Jay speaks candidly about Kanye West’s 2016 breakdowns, which apparently left the frequent collaborators at odds. “You walkin’ around like you invincible/ You dropped out of school, you lost your principles/ I know people backstab you, I felt bad too/ But this “fuck everybody” attitude ain’t natural.” Then, JAY gets to the details. “You gave him 20 million without blinking/ He gave you 20 minutes on stage, fuck was he thinking?” The damage that JAY himself has inflicted is also a topic of conversation. “You stabbed Un [Rivera] over some records” he raps, exasperated by his own mistakes.

The album, released at midnight on Tidal and iHeartRadio platforms, plays along multiple plot lines. An arc exists that explains the rhyme and reason behind JAY’s business and music industry maneuvers over the years, and how they relate to his will to leave behind the proper legacy for his three children—one that emphasizes the importance of ownership and the insulation of the Black economy. But it’s also about the raw processes that comes from reaching a level of vulnerability that allows for things like forgiveness for infidelity, and the evolution that’s still possible. On the album’s title track, JAY bares all in the spirit of his wife Beyonce’s Lemonade, which all but accused JAY by name of being unfaithful. On “4:44,” JAY mentions a threesome and acknowledges the pain his affairs inflicts on a family. He mentions the burden of trying to maintain an image in the wake of personal quagmire, and realizes that his quest for security is partially rooted in repairing the holes that he tore.

On Magna Carta Holy Grail, JAY’s last album, his tone was different. He was still in the “look at me” stage of his billionaire quest. But on 4:44, he isn’t just looking to wow the competition, he’s looking to educate it. In the past, we’ve seen him cut Drake down subliminally, as a reminder of who occupies the throne. On “Family Feud,” he serves the Toronto star, who recently called himself the ‘new Jay,’ an earnest reminder as opposed to another cloaked diss: “All this old talk left me confused/ You’d rather be old rich me or new you?”

JAY’s come close to losing it all in the past—he expresses as much on “4:44”—and it’s helped him streamline his mission. This month he shouted out Joe Budden and Mobb Deep, rap beef isn’t just beneath him, it’s counterintuitive. The V12 engine purchases aren’t the focus anymore. Doing right by his community is. Doing right by his hue. Impeding that mission leads to tracks like “Caught Their Eyes,” a Frank Ocean-assisted missile that revives vivid imagery of Hov’s Marcy beginnings and evokes a defense of his known relationship with Prince. “Now Londell McMillan he must be color blind/ They only see green through them purple eyes.” McMillan, also the owner of The Source, has been accused of negotiating on Prince’s behalf without having the late musician’s best interests at heart, including a $30 million deal with Universal Music Group that the entertainment giant is now seeking to renege. It’s widely believed that Prince preferred his catalog to rest with JAY-Z’s Tidal.

Easier said than done, goes the proverb. For JAY-Z, the reverse may be true. For years, especially in recent months, we’ve seen him dedicate resources to protecting the Black narrative and highlighting injustices that deal with more than just police brutality—the war on drugs, the corrections industry. On 4:44, he’s finally able to delicately illustrate the template he’s been trying to conjure and delivers quite possibly his most personal body of work yet. The “D’evils” that helped get him into the game have now been exorcised, and 4:44 is the blueprint to how he did. Follow it at your own risk, but understand the reward that awaits you on the other side.

Related Posts


Kanye West is Ready to Bury the Hatchet with Jay-Z


Drake Drops “Pop Style” With Kanye and Jay Z


A New Documentary Investigates the JAY-Z and Kanye West Rivalry


Kanye West Explains Why ‘Watch the Throne 2’ Won’t Be Coming Out


Kanye West Credited as Co-Writer, Co-Producer on Drake’s “Two Birds 1 Stone”


Latest News

Nas Features

Nas Remembers ‘The Lost Tapes’

Will ‘Lost Tapes 2’ ever see the light of day?

Melo Finally Frees Himself from the Knicks

He’s got a super team of his own now
Music Video

PREMIERE: Asun Eastwood x Daniel Son “Summer’s F*ckin Over” Video

Winter is coming!
LeBron Sports

LeBron Snaps on Trump in Defense of Steph Curry: “You Bum!”

“Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up.”
kung-fu-kenny Knowledge

Knowledge Darts Vol. 24: The Dangers Of Pivoting To Video

And other concerns
Fuzzy Beard Hey, You're Cool

Hey, You’re Cool! Fuzzy Beard

“I redid Nas’ album through the eyes of a 10-year-old—it’s called ‘Fuzzmatic’”
inspectah-deck Music

The Wu-Tang Clan Swing Swords at Martin Shkreli on “Lesson Learn’d”

“When the streets goin’ to learn, the Wu-Tang don't play?”
young-thug-carnage Music

Are Young Thug and Carnage Planning a Sequel to ‘Young Martha’?

Check out the dynamic duo’s new EP
kingsmen-eggsy Film

Film vs. Comic: ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’

How the new batsh*t film sequel compares to the latest series from Mark Millar
diamond-d Features

Diamond D and Jazzy Jay Remember The Making of ‘Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop’

The 25th Anniversary of a slept-on classic
mexico-earthquake Features

Mexico City After The Quake: “We Must Help One Another”

Mexico will rise again
nypd at the site of the troy ave shooting by irving plaza a matter that is usually under the watch of new york city's hip hop police/ rap unit News

Complaint Reveals Racial Discrimination In NYPD’s Infamous “Rap Unit”

Are you surprised?
kari-primary Features

Kari Faux Hits Her Stride on ‘Primary’

The ‘Insecure’ favorite went back to her childhood bedroom so she could feel like herself
ay-z numb encore live lounge Music

JAY-Z Delivers Emotional Performance of “Numb/Encore” at BBC Live Lounge

“This is for Chester”
chanhays Music

PREMIERE: ChanHays ft. The Cool Kids “New Bag”

“I’ma rap, f*ck the trap”
trippie-redd Features

Trippie Redd and Goose the Guru on Lil Wayne Collabs & ‘A Love Letter To You 2’

“We want to be timeless”