Jay-Z recently dropped his 13th studio album and it’s ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!
Using the same tactics as his wife, Jay Z has released his album through various Tidal promotions to drive up sales. In an effort to increase brand awareness and live streaming, Tidal is offering an exclusive service to VIP Footlocker members and current Sprint customers. Customers have free access to Tidal for six months to increase the album.
However, if you did not own a Tidal account before the album dropped, or if you are not a Sprint customer, you will not be able to obtain the album.
Missing out on the sign-up date means you miss out on Jay speaking on his past, present, and his children’s future. It’s important to also keep in mind there’s a lot of samples on this album.
Since the samples chosen are very specific to the sound and message to each song, the title of each sample will also be named below. Being knowledgeable about the sampled tracks will make for a better listening experience.
Now, let’s hop into this song-by-song review!
Jay-Z is talking about himself in this track as he succeeds in amplifying a deeper essence.
As he looks in the mirror of his past, Jay wants to change some things about himself starting with big topics that still haunt him more than a decade later.
For instance, he brings up selling drugs to his family members. Acts like this made him feel as though he had done an infinite amount of damage in his lifetime. Speaking on history through his music has allowed him to engage and influence his audience through the years.
Sampled Tracks include: The Alan Parsons Project – “Don’t Let It Show”
The Story of OJ
It seems as if this song is the leading single, even though there’s an actual song called 4:44.
It’s no secret Jay-Z dislikes the way black people are living their lives, therefore he passes on his knowledge on investing through the Story of OJ. Instead of throwing money in the strip club, Jay wants people to gain better things such as credit. His witty play on words coordinated a great message for the black community.
While interpreting the words, the message translates that you can be any person of color person in this society, but at the end of the day you’re still going to deal with the everyday struggles a black person has.
Sampled Tracks include: Nina Simone – “Four Women” and Kool & The Gang – “Kool’s Back Again”
Smile (ft. Gloria Carter)
In this song, Jay discusses his past growing up with a mother who had multiple problems society scorned.
He expresses her habitual abuse of drugs her taboo sexual nature at the time. His eloquent words portrayed the lemons he used to make his life lemonade.
Smile was a great title for the song and listening to it will make you do just that. It has a joyful feeling to it, because at the end of the day, there will always be something to smile about.
The depiction of his life story breeds a powerful message to all listeners.
Sampled Tracks include: Stevie Wonder – “Love’s in Need of Some Love Today”
Caught Their Eyes (ft. Frank Ocean)
Vibes from this song are organic and island like. It has a very subtle sample that mixes in well with Frank Ocean’s vocals. Nonetheless, this song has some messages, but not as strong and consistent as the other songs on this album.
Sampled Tracks include: Nina Simone – “Baltimore”
This is the titled track of the album and holds worthy to it. Primarily, it discusses everything that Jay has brought up on the album.
He starts with his newly born twins, his relationship with Beyoncé, and much more. A statement about this song was released from Jay saying he woke up at 4:44am to write this record.
4:44 lets us know that real rap is still alive. Jay-Z shy’s away from the typical rap flows of today and experiments with this sample like no one else.
Sampled Tracks include: Hannah Williams and the Affirmations – “Late Nights and Heart Breaks”
The title references the family feuds going on within today’s rap game. A song like this is well over due since old school rappers and new school rappers are openly criticizing the generational disparities. (Hint: Joe Budden’s recent beef with Lil Yachty and the Migos.)
When listening to the song, you hear a neutral vibe coming from Jay-Z as he wants to mend the broken bridge. He explains that if old school rappers uplift younger rappers, they will be more millionaires in the rap community.
However, it’s important to also note that new school rappers are not let off the hook either. He briefly describes how old school rappers paved the way for new rappers.
Later in the track, Jay starts to talk about a REAL-LIFE family feud. “Becky with the good hair” as referenced from Beyoncé’s album Lemonade.
After a year of waiting, he publicly admits that he in fact cheated on Beyoncé. Small details are given on how the affair effected the marriage through a lot of word play mentioning “Becky.”
We can also hear some Beyoncé vocals in the song to let you know that all is well.
Sampled Tracks Include: The Clark Sisters – “Ha Ya (Eternal Life)”
Bam (ft. Damian Marley)
A Jamaican 90s vibe is in the air when hear this song. Listeners will be intrigued by the mobster-esque persona Jay utilizes to tell his story. Everyone has been posting pictures of themselves with illegal things and Jay is tired of it. Back then social media was not prominent, but now it is everywhere! There is a lack of privacy in everyone’s life due to social media. In Magna Carta Holy Grail, there was a similar message conveyed in the “SomewhereInAmerica”. It is apparent Jay-Z does not like social media.
The chorus also displays that message as Damien Marley says,
“Too much watchy, watchy, watchy
Too much su, su, su, su, su
Them chatty, chatty, chatty
Them su, su, su, su, su”.
Sampled Tracks Include: Sister Nancy – “Bam Bam and Jacob Miller – “Tenement’s Yard”
Jay takes a shot at society one last time but in the best approach possible. The flow of this song is very content. The beat rips and raves as he starts off the first verse rapping like a “new rapper”, then quickly says “yea right”. It is Jay-Z’s first foot forward to getting the rap game back on track. The current rap game has similar flows, like the same girls, and wear the same brands. Back then, everyone strived to differentiate from one another, however as the times changed so have artists and audiences.
(I personally don’t think the rap game is “terrible” now, but I do understand where Jay is coming from. Now it seems like everyone is scared of one another. Nobody wants to try new things because they are afraid of the reactions they’ll receive from critiques and their listeners. Rap sounds are undeniably alike and without time is being crafted to make actual content)
Financial problems have always been a problems for the rap industry and it does not seem like anyone is learning from the past mistakes of their antecessor. Jay gives more financial advise about investing instead of spending. Lauryn Hill’s record deal, that caused her financial trouble, is a reference Jay uses to help listeners understand financial mishaps (or manipulation) .
Sampled Tracks Include: The Fugees – “Fu-Gee-La”
Quarteto 1111’s “Todo O Mundo E Ninguém”
Blue, Jay’s daughter, starts the song off asking her father what a “will” is. It is no secret that Jay and Bey have an enormous fortune. “Legacy” addresses the different ways Blue can maintain the fortune in the future. In the process of preparing for his daughters future, the listener can learn a thing a two about financing. Black excellence and change are the two things he wants his daughter to carry out with in legacy.
Sampled Track Include: Donny Hathaway – “Someday We’ll All Be Free”
Even though Jay Z is the richest in the rap game you can tell he still wants more for himself. Jay’s mindset has progressed as he’s moved away from rapping about street life. He talks about what is going around in society and what he’d like to see change.
I hope people will get the real message of his album which expands beyond his relationship with. Of course, he brings up his relationship, who wouldn’t? It is important that the black community cultivates a culture of accountability for each other and invest in ourselves.