OPUS Mag

Far from timid • Caveat Lector

4:44 - Thank You, JAY-Z (Again)

4:44 - Thank You, JAY-Z (Again)

“Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim thru it?” – 🐐

4:44 is PERFECT, and that's not hyperbole; in an age where perception sells, the music on this album surpasses the hype. I am not surprised JAY-Z, the most important artist in my lifetime, delivered a perfect album. However, I am in awe of the fact I know how great JAY-Z is, but yet he can still leave me in awe.

One of the rhetorics attached to “reviews” of this album has been JAY-Z’s transparency & vulnerability, which is true but also bullshit. If you’ve ever truly listened to Hov’s music & not just skimmed thru it, you’d know JAY-Z is one of thee most transparent & vulnerable artists that's ever created music in any genre.

Listen to Can’t Knock The Hustle, where Hov is super transparent about his plans for his career & beyond. Listen to D’evils & Regrets, where Hov is extremely vulnerable about the toll street life has taken on him at the age of 26. Go listen to Lucky Me, You Must Love Me, If I Should Die, It’s Alright, Dope Man, Things That U Do, Come And Get Me, Dynasty Intro, Soon You’ll Understand, Where Have You Been, Heart Of The City, Renegade, Blueprint (Momma Loves Me), A Dream, Some How Some Way, and so on & so on; keep in mind, all of these transparent & vulnerable songs I just mentioned are pre-2003. Again, “…or do you just skim thru it?”

To label 4:44 as the album JAY-Z decided to “grow up” is bullshit. When has JAY-Z ever made little nigga music? My issue with how this album is being “reviewed” is two-fold:

1. It’s super dismissive of the people (ME) who have related to Hov’s music since the beginning of time. If you’re just now able to relate to the things Hov is rapping about? Good, I want everyone to experience the magnificence of Hov, but people like me who have connected & related to his music on a deep level take offense to this because it’s almost as if people are saying how we feel & what we think didn’t & doesn’t matter, which is bullshit. Then again, that’s how Black America & America as a whole treats people like me; our feelings, thoughts & voices somehow don’t matter until “they” accept it. I would much rather people say they couldn’t relate to JAY-Z prior to this album than to pretend like the last 20 years didn’t exist, after all he makes a point to say, “This Is His 13th Studio Album” on the cover art of 4:44. I’m frustrated with how people like me don't receive the acknowledgment we deserve, but guess where I’ve found a bulk of my solace for this? JAY-Z’s music!

2. Imagine creating a beautiful piece of art, giving pieces of yourself to strangers you’ll never meet, but who you know & love because you’re speaking for them & to them, just to have someone who had nothing to do with creating said art give you their thoughts & make their opinion the finality of your artistic endeavor…fuck outta here! Music is subjective, who are you & why do your ears matter more than the people who care, feel, listen & think because of it? Art is never-ending, I was 23-years-old when American Gangster dropped, and by no means was I in a place in life to relate to anything JAY-Z was rapping about. 10 years later, and I’m just now starting to fully experience what those words actually mean. I post Hov lyrics whenever I’m on social media because his words are that important to me & help reaffirm that I’m not alone or crazy in the way I feel & think. The funny thing is, people will “review’ music but have no fucking clue what an artist is talking about. JAY-Z is so great that he has the ability to be 10, 15, 20 years ahead; I guess you can call that…The Gift & The Curse.

This isn’t a review; this is a thank you to JAY-Z for making me feel & think, again. At I time where I was feeling the most uninspired I’ve felt in years, 4:44 was right on time. Thank you, JAY-Z…I hope everyone read that in Hov’s voice when the album starts, and he says, “Kill Jay Z…”

I love Magna Carta Holy Grail, but Jay Z never existed to me because I cut school on September 29, 1998 to buy Vol. 2, and thanks to my red Sony Discman, I knew all the words to Money, Cash, Hoes before homeroom the next day. My point? I never stopped spelling JAY-Z’s name with a hyphen. Kill Jay Z is a battle of ego vs. empathy, and when Hov says, “…but if everybody’s crazy, you’re the one that’s insane…” I felt that shit in my soul because I’ve been called “crazy” my entire life, and I feel like it’s the world, not me. Hov always goes on record to shed his old habits, or sometimes he reverts back to what he knows best, like on There’s Been A Murder when he says, “…back to Shawn Carter the hustla, Jay-Z is dead.” I’m always trying to let go of who I was or who people believe I was/am while embracing who I am & want to become.

