When JAY-Z decided to stylize his stage name with the hyphen again, fans knew they were in for an unforgettable encounter with his thirteenth solo studio album, 4:44, on Friday (June 30).
The project, produced solely by No I.D., spans 10 tracks of unabashed honesty, forward-thinking, and building wealth that'll last for his future kin. An animated short reel for one of the standout songs, "The Story Of O.J.," also debuted on Mr. Carter's TIDAL outlet, which samples Nina Simone's powerful "Four Women" melody and black-and-white images that depict the history of black people in America.
"The Story of O.J" video is just simple and flawless and powerful. Watch it immediately. pic.twitter.com/DUvgQP9aC1
— 🔪FADIA KADER (@FADIA) June 30, 2017
To share the thought-process behind each track, the father of three chatted with iHeartRadio's The Beat in tandem with the album's release. As for the title track, the man who hails from the city that never sleeps says he woke up exactly at 4:44 a.m. and began to write the "crux of the album."
"It's the title track because it's such a powerful song, and I just believe one of the best songs I've ever written," he added.
Read the rest of Jay's synopsis on each song below and listen to the album on TIDAL
"The first song is called 'Kill JAY-Z' and obviously, it's not to be taken literal. It's really about the ego. It's about killing off the ego, so we can have this conversation in a place of vulnerability and honesty."
"The Story of OJ"
"'The Story of OJ' is really a song about we as a culture, having a plan, how we're gonna push this forward. We all make money, and then we all lose money, as artists especially. But how, when you have some type of success, to transform that into something bigger."
"'Smile' is just what it is. There are gonna be bad times, and those bad times can do two things: they can get you in a place where you're stuck in a rut, or it can make your future that much better because you've experienced these things."
"Caught The Eye"
"'Caught The Eye' is a song that's dealing with just being aware of your surroundings. There's a line in it, and it says, 'Your body language is all remedial, how could you see the difference between you and I?' Just being so sharp about your surroundings."
"'4:44' is a song that I wrote, and it's the crux of the album, just right in the middle of the album. And I woke up, literally, at 4:44 in the morning, 4:44 AM, to write this song. So it became the title of the album and everything. It's the title track because it's such a powerful song, and I just believe one of the best songs I've ever written."
"'Family Feud' is about separation within the culture. Like, new rappers fighting with old rappers, saying all these things. So, the line is, 'Nobody wins when the family feuds.'"
"The song 'Bam' with Damian Marley, it's just jammin', it's just like the song. But it's secretly Shawn Carter saying, 'Man, you need a bit of ego.' It was because of me and the things that I've done, this is JAY-Z saying you needed a bit of ego for us to arrive at this point."
"The hook is 'We stuck in La La Land/Even if we win, we gonna lose.' It's like a subtle nod to La La Land winning the Oscar, and then having to give it to Moonlight. It's really a commentary on the culture and where we're going."
"'Marcy Me' is a nostalgic walk through Marcy, and it's about that hopefulness, that feeling of 'Man, can I really do this? Can I really be one of the biggest artists in the world?' You have these dreams, 'Can I be one of the biggest basketball players?' We have these dreams."
"The song is just about what it is, it's like a verbal will. Just a song about speaking to my daughter. She starts the song off, and she says 'Daddy, what's a will?'"