Saturday, 12 August 2017

Jay-Z "4:44" (2017)


As it says on the album cover, this is billionaire rapper Jay-Z's thirteenth studio album. Originally released as a Tidal exclusive, the album went platinum swiftly no thanks to business deal resulting in a bulk purchase to push it over the edge. This put me off giving the record a try, that and the play duration which is just thirty six minutes, significantly shorter for a rapper from the compact disc generation, usually filling the CD to the brim with cuts. Impressions are just that, from the opening track "Kill Jay-Z" you realize your in for an introspective journey. With the arrival of his twins, Jay is has a lot of reflecting to do on the lifestyle of his past and many of the decisions he now finds questionable. Its packaged as a collection of raw thoughts, rapped to his former self as he closes the door on that chapter, an interesting window into the life and mind of the self made man.

For me, Jay-Z has always been a tough nut to crack. His debut is a classic and The Blueprint too but beyond two projects he has never really dazzled me with his raps or production style. On this record the lyrical content has a real pull as he lays out his internal feelings openly at an interesting point in his career, cruising beyond his peak of his success yet still striving for more as a businessman. He shares his motivations about leaving his wealth to his family and future generation, while talking about the sins of his father who shamed their family name. In another track he touches on his past and unfaithful behavior, questing what his daughters will think if and when they find out. The openness is quite the endearing quality for this record and it spans several tracks. One of which, "Moonlight" has Jay-Z poking fun at modern rappers with the "skrt skrt" and "trill" slang, saying they all sound alike.

Behind it soft, soulful, jazzy, mood setting, yet rather tame instrumentals appease the stage for the raps to take the main focus. Sample driven, with many pitch shifting loop manipulations, the style is far from edgy and natural progression for a 90s rapper. It attempts new tricks with the old techniques and for the most part is solid, laying down coherent tunes that line up with toned down, tame drum beats, making it an accessible experience for the average listener. 4:44 is a fine record with little to falter yet doesn't do much to dazzle beyond its subject matter solidifying an interesting point in his life, its a reasonable effort, its charm is in its honesty.

Rating: 6/10

2 comments:

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