“I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going. I have respect for the past, but I’m a person of the moment. I’m here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I’m at, then I go forward to the next place.”
So wait deh…unu neva miss me?!?!
Yeah…yeah, I was gone for a minute. Now I’m back for the Summer turn up and what do I find awaiting me upon my return….MORE DOPE MUSIC!!! So I knew it was coming, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and was pleasantly entertained by the release of Jay Z’s most recent studio album, 4:44.
Now, as a creative…sometimes you try to tune things out – new music, new art, new interpretations of old things, because the significance of being able to hear and honor your own voice is very pivotal to the integrity of whatever you are creating. However, there are times when culture altering events occur that require your immediate attention, your eyes and ears OPEN. The release of this project was one of those things.
Being a native New Yorker, and growing up during a time when hip-hop culture seemed to transcend any and every cultural context, there is arguably no other figure as prominent in the socio-political implications of the movement as Jay Z. To a lot of men in my generation, Hov is almost like a cult hero.
His ability to represent all that is hood intellect, business savvy, corporate hustler, youthful recklessness, grown man experience, flashy lifestyle, and relatable Black excellence, gives him this coveted position in the scope of Black narratives and culture.
With this persona, his union with Beyonce, and the expansion of their empire, he often wields the wand of influence quite effectively. This power couple has been able to revolutionize the way music is marketed, produced, packaged, presented or available for public consumption and have made it their business to be THE BUSINESS.
4:44 achieved platinum status in less than one week, 4 days to be exact. The album also has ONLY been available exclusively on Tidal streaming services and Sprint.
Guess who runs this town: JAY-Z.
The way they executed the exposure/lancing/healing of their wounds, the reality of their imperfect marriage, the reminders of their frail humanity, and the triumph of their decision to choose love above all else by releasing two albums that bare their souls (4:44 and Lemonade) is absolutely genius. This display of artistry is very necessary at a time when people seem to be craving the real and really want to take a 20 second time out from their reality show binge watching, sifting through social media representatives and personas, and the growing disconnect from the actual “SOUL” of the real world that haunts our society.
In my humble opinion, the measure of a man is rooted in how he moves through adversity, embraces his flaws, chooses to bare his vulnerabilities, expresses accountability for his actions and plots meaningful steps towards redemption and restoration as well at the way he exhibits leadership qualities, and takes care of those who he is responsible for and who support him.
Jay-Z incessantly confronts and owns his manhood throughout this project. This theme is skillfully woven in and out of this album with the thread of intentional candor. Some of these reviews that I’ve read on the project are so laced with judgment, it’s like we can’t acknowledge and salute reflection, ascension, and evolution. SMH
So let’s get into some of this music. This album has more that a few gems on it but, I’m only gonna go into a few of these joints for a brief reflection…
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 harass you out in Paris
“Please come back to Rome,” you make it home
We talked for hours when you were on tour
“Please pick up the phone, pick up the phone”
Said, “Don’t embarrass me,” instead of “Be mine”
That was my proposal for us to go steady
That was your 21st birthday
You mature faster than me, I wasn’t ready
So I apologize
I seen the innocence leave your eyes
I still mourn this death and
I apologize for all the stillborns
‘Cause I wasn’t present, your body wouldn’t accept it
I apologize to all the women whom I
Toyed with your emotions because I was emotionless
And I apologize ’cause at your best you are love
And because I fall short of what I say I’m all about
Your eyes leave with the soul that your body once housed
And you stare blankly into space
Thinkin’ of all the time, you wasted it on all this basic shit
So I apologize
These are the words that every woman who has been scorned, violated, betrayed, and left searching for answers dies to hear as affirmation that she isn’t crazy, that she isn’t losing it, that her feelings are warranted and acknowledged by the perpetrator of perpetual hurt. You should only hope that this message is delivered and received while you can still salvage and repair what was broken, recover what was stolen. …AND it happened to B from her mouth and then his. We often lack the accountability to utter the words before it is too late. Hov speaks very candidly about his fears and the things that he has risked foolishly. When pride dies a valiant death, then love and light can reflect truth unapologetically. Growth.
Back when ratchet was a ratchet and a vixen was a vixen
And Jam Master Jay was alive I was mixin’
Cookin’ coke in the kitchen
Back when Rodman was a Piston
Mike was losin’ to Isiah, but he soon would get his sixth one
Gave birth to my verbal imagination
Assume a virtue if you have not
Or better yet here’s a verse from Hamlet
“Lord, we know who we are
Yet we know not what we may be”
So maybe I’m the one or maybe I’m crazy
I’m from Marcy Houses, where the boys die by the thousand
Back when Pam was on Martin
Yeah, that’s where it all started
When Denzel was blottin’ carpet, I’ll pack a… nine millimeter
When Slick Rick made “Mona Lisa”
When Lisa Bonet was Beyoncé of her day, I had divas, y’all
Think I just popped up in this bitch like a fetus? Nah
Pregnant pause, give you some second thoughts
There’s room on the bandwagon, don’t abort
Marcy Me is my joint because I like how it feels in my spirit. The self proclaimed “King of the Summer” delivers again, evoking that nostalgic hood pride that embodies grit and the beauty of manifestation. Its reminiscent, recollection, reflective, retracing your steps, rooted in the beginning, and alluding to the common denominators that reach us all. It just feels good….and the production…
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 that came as a consequence
Niggas bustin’ off through the curtains ’cause she hurtin’
Kay losin’ the babies ’cause their future’s uncertain
Nobody wins when the family feuds
We all screwed ’cause we never had the tools
I’m tryna fix you
I’m tryna get these niggas with no stripes to be official
Y’all think small, I think Biggie
Y’all whole pass is in danger, ten Mississippi
Al Sharpton in the mirror takin’ selfies
How is him or Bill Cosby s’posed to help me?
Old niggas never accepted me
New niggas is the reason I stopped drinkin’ Dos Equis
We all lose when the family feuds
What’s better than one billionaire? Two
I’ll be damned if I drink some Belvedere while Puff got CÎROC
Family Fued contains some necessary jewels that our community needs to hear and digest. Aside from the fact that they (Jay and B) rock on this together – Family Vibez (their musical chemistry is obviously undeniable) FF alludes to some of the noticeable triggers that occur as a result of the lack of unity amongst our families. Jay references the hood classic Godfather because the families in this film demonstrate the irony of emphasis on family values amidst chaos, crime, and murder. Jay references some of the Karmic consequences that result from the characters’ actions that ultimately threaten and disrupt their lives. We don’t have the framework, groundwork, or infrastructure to withstand all the blows WE face. “We all screwed ’cause we never had the tools”. Our families are under attack and don’t typically survive external influences without recognizing that we need to pool our collective resources, put our differences aside, and ride out for each other like never before.
One of the things I’m left wondering is how a 4:44 intergenerational listening party would impact our young people. Jay-Z’s journey, wordplay, production, and song formatting might resonate with those in my age group, but if we don’t provide the platform for deciphering, decoding, and deconstructing these message heavy lyrics, we might miss a teachable moment and the opportunity to give our youth the stripes they need to become official.
It’s good the be back ya’ll. This feels like Summer.