Before I heard The Story of O.J., the word of the year in Hip-Hop for me was, “DAMN!” Not only is it the title of Kendrick’s incredible album, but also Officer William Roberts said it on Idols Become Rivals (which Hov gives a nod to later on this album). The way Ross said, “damn” was so heavy, I couldn’t believe 1 word could make me feel & think so many things. That’s until I heard Hov say, “OK” to O.J. & others on this song. I’m a huge proponent of owning everything I’m involved with creatively/professionally, but I have a minor issue here. “...y’all out here still takin’ advances, huh? Me & my niggas takin’ real chances…” this has ALWAYS been how I've felt, but while giving this message of independence, I can’t give people the shine without the shit. Independence is hard; you’re going to go broke, hungry, and get tired a lot. I personally find it my life’s mission to be an owner & I am. While I certainly admire Hov, he’s also damn near a billionaire, if not one already, so the “disconnect” on this song for me isn’t the message or messenger, I love them both, but rather the fine print of independence being harder than just the idea. I know it’s worth it, and everybody has to start somewhere, right? But everybody's not built for it, no matter how much I wish they were. Back to that, “OK,” the hit dogs have certainly been hollering over that, “...y’all on the gram holdin’ money to your ear, there’s a disconnect, we don’t call that money over here…” line. I thought rappers were “savages,” but if that’s the case, then why do they get so riled up about any & everything? What happened to if it don’t apply, let it fly? Ego is one helluva drug. Who knew holding money to your ear held such regard in everyone’s heart? The visual for this song is incredible, and reminded me of a line from What More Can I Say, “…so picture me letting these clowns nitpick at me, paint me like a pickany…” look at all the clown rappers doing exactly what Hov said 14 years ago & on this song; when people are disconnected they try to nitpick because they can’t relate, there’s only one word for that, “OK!” 

Mothers, but more specifically, Black mothers always shoulder mad shit in silence, and are known to Smile while “holding it down.” Moms are usually a person’s soft spot, and as adults with better perspective we start to really understand what our moms went thru to not only help us survive, but strive. I don’t care about much outside of making sure my family is proud of me & taken care of, but in the process of doing so, I can’t forget to make sure they understand I’m proud of them, for not only taking care of me but because they are who they are. So I can appreciate Hov being proud of his mother living her truth. Also, I appreciate the dig at the leather Lugz wearing DJ

My favorite song on the album is Caught Their Eyes because it’s so layered & relatable. The first time I heard it, I was just envisioning myself on a boat, but I started to unpack what Hov was rapping about, GOD DAMN! Matter of fact, imagine you were stranded your entire life dealing with bullshit, some of it as a result of your own doing, but you finally get to escape it. The first verse of this song feels like you’re on a boat, and get to sit back & reflect on everything you’ve been thru & survived. That light breeze just hit you while you’re still reflecting but it’s like you’re in between a fantasy & reality because you’re thinking, “no way am I the same person who went thru all of that & made it to this boat. Is this a dream? Was all that bullshit real?" It’s almost as if you have a strange way of seeing life like you’re Stevie Wonder with beads under the durag, your intuition is there, even when your vision’s impaired. The further you get away from the shore you were stranded on with the bullshit, the closer you get to a new island that people like you aren’t ever invited to, and the second verse is the preparation of how you’re going to handle yourself & others on that new island. While this new island feels like a dream, you still have the reality of yourself being stranded on that old island in your soul, so you can smell bullshit anywhere. The streets had you stranded, and no matter the size of the boat or how far it sails, bullshit will always be bullshit, so you always keep 1 eye open like CBS. “...don’t big bro me, don’t big homie, I seen pure admiration turn into rivals, I been to Paris at least 2 times, I seen the Eiffel, I seen an eye full.” These industry fuckheads will try to be your "friend" at every turn as if you haven’t lived a life that taught you not to trust any of these motherfuckers because they all have agendas. Their bullshit can’t get past Hov & I, we’ve lived too much, and we’re ready for whatever you're about to bring. 

