4:44 (album)

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4:44
A peach background with "4:44" in a large black typeface at the bottom and "THIS IS HIS 13TH STUDIO ALBUM" at the top much smaller
Studio album by Jay-Z
Released June 30, 2017 (2017-06-30)
Recorded December 2016 – June 2017
Studio No I.D.'s studio, Hollywood
Genre
Length 36:11
Label
Producer
Jay-Z chronology
Magna Carta Holy Grail
(2013)
4:44
(2017)
Everything Is Love
(2018)
Singles from 4:44
  1. "4:44"
    Released: July 11, 2017
  2. "Bam"
    Released: September 26, 2017
  3. "Family Feud"
    Released: January 26, 2018

4:44 is the thirteenth studio album by American rapper Jay-Z. It was released on June 30, 2017 through Roc Nation as an exclusive to Sprint and Tidal customers. The album is the first in a planned series of music exclusives from the Sprint–Tidal partnership. For a short time, on July 2, the album was made available for free digital download in Tidal's site. A physical edition was released on July 7, including three additional tracks. On the same day, the album was made available to other streaming platforms, such as Apple Music, Google Play Music and Amazon Music.

Like Jay-Z's previous album, Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013), 4:44 was not preceded by any singles. The album was recorded from December 2016 to June 2017, and produced by No I.D., with additional contributions by Jay-Z himself. James Blake and Dominic Maker also contributed production to the album's bonus tracks. It features guest appearances from Frank Ocean, Damian Marley, Beyoncé and Jay-Z's mother, Gloria Carter. It also has additional vocal contributions from Blue Ivy Carter, James Fauntleroy, Kim Burrell and The-Dream.

The album received widespread acclaim from critics, who praised its emotional and personal content. On July 5, the album was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), in recognition of one million copies purchased by Sprint and offered to consumers as free downloads.[1] It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, making it Jay-Z's 13th consecutive studio album to top the chart, and 14th overall. The album spawned three singles, the title track "4:44", "Bam" and "Family Feud", as well as several music videos, directed by a variety of high-profile collaborators. The album received a Grammy Award nomination for Album of the Year, while the title track was nominated for Song of the Year and "The Story of O.J." was nominated for Record of the Year at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards.[2]

Background[edit]

In April 2016, Jay-Z's wife Beyoncé released her sixth studio album, Lemonade. Lyrically, it alleged that Jay-Z was unfaithful.[3]

In June 2017, 4:44 was teased after posters were displayed in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami as well as banner ads started appearing on the Internet.[4][5][6] A one-minute teaser ad was aired during the NBA Finals on June 7 featuring actors Mahershala Ali, Lupita Nyong'o and Danny Glover, ending with "4:44 – 6.30.17, Exclusively on Tidal".[7]

On June 18, Father's Day, a clip titled "Adnis" was posted on Sprint's YouTube page.[8] Adnis was Jay-Z's father's name.[9] A second teaser trailer was released on June 27 titled, "Kill Jay Z", featuring a young man with a "Stay Black" T-shirt.[10] A third one followed on June 28, titled "MaNyfaCedGod", featuring Lupita Nyong'o crying "hysterically" on the floor.[10]

Production and recording[edit]

No I.D. says Jay-Z approached him about working together, and initially declined.[11] He cited feeling "uninspired" and "didn't think [he] had anything at the time". However, he researched Quincy Jones as inspiration to begin work with Jay-Z. No I.D. states he "began to play the samples like I would play an instrument." To get inspiration for 4:44, No I.D. pointed to albums such as What's Going On by Marvin Gaye, Confessions by Usher, The Blueprint by Jay-Z, Illmatic by Nas, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West, saying he "analyzed the mistakes and tried not to make those mistakes."[11]

The album was largely recorded in No I.D.'s home studio in Hollywood.[12] Its recording began in late December 2016, according to No I.D.[12] It was finished shortly before the album's release.[13] "4:44" was written when Jay-Z woke up one morning at 4:44 am,[14] and recorded at his house using Beyoncé's microphone.[11]

Composition[edit]

4:44 is a hip hop[15] and conscious hip hop[16][17] album. It contains samples from many genres, like funk, progressive rock, reggae and soul.[18] These include Stevie Wonder's "Love's in Need of Love Today", The Clark Sisters's "Ha Ya (Eternal Life)",[19] Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free", and Nina Simone's "Four Women" and "Baltimore".[20] Elia Leight of Rolling Stone notes 4:44 is "sample-heavy at a time when so much of rap has moved away from that sound".[11] Jay-Z and No I.D. created a playlist based on Jay-Z's taste, and sampled some songs of it in the album.[21][12] Later, Jay-Z posted the playlist, titled 4:44 Inspired By, on Tidal.[22]

Theme and lyrics[edit]

