I’m still bringing it up because there needs to be these types of discussions. All this leisurely hip-hopping is disgusting.
First and foremost: 4:44 IS a great album. And, Jay-Z is still the Best Rapper Alive.* Now, let me address the elephant in the room. I’m an old school hip-hop head (dare I say it, an old-head). I come from the era of the MC. I could elaborate further but if I need to, you probably wouldn’t understand. The newer hip-hop/rap, in my opinion, births rappers (and a culture of fans) with relatively shorter careers/lifespans and stunted growth/maturity. Not too many artists from the past eras (or even the current era) could drop an album after 40 (damn near 50) and still have as much of an impact and relevance as Jay did here. This album was just so appropriate. He didn’t try to fit in with the current wave of music. It would’ve felt forced and unnatural. If you’re 47 years old and have the same mindset as these current 20-something year old artists, (and sadly enough, some of the 30/40 something’s too…) after all you’ve seen and been through, then…
But then again, Jay HAS been talking about pretty much the same stuff since he came out. I think it would be fair to say that he’s been pretty consistent as far as his Robb Report aspirations and lifestyle goes. 4:44 has the same old Jay-Z talk, but there seems to be an honesty and maturity level to this album that I don’t see in other ‘commercial’ rapper’s albums now. I’m thinking of the Rick Rosses and the Young Jeezy’s, who still cling to the one foot in, one foot out of the streets and drug game tropes. These tropes fuel the negative stigmas and stereotypes that we are still struggling to escape today. To have an album from that former street dude that focuses on the Black family, and legacy and wealth in a responsible manner, at this junction of the ascendance of Black culture and consciousness is highly appropriate.
BUT it’s not a conscious album. Is it? And Jay-Z is not a conscious rapper; is he? We can get into all the Illuminati and occultic references. Or his apparently blasphemous assertions and his perceived allegiance to D’evils. That’s a whole other conversation (albeit a long important one). That is all VERY debatable, but I want to close out with an old ‘freestyle’ Jay-Z dropped on Funk Flex (Most Kingz/Grammy Family).
I tried to transcribe the verse (the lyrics are below the video for those who still like to read), but there are some spotty areas that I couldn’t decipher. If anyone has any corrections, let me know.
*Note – I can name about 20 MC’s who are better lyricists than Jay-Z too. By Best Rapper Alive, I’m taking into consideration about 15 other metrics that your favorite rapper lacks.