I’m laughing as I type this because the title track on 4:44 doesn’t interest me as much as it may other people. I sincerely don’t care about anyone else’s romantic relationships, and I understand why this song is such a hot button because we know all the parties involved, but I’m not into “tea,” and I definitely don’t drink coffee. I find it super weird when people hold folks they aren’t in a relationship with accountable for shit that doesn’t have any adverse personal effect on them at all. Accountability is important, but who are you? Projecting is a disease, and I know this because I project a lot myself, but when it comes to relationships? No thank you. Since we’re here, go listen to This Can’t Be Life, where Hov rapped about his fear of never fulfilling what he believes is his destiny, as well as his relationship with a woman that resulted in a stillborn back in 1999. Go listen to Song Cry, where a woman flips the script on Hov & he’s sick over it, and definitely go listen to Lost One. I wonder if anyone has ever heard JAY Z Blue, where Hov says, “…and I know I’m not perfect baby, I done been thru so much trauma, gonna be hard to reverse it, with some doctors & some nurses maybe…” This song isn’t the first time he’s talked about his relationship & seeking therapy for it, if anything this song, like the album, is another layer uncovered. I find it ironic that JAY-Z has said his therapy is music because his music is my therapy. 

Hearing, “...the kid that used to pitch bricks can’t be pigeonholed, I cooked up more chicken when the kitchen closed…” on Family Feud felt like I wrote it because I’m unconventional, can’t be stopped, and I get my by any means on whenever there’s a drought. I’m terrified of becoming an old hater; I simply refuse to become what I’ve always despised, and that goes back to how I project too much. As previously stated, I’m all for Black ownership & I’ll never knock the hustle but a lot of us (myself included at times) have a sense of entitlement with our “hustle.” Nobody owes it to us to fuck with what we do, our businesses or otherwise, and that’s part of the cost to be the boss; nobody has to care but us. “...y’all think small, I think Biggie…” is me in a nutshell, and I get so frustrated having conversations with people who can only think as far as they can see, so I tend to keep my thoughts to myself & let everyone catch up later. When Hov rapped, “...Al Sharpton taking selfies…” it took me to the Chappelle’s Show skit when Chappelle was walking thru the club & 2Pac’s voice rang out, “Dave Chappelle…that’s not your wife!” Then I start thinking about how unmoved I was by Dave Chappelle’s stand-up specials on Netflix, and it made me appreciate the fact that Hov is still & always has been HOV! 

Speaking of which, “FUCK ALL THIS PRETTY SHAWN CARTER SHIT, NIGGA…HOV!” Oh my motherfucking God, Bam is “a mood” as the kids say. With respects to my empathic ways, my ego & soul were filled with joy listening to this song. This chune is for everybody who had enough of other people thinking they got something on them. This chune is for 30+ year-old dudes who wear their shorts above their knees & sneakers with no socks, and who did the impossible, then did it twice. This chune is a reminder for everyone to pump their brakes & remember they ain’t built like that. Just because a person evolves & matures doesn’t mean they forgot all the shit they had to evolve & mature from. Bam is “…do not bark up that tree, that tree will fall on you…” music. Hov even took time out to reinforce some advice that I’ve been following for a few years now, “…just don’t be too nice to niggas, just set the price on niggas, and live your life, my nigga…” I’m huge on the actuality of things, and when Hov said, “…we the only ones really movin’ like y’all say y’all do…” I knew he was talking to for me.

Moonlight is so dope because of all the entendres Hov plays with. Sarcasm & wittiness are second languages to me. Very few things on earth are better than sarcastic/asshole Hov or Alain.

Martin is my favorite TV show ever because Martin Lawrence/Payne showed me what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know exactly how or what he was doing because I was only 8 but whatever that feeling he gave me as a young boy, the laughter, the personality, etc. I knew I wanted to give it back to the world. Creating comedy, and always making people laugh & making their day better is one of my purpose’s in life, and I thank Martin Lawrence/Payne for shining the light on what would become my passion. So when JAY-Z raps, “…back when Pam was on Martin, yea, that’s where it all started…” on Marcy Me, it touched my soul because it’s literally my life in a song.

I’ve made peace with the fact that I won’t be important until I’m gone, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles for people with foresight. I said this on March 9th while thinking about the impact Biggie still has on the world 20 years after his death. Legacy is something you can’t really quantify with numbers; it’s energy, a feeling, and an influence that lasts decades, if not generations. So for Hov to end this album with this song, he made me feel like everything I do, feel & think are on point. How is it that a person I’ve never met is able to speak directly to my soul?

Thank you, JAY-Z for the affirmations, the creative inspiration, and the transparency in your art. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You’re…far…too…kind. You helped me see my way thru it, again.

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