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Jay-Z: 4:44

No ID is pretty much the man that taught Kanye West everything Kanye knows about music production. In fact, consider No ID to be Kanye’s musical daddy that picks little Kanye up every other weekend and buys him J’s whenever little Kanye needs some new joints to rock to school.

That is their relationship. Kinda.

That’s why it’s no surprise that 4:44 sounds very much like some sort of Spotify playlist of unreleased tracks that didn’t quite make the cut of The Blueprint.

This is not to say that 4:44 is wack or biting or even subpar (actually, compared to The Blueprint, it is slightly subpar). It’s just that Jay has reached an allusive level all superstars reach some point in their awesome ass careers.

To put it mildly: We’ve basically become spoiled as fuck over the years by dope ass Jay-Z lyrics, so now we have the nerve to not be impressed.

I mean think about Lebron James or Michael Jordan. They are so fucking awesome at what they do that their greatness morphs into a routine of high-level basketball performances so we take their performances for granted. Any slight dip in their usual dopeness and we stoop to throwing shade like a fastball for the Chicago Cubs – when in actuality, even their bad days are just that much above and beyond their competition. It like we’ve instantly become snobbish ass critics that are forever on some shit like, “Jordan scored 30? But that nigga always scores 30. That ain’t shit.”

That very idea is probably why in my own mind Jay appears to take a couple steps back lyrically.  And yes, some will read this with their face twisted all the fuck up wondering what I’m smokin’. And others will agree and be a little disappointed in the half-assery too. But, a deeper listen reveals that Jay-Z is focused on providing much more content. The problem is the content, though engaging and eye-opening, isn’t quite consistent throughout the album.

I suppose that’s why Jay employed No ID for all of the production in the first place. For consistency. The same consistency he got from Kanye for The Blueprint.  Maybe it’s because he needed that consistency to say what he said – which is an apology to his wife.

In fact, many will talk about this album as some sort of a response to Beyoncé’s Lemonade. And even though there is are a shitload of nuggets here and there to sip tea on, calling it the Jay version of Lemonade is quite a damn reach in my humble opinion.  He does, though, address a lot of important subject matters on 4:44.

Now I’ve never been one to bring up specific songs or rave about lines in detail when it came to my reviewing. I instead encourage my readers to listen and judge the lyrics in their individual contexts. However, it’s worth noting his lyrics are dotted with a wide range of jewels that include telling the older generation to leave the younger generation of Hip Hop heads alone…to explaining how one should focus on building generational wealth and not worry so much about living rich…to warning other brothas on the dangers of infidelity.

The lyrics are actually quite a step ahead for Jay. It seems as the elder statesmen in the Hip Hop game and arguably the most successful rapper EVER, he is finally assuming a position of public mentor to point out to all others that “Yo. You can do this too.”

And we can.

That’s what makes 4:44 a good album: The content is sorely needed…

…and relevant.

But all I can seem to think of is the time when Kanye reflected on a moment when Jay-Z asked him to listen to a track and Kanye said he wanted a more simple Jay-Z…and not a complicated introspective Jay-Z. That moment right there really explains the dilemma a Jay-Z fan will have to battle with on 4:44. As good as the content is and as amazing as the production is, it’s all just a matter of which Jay-Z you prefer more. You’ll just have to listen to find out which one you get.

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About Halsted Jones

I’m a #Writer not a fighter ■ Joyously kicking down pillow forts on my quest to do the write thing.

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