Revisiting Jay-Z's '4:44': Bonnie & Clyde, Hov and B

Here's the final part of my miniseries "Revisiting Jay-Z's '4:44.'" So sit, enjoy the binge reading.

In classic Shawn Carter fashion, it has been almost four months since the release of his thirteenth studio album, 4:44, and we're still talking about it.

It’s just real life. I was going through so much stuff…it’s like my therapy, making music. - pt 1

4:44 is filled with such dense subject matter and gems-galore, that I've made this a binge worthy miniseries. And so, we made it to the end. Here is the final installment of "Revisiting Jay-Z's 4:44" - and it's all about the Carters. I'll be looking into the album's title track along with the bonus track "MaNyfaCedGod." Click here to check out the rest of the series.

“I suck at love, I think I need a do-over.”

Everything about the title track is powerful: from its poignant bars to the daunting pauses in between; from the sample of Hannah Williams and the Affirmations' "Late Nights and Heart Breaks,” to its artistic visual above. There’s no Hov or Jigga on the track. This is his heart. This is Shawn Carter.

We were in a place where we were working on our shit and getting our shit together. Becoming tight and just super real with each other... I was there for the whole thing, the tour and the making of [Lemonade] - it was therapeutic. It was good to deal with our shit, it was so worth it." - pt 1

The message about “falling in love for the right reasons” from Eartha Kitt was just beautiful. The man who was shot and while lying there dying he heard “I showed you too much to take you now” — beautiful. The various images of violence, riots, absolute fuckery and hilarious shit that flood our timelines — this is what consumes our lives. 

Amongst all of that, what’s actually important is the love you share with someone. Al Green singing “Judy” while a visual of Shawn and Beyoncé performing “Drunk in Love” played — that was everything. And then there’s Blue Ivy, this is his bliss amongst the madness in the world. What’s actually important is not on your screen, it’s the love you’re surrounded by. It’s love for your soulmate, love for your children, love for yourself.

"Had we surrendered then, that'd be the real crime."

You have to deal with your family, and then you gotta deal with yourself. Self correction, and it’s hard. Most people give up in that space. That’s why there’s a 50 percent divorce rate, because people can’t work through their shit. Their ego won’t allow them to submit... It’s a very difficult thing to do, I’m telling you, but it’s worth it. - pt 1

For those Games of Thrones fans, well the Carters are fans too, clearly. In a visual for his bonus track, "MaNyfaCedGod," Shawn dives deeper into their relationship. The visual opens with Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o citing the beginning of the third verse: "Our external reality is an opportunity to heal our internal upset." She then goes on to recite Rumi, the 13-century Persian poet whom the Carters love and even name their newborn daughter after: "Be grateful for whatever comes, because each has been sent from a guide from beyond."

The visual paints this picture of their relationship. A new relationship pouring out with love and loyalty. Well, until that loyalty is tested. Nyong'o goes on to perform an interpretive dance, illustrating the hurt and angst he caused Beyoncé. Beautiful, and yet sad. Each intricate move she makes alludes to the pain Beyoncé felt — the suffocating hurt, debilitating sting of adultery. In the end, she awakes with new breath and a new strength. She runs towards him, to rejoice after the storm as passed. 

We’re human beings that occupy this position as entertainers but it doesn’t make us any different. That’s all outwardly things, you know. At the end of the day, we’re made of the things that are really important. …None of that matters, that we’re both famous and we both got careers and we like each other. That’s not sustainable, that’s not going to keep us together. Who she is — a nice human being, a really sweet person with a big generous heart — that’s the thing that I care about. - pt 2

"I just tried to make the most honest piece I’ve ever made."

And you did just that.

From Black Excellency, to bridging the gap in Hip Hop; from turning money into opportunity; from dark secrets to discovering spirituality — Jay-Z touches on some serious subjects. And to think there were tracks left on the cutting room floor, sheesh.

Prominent and influential, the Brooklyn native used his thirteenth album to not only tell a story, but to tell several stories. He shed light on a slew of subjects but other than that, he dove in deeper into his own life. Something he's always done, you can hear it throughout his catalogue — but he's never been so personal in such a concentrated project.

The 10-track album is overflowing with gems and insights that this generation needs to hear and learn from. 4:44 plays on a duality of introspection and extrospection. From the highly pensive tracks on his feelings of shame and regret, to speaking on his wife, his mother, Prince, and the Hip Hop culture as a whole. This is Jay-Z, HOV, and Shawn Carter’s perspective on the culture, and he did it… for the culture.


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