OPINION: The Maturation of Jay-Z?
Some people love it and some people are in their feelings because they feel that it shouldn’t take someone like Shawn Carter to tell black men that they should be better fathers, husbands, sons, hell better men. What the naysayers fail to realize is that common sense isn’t so common and there are a lot of people in this world who look at public figures as role models. Like it or not Mr. Carter is a role model. Even more so he is an influencer and whether right or wrong Jay-Z is the E.F. Hutton of our times. When he talks people listen.
It comes as no surprise that within minutes of its release lyrics from 4:44 were popping up as memes all over social media and rightfully so. For those of us who had grown weary of the glorification of making it rain in the strip club, Jay-Z saying having good credit was more important was a breath of fresh air. For those of us who had grown tired of seeing pictures of so called ballers on Instagram flashing Jewish bankrolls in their pictures as we scrolled through our feeds, Jay-Z saying holding a stack of money to your ear wasn’t considered real money was validation for what some of us have been saying all along-truly wealthy people do not advertise their wealth, nor do they brag about it in social settings.
But I digress. 4:44 which was entirely produced by hit maker extraordinaire No I.D., is an ode to a time when hip hop artists used their platform to edutain – a term made famous by the legendary KRS-One. For those of us who remember, when Raheim of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five rapped, “A child is born with no state of mind blind to the ways of mankind…” we were front and center in front of the radio belting the words out because they were talking about us and our experiences in the inner city. This album evokes the same feelings of acknowledgement. “The Story of O. J.,” the second track on the album is a sad but accurate depiction of how some people in America view black men. No I.D. sampled Nina Simone’s “Four Women” on this offering. Nina’s voice is heard floating over the instrumentals haunting the listener with reminders of a time when racism was less covert. The consensus being, it doesn’t matter how much wealth success or happiness you attain, in the eyes of some “You’re still a Ni–er”.
For women the title track is an acknowledgement of the pain that we go through trying to love a man who cannot or will not love us the way we deserve. For men it’s an acknowledgement of the fact that far too many of them didn’t grow up with examples of healthy, loving relationships which in turn left them void of the tools they need to sustain one.
Jay-Z touches on a few subjects that are usually swept under the rug in the Black community.
On “Smile” Jay-Z opens up about his relationships with his wife, Kanye, Solange (his sister-n-law who was caught on video assaulting Jay-Z in an elevator) , his mother’s sexuality and seeking therapy. His mom Gloria Carter evokes the spirit of Dr. Maya Angelou as she waxes poetic at the end of the song testifying that it is indeed okay to love who you love.
All in all listening to 4:44 is like listening to a musical version of your older uncle dropping jewels on the front porch of Big Mama’s house. The flow of the album, whether done intentionally or not, is punctuated by an Obamaesque mic drop after every song. There are no fade outs, no transitions, the songs just stop, letting you know that Jay-Z just said some ish worthy of a second listen.
When it’s all said and done, 4:44 will get the credit it deserves. After all, the production is tight and the lyrics are classic Jay-Z. For hardcore fans however, the album is so much more than that. For a person who has been hell bent on keeping his private life private, Jay-Z is very transparent about his personal life and that’s what makes this album so widely talked about and debated. For those of us who have followed Jay-Z’s career from the beginning, we see your growth Jay-Z and we like it. We like it very much.