We want to believe that our favourite figures are superhuman and are without flaw. Even when they do show flaws, we force ourselves to accept them as noble gestures to show their true humility and compassion so that we still hold them in high regard. Now, everyone has their own politics when it comes to the way they conduct their lives, and it shouldn’t be dismissed that some of the most powerful people we have observed and idolized, are probably shitty human beings. A book that I’m currently reading is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson, and I highly recommend it. The fact that I’m reading this book at the time around this album came out, it’s a testament to the time period where Jay-Z is currently at in his life.
A portion of the book talks about how an individual can be exceptionally talented at one thing, but trash (for a lack of better terms) in other areas of their lives. The example that Jay-Z provides in this audio essay of his damn-near-50-year-old cerebrum is that he sucks at love, while still handing out notes to the listeners on how to be financially secure in their lives. He stated over 10 years ago that he was a business, man. There’s a balance in the persona that Hov shows in this piece that is much more personal that we’ve been exposed to in quite some time (I’ll go back as far as The Black Album or American Gangster). There’s a level of fucks to give that Hov showed off throughout his career that built the admiration from so many. His confidence, his storytelling, his bravado; it was a lot to digest, but fans were appreciative of his open-book testimonies from Marcy to the MoMA.
I know that the word ‘important’ when it comes to describing just about anything, has become a buzzword of sorts, but The Story of O.J. is an important piece of rap because, as Jay-Z stands at the forefront of the O.G MCs with the position of power that he’s in, him breaking down just what it means to have financial freedom and what it means for Black people as a whole whom have never experienced such a luxury, there’s a trickle down effect that can occur so that people can grow up and understand that there’s a different way to life that can be lived where it’s not just doom & gloom, but hopefulness and prosperity. Not many mediums can have such a connection through words like Rap does, and it may just inspire some people to take a look at their lives and readjust their situations. But, what I value about it, is that it’s not in a way where he’s saying that we have to do such and such, in a way where it’s looked at as responsibility politics. There should be an obligation to teach people ways in which they can learn to get themselves out of the mud.
I told him, “Please don’t die over the neighborhood
That your mama rentin’
Take your drug money and buy the neighborhood
That’s how you rinse it”
On the business side of things, Jay-Z is fully equipped with lessons on how to create opportunities that not many people will aspire to seek out. They jewels are there, but if you have no ambition or desire to use them to your own benefit, there’s no harm done. But, what is evident is that Jay wants his people to succeed, and you can go right to his verse on Murder & Excellence from Watch The Throne to hear that. He continues that narrative on Family Feud where he stresses that the old school and new school are still embodied under one umbrella, and that’s Hip Hop. Having just been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and acts like Run DMC, N.W.A, and Tupac being in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, there’s more to Hip Hop than the squabbling between who’s to be accepted or not. Yes, Rap is an ever evolving sound that can’t be rightly boxed in, but that’s not to say that there’s a right or wrong way to approach the music. Granted, there’s a lot of shit that’s just not for me, but I understand where they are appreciated. Rap is a young man’s game, so it’ll always be for the kids first and everyone else after.
But the business side of Jay-Z and the empowerment Black people is just one side of the story told in this time chamber, and where the truth reveals itself is right in the middle of the album. The title track, 4:44 will likely be one of the top 10-15 songs in his catalogue when it’s all said & done. Based on his age, his stature in Hip Hop, and who his wife is (I’m sure you’ve heard of her), the confession (or in this case, apology) of his infidelity is one that comes as a shock. Naturally because of what’s been shown on the surface. But like all things, good and bad, they tend to happen in 3s. There’s the elevator incident, then Lemonade, and now this. There was a significant amount of pressure that led to this point and for the “what else does he have to talk about crowd,” this is something worth discussing. I enjoy rap, because Rappers are supposed to be these larger-than-life humans telling illustrious and fascinating tales of their trials & tribulations, which also has stems of luxury attached. When they start to become vulnerable within their maturity and let their guards down to express their most intimate thoughts only known to a small collective of people, it strengthens to bond between artist and fan. I don’t tend to invest deeply into the lives of celebrities, because for the most part, it’s a great façade, but because of the power couple that Hov & Bey have been over the past decade and change, this was certainly a piece of work worth taking note in and seeing that just because he’s revered as the God MC, he’s still very much a mortal man.
“Look, I apologize, often womanize
Took for my child to be born
See through a woman’s eyes
Took for these natural twins to believe in miracles
Took me too long for this song
I don’t deserve you”
“I apologize ’cause at your best you are love
And because I fall short of what I say I’m all about
Your eyes leave with the soul that your body once housed
And you stare blankly into space
Thinkin’ of all the time you wasted in on all this basic shit
So I apologize”
This apology and confession of infidelity continued on Family Feud, and it was very interesting how he used references from The Godfather with Michael & Kay’s relationship. The loss of a baby; the disconnect in the relationship; the uncertainty of the loves continuation; there’s a lot that obviously wasn’t displayed on the surface level, but for such a powerful man like Jay to bring himself to this expressive admission of guilt, it may (or may not) bring in a newfound respect, because he’s no different than most men who have their own issues carrying out the most basic respect for women on a day to day basis, never mind if you’re Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.
Having seen the commentary online specifically focusing on Hov’s downfall of treating his wife right, it’s understandable, but it’s not the only theme of focus that should be addressed. He admits to his mother’s sexuality, how he treats his mental health by seeing a therapist (which is pretty much taboo in the Black community for whatever reason), and how he is looking at his life in a newer perspective knowing that he has 3 children he’ll leave behind and wants to solidify a firm Legacy in which they can plant their own roots from. Marcy Me is in the running for my favourite song on the album, because as a reflective person that I am, taking a stroll through memory lane can help one remain humble and appreciative of all that you’ve built for your name and others. We’ve known the stories throughout all the years, but at 47 years old, it’s the Denzel in Fences performance or Kobe’s last hurrah dropping 60 on the Utah Jazz in which we see Jay come to what certainly looks to be the last stretch of his rap career. Of course it’s still rather significantly early, but I have no doubts that this album will end up in the Top 5 or 3 in his catalogue, and that’s amazing considering many people didn’t feel like he still had it in him. Many people were proved wrong. As always, Mr. Carter, much appreciated for the words & the work. No I.D, you outdid yourself. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review,
That’s My Word & It STiXX