— -- JAY-Z is coming clean on "4:44."
On the 10-track album, the rapper not only admits to infidelity in his marriage to Beyonce -- rapping "I don’t deserve you" on the album's title track -- but also reflects on the husband and father he hopes to be on songs like "Legacy."
The album features guest appearances by his wife, Beyonce, Damian Marley, Frank Ocean, The Dream, Kim Burrell and even his 5-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy.
It also samples Nina Simone’s “Four Women” and “Baltimore” along with The Fugees’ “Fu-Gee-La” and Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free.”
And although the album clocks in at nearly 40 minutes long, there's much to dissect in the lyrics by the rapper, who has changed his name from Jay Z without a hyphen to a stylized all caps with a hyphen. Here's a complete breakdown of the rapper's 13th solo album, completely produced by No I.D., by track.
The title of the first track on the album is a complete metaphor. The rapper explained to I Heart Radio that the song is "about killing off the ego." JAY-Z also talks about his relationship with celebrities, including his former best friend, Kanye West. He raps, "But if everybody's crazy then you're one that's insane." He also addresses his sister-in-law, Solange, and that headline-making elevator fight after the 2014 Met Gala. He raps that he was egging her on. "All you had to say you was wrong," he added, referring to himself.
"The Story of O.J."
JAY-Z uses the story of former football player O.J. Simpson as a way to talk about the highs and lows of success, especially as a black man in America. "O.J. like I'm not black, I'm O.J...OK," he raps unconvinced. The rapper, seemingly addressing young entrepreneurs, also talks about building financial wealth such as by buying property instead of blowing it in nightclubs.
This bluesy feel-good track simply reminds listeners to take a beat to smile. "Bad times turn to good memories/Smile/Even when I'm gone you'll remember me/Smile," he raps. JAY-Z also reveals that his mother Gloria Carter identifies as a lesbian. Still, he makes it clear to the listener just what he thinks about it. He raps, "Cried tears of joy when you fell in love/Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her."
"Caught Their Eyes"
JAY-Z explained to I Heart Radio that this song is about "just being aware of your surroundings." He points to a verse where he raps, "Your body language is all remedial, how could you see the difference between you and I?" He also addressed his streaming service Tidal being sued by Prince's estate after they claimed he streamed the late singer's catalog without permission. JAY-Z said: "I sat down with Prince eye to eye/ He told me his wishes before he died."
Many are calling the title track a response to his wife Beyonce's "Lemonade" album where she tells the painful story of a woman being cheated on. On this song, JAY-Z raps: "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." The rapper also said he was "emotionless" during their relationship before apologizing again.
JAY-Z is clearly addressing younger rappers on this song, saying he doesn't understand the new rap culture. "You rather be old rich me or new you," he raps. "Nobody wins when the family feuds." He also addresses the lack of black leaders, pointing to shamed comedian Bill Cosby and Al Sharpton.
Back on his typical Hov talk, JAY-Z collaborated with Damian Marley on this bass-heavy track. It seems that the rapper is reminding himself that despite his missteps and transgressions, he's still the man. "F--- all this Shawn Carter s---," he says, referencing his birth name. "Sometimes you need your ego/Gotta remind these fools," he adds on this track.
Even JAY-Z was inspired by this year's Oscars when the best picture announcement was flubbed. On the hook, JAY-Z raps: "We stuck in La La Land/Even if when we win, we gonna lose." The rapper is commenting on the music industry for hip-hop artists, saying that it needs to progress further. He questions aloud why younger artists are "still signing deals" when record labels often "run off with your masters."
This track is clearly an ode to Brooklyn and the Marcy Projects, where JAY-Z grew up and which he often raps about. "I'm from Marcy Houses/Where the boys die by the thousands," he raps, before adding, "Yeah, that's where it all started."
If you had any question just where JAY-Z's head was, he makes it clear on the final song on "4:44." His daughter, Blue Ivy, helps on this track that talks about his desire to create generational wealth from his success, rapping, "that's the key." Jay-Z adds that if he could make this happen, it would be a first for his family. "Black excellence, baby, let them see," he raps.