On the album, Jay-Z touches on a wide array of topics, such as the ongoing hip hop culture, his family life, his relationships, stereotypes and racism.[23][24][25] Many critics have noted that 4:44 is a response to Lemonade, with Jay-Z referencing lines from the album.[26][27][28] For example, the "You better call Becky with the good hair" line on Beyoncé's "Sorry", with Jay-Z retorting, "Leave me alone, Becky" in "Family Feud".[3][29][30] However, No I.D. said that to make the entire album a response to Lemonade was not the intention. Instead, Jay-Z wanted to focus on an album "where I talk about the things that I've never talked about".[31]

"Kill Jay Z" is about "killing" his ego Jay Z (without hyphen), featured in his previous album Magna Carta Holy Grail.[25] The song references his friendship with Kanye West,[32][33] as well as an incident in which he shot his brother. He also references his rumored extramarital relationships.[25] "The Story of O.J." references racism, stereotypes and the experience of being a black person in America.[34] "Smile" discusses his mother being a lesbian,[14][35][36] while featuring a poem from her. "Caught Their Eyes" references Prince; before his death, Prince befriended Jay-Z, giving exclusive streaming rights for his catalog to Tidal.[25] "4:44", the album's title track, is "one long, tearful, soul-ripped-open apology" dedicated to Beyoncé.[14]

"Family Feud" is about a "separation within the culture" and "tensions in the black community and at home".[25] The track also references his infidelity.[30] The "reggae-tinged" song "Bam" features Damian Marley's vocals, with a four-piece horn section and guitar.[25] Jay-Z said about the track: "it's just jammin', it's just like the song. But it's secretly Shawn Carter saying, 'Man, you need a bit of ego.'"[37] "Moonlight" references two films nominated to the 2017 Oscars for Best Picture, Moonlight and La La Land, as a "commentary on the culture and where we're going".[25]

Promotion[edit]

Singles[edit]

The album's title track, "4:44", was released as the lead single to rhythmic contemporary radio on July 11, 2017.[38]

The song from the album, "Bam", was released as the second single to rhythmic contemporary radio on September 26, 2017.[39][40]

The song "Family Feud" was released to British contemporary hit radio on January 26, 2018 as the album's third single.[41]

Tour[edit]

On July 10, Jay-Z announced the 32-date North American 4:44 Tour beginning on October 27 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The tour concluded on December 21 at The Forum in Inglewood.[42]

Music videos[edit]

Music videos were released for every song on the album except "Caught Their Eyes". An animated music video for "The Story of O.J." was uploaded on Tidal soon after the album's release.[43] The video was directed by Mark Romanek and Jay-Z and shows a character named Jaybo, based off The Story of Little Black Sambo.[44] This was followed weekly by "4:44" directed by TNEG,[45] "Bam" directed by Rohan Blair-Mangat,[46] "Kill Jay Z" directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz,[47] "Adnis" directed by Romanek,[48] "Moonlight" directed by Alan Yang,[49] and "MaNyfaCedGod" directed by Francesco Carrozzini.[50] On November 24, three further videos were released: "Legacy" directed by Jeymes Samuel, "Smile" directed by Miles Jay and "Marcy Me" directed by Ben and Joshua Safdie.[51] On December 29, a video for "Family Feud" was released, directed by Ava DuVernay and scored by Flying Lotus,[52] followed on January 7, 2018 by "Blue's Freestyle", directed by Maurice Taylor of Artlife Studios.[53]

Release[edit]

Jay-Z held listening parties for the album at participating Sprint stores on June 29, 2017.[54] 4:44 was released as an exclusive to Tidal and Sprint subscribers on June 30, the first in a planned series of music exclusives from the Sprint–Tidal partnership.[55][56] Through an iHeartRadio and Roc Nation partnership, 4:44 was played on a loop on various rap stations until July 1.[31] Jay-Z provided song commentary via iHeartRadio upon the album's release.[57] On July 7, a physical version of the album featuring three additional tracks was released,[11][58] and the album was made available to other streaming platforms, such as Apple Music, Google Play Music and Amazon Music.[59]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?7.8/10[60]
Metacritic82/100[61]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[18]
The A.V. ClubA−[62]
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[63]
The Guardian3/5 stars[64]
NME4/5 stars[65]
The Observer4/5 stars[66]
Pitchfork8.4/10[26]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[67]
The Times4/5 stars[68]
ViceA−[69]

4:44 received widespread acclaim from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 82, based on 29 reviews.[61] Many critics praised its emotional and personal content.[63][70][71] Neil McCormik of The Daily Telegraph gave the album a perfect score, stating "It's a highly personal work bravely opening up the artist's very human flaws as an example to others, locating in his own suffering a path towards forgiveness, redemption and, ultimately, a better world. There is little braver than admitting your mistakes and trying to change your ways. By embracing vulnerability, Jay Z has taken a step towards genuine wisdom."[63]

Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone called the album "a stunning, raw and mature apology that's as much an ode to partnership and family as it is an example of how vulnerability can make for truly excellent art." Spanos states "4:44" is "the most specific and touching" song on the album.[72] 4:44 was named "Best New Music" by Pitchfork, with reviewer Sheldon Pearce writing, "The most crafty and evasive MC lays bare his complicated life. This late-career gem is personal and diamond-sharp, confronting the failings and legacy of Shawn Carter and America."[26] He also calls the album a "historical artifact".[26]

Accolades[edit]

Publication List Rank Ref.
Artist Direct 2017 Top 10 Albums of the Year
5
Associated Press The 10 Albums of the Year
4
The Atlantic The 10 Best Albums of 2017
10
Billboard The 50 Best Albums of 2017
4
Complex The Best Albums of 2017
2
Consequence of Sound Top 50 Albums of 2017
25
Cult MTL's Mr. Wavvy Best Albums of 2017
4
Entertainment Weekly The 25 Best Albums of 2017
13
Esquire The Best Albums of 2017
3
Exclaim Exclaim!'s Top 10 Hip-Hop Albums of 2017
3
Fuse The 20 Best Albums of 2017
3
The Independent The 30 Best Albums of 2017
15
Newsday Best Albums of 2017
2
Newsweek The 17 Best Albums of 2017
5
NME NME's Albums of the Year 2017
3
NPR The 50 Best Albums of 2017
11
People People Picks The 10 Best Albums of 2017
5
Pitchfork The 50 Best Albums of 2017
13
Rap-Up Rap-Up's 20 Best Albums of 2017
2
The Ringer The Best Albums of 2017
1
Rolling Stone 50 Best Albums of 2017
12
Slant Magazine The 25 Best Albums of 2017
5
Stereogum 50 Best Albums of 2017
50
Uproxx All The Best Albums of 2017
7
Vinyl Me, Please The 30 Best Albums of 2017
27

Commercial performance[edit]

4:44 debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with 262,000 album-equivalent units, of which 174,000 were pure album sales.[98] It is Jay-Z's 14th number one album to debut and peak atop the chart.[98] The album was a Tidal exclusive for the 1st week and the streaming numbers on Tidal were not reported. During this period, it was reported that mobile company Sprint, a major share-holder in Tidal,[99] had bought a million copies of 4:44 and provided subscribers free downloads of the album.[99] By the end of 2017, the album had accumulated 639,000 album-equivalent units in the United States, with 399,000 being pure sales, not including the 1,000,000 given away.[100]

Track listing[edit]

Credits adapted from digital booklet.[20]

No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."Kill Jay Z"No I.D.2:58
2."The Story of O.J."
3:52
3."Smile" (featuring Gloria Carter)
  • No I.D.
  • Jay-Z[a]
4:49
4."Caught Their Eyes" (featuring Frank Ocean)
  • No I.D.
  • Jay-Z[a]
3:26
5."4:44"
  • Carter
  • Wilson
  • Kanan Keeney
No I.D.4:44
6."Family Feud" (featuring Beyoncé)No I.D.4:11
7."Bam" (featuring Damian Marley)No I.D.3:55
8."Moonlight"
  • No I.D.
  • Jay-Z[a]
2:24
9."Marcy Me"
No I.D.2:54
10."Legacy"
  • No I.D.
  • Jay-Z[a]
2:57
Total length:36:11
CD and Tidal bonus tracks
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
11."Adnis"
  • Blake
  • No I.D.[b]
2:26
12."Blue's Freestyle / We Family" (featuring Blue Ivy Carter)
  • No I.D.
  • Jay-Z[a]
4:23
13."MaNyfaCedGod" (featuring James Blake)
  • Blake
  • Maker
  • No I.D.[b]
3:18
Total length:46:18

Notes

  • ^[a] signifies a co-producer
  • ^[b] signifies an additional producer
  • “Family Feud” originally didn’t feature credited vocals by Beyoncé
  • "4:44" features additional vocals by Kim Burrell
  • "Marcy Me" features additional vocals by The-Dream
  • "Legacy" features additional vocals by Blue Ivy Carter and James Fauntleroy

Sample credits[20]

Personnel[edit]

Adapted from digital booklet.[20]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[128] 2x Platinum 2,000,000 Expression error: Missing operand for *.double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

  • By July 2, the album was offered as a free download, sponsored by Sprint, via the website 444.tidal.com.[129][130] Those album downloads—which were free to the consumer but purchased by Sprint for distribution—were counted by the RIAA towards the Platinum certification. Roc Nation told Billboard that the certification reflects those 1 million downloads, and no streams were applied towards the certification.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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