Today’s Song of the Day is “4:44” by JAY-Z.
There is little doubt that Jay-Z has a place as one of the greatest rappers and songwriters of all time. His most recent album, 4:44, is arguably his best album yet, and the title track one of the greatest songs he has ever made.
4:44 maintains a melancholy tone throughout, ending the first half of the album in a way that is practically funerary. It is, more or less, a eulogy and reprimand of the old JAY-Z and his lack of emotional skill and intelligence with regards to his mistreatment of women, specifically his wife, Beyoncé. I was most attracted to this song because of its honesty and overall apologetic nature. Here, JAY-Z has created a turning point not only in his own career but in that of other rappers with a level of emotional vulnerability previously unseen in his work.
Featuring vocals by Kim Burrell and a sample of “Late Nights and Heartbreaks” by Hannah Williams and the Affirmations, there is a shameful, heartbreaking, and sorrowful quality to this song. The general composition of 4:44, produced by the legendary No I.D., maintains a vintage vibe that could be considered timeless. The song discusses such difficult topics as miscarriages, infidelity, and admission of guilt in what should be a loving relationship. There are many parts of the song that stand out, however the most striking lyrics are as follows:
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
‘Cause I was emotionless
4:44 by JAY-Z
The overall vibe of the album 4:44 is that of an older family member passing on knowledge they have acquired over the course of their life to a younger family member. Along with financial advice comes a call for emotional honesty and being able to admit when and how you have hurt those closest to you.
Other tracks on the album such as “Legacy”, “Family Feud”, “The Story of OJ”, and “Kill Jay-Z” allude to this and also show a desire on the part of JAY-Z to have his music be known for more than just its fascination with women, fancy cars, and being rich. Both the album and song 4:44 reflect a need to go deeper and be more open with his music and breaking intergenerational curses.
4:44 is available on TIDAL, Youtube, and Apple Music.