The only thing I can say about Jay Z’s new album is: wow. It’s quite powerful. And extremely relevant. What I find interesting is just how relevant it is to his own life. He’s speaking from the heart. Quite literally. Sure, he made some mistakes, but he’s owning up to them in a very public way. There were many rumours and speculation around the “Becky with the good hair” lyric from Beyoncé’s album Lemonade. Was it true? Who was Becky? Who would cheat on Beyoncé? Among others. Regardless of the answers to those questions, I really like the fact that Jay is giving his own account of the story. We did, after all, only get to hear one side. Note – this isn’t me saying I agree with what he did, just recognizing that there is more than one side to a story, and I think that all sides should be heard.
So let me start with the title track, 4:44. Incredible. It’s quite literally an apology for what he did. My assumption is that it’s specifically in reference to the above incident. But could there be more incident’s that he’s apologizing for? That’s maybe unclear or at least subjective, but his lyrics also indicate that it took the birth of Blue Ivy for him to see that he was doing wrong. “Look, I apologize, often womanize, Took for my child to be born to see through a woman’s eyes”. This is a very powerful lyric, but it’s also brutally honest. How many people have the courage to admit that they’ve done something wrong? Let alone in this grand and public way? This album has been super hyped, which just means more people will be listening and commenting on it.
But not only does Jay admit that he was wrong, he also acknowledges how he could have lost everything. Including his daughter. “‘You did what with who?’ What good is a ménage à trois when you have a soul mate? ‘You risked that for Blue?'” When I think about what the two of them went through, during all of this, it makes me wonder how other people react to infidelity. There seems to be an automatic reaction to leaving someone who cheats. I’m not saying that I agree or disagree, but I find it truly interesting. We paint everyone with the same brush and make assumptions about who that person is. Or their morals. But the truth is, we don’t know their situation. Should Beyoncé have left him? Maybe. Maybe not. She’s the only one who can answer that, and I think that’s what we’re hearing between 4:44 and Lemonade.
I also want to talk about Family Feud because I think it presents a dichotomy to 4:44. Why? In 4:44 Jay talks mostly about how he almost lost his family. But then Family Feud speaks to the idea of having a strong family bond. He specifically addresses the “Becky with the good hair” reference, while also distancing himself from her/it. The reason I say that these songs are a dichotomy is that while they contrast each other in terms of what is being said, they are oddly similar in that the underlying message is about Beyoncé and his family. He also makes an interesting reference to the Godfather. Implying that men that don’t spend time with their family’s, can’t be good fathers.
Beyoncé is featured in the song as well, with the line “Nobody wins when the family feuds”. There is an implication that their family is worth more to the both of them, than these situations. Maybe this is Beyoncé’s way (indirectly) of saying that she forgives him and they have to do what is best for themselves and their family. There’s also a reference to Al Sharpton’s selfies, which was just last week, I think? Which makes the song a bit funny. As does the Steve Harvey reference.
As you can see the album is almost like a rebuilding for the two of them. Lemonade gave Beyoncé the ability to be creative about the hurt she was feeling. And 4:44 gives us the whole story about what happened, and even a glimpse into why it happened. No one is perfect, including celebrities. They are human just like the rest of us and will make mistakes. Why I like this album so much is because of the fact that it comes as an apology and an explanation. I know myself, an apology only goes so far. I need to understand why something was done, or said, in order to be able to truly forgive the person. And I think that’s what Jay-Z is doing in this album.