Black Women Are The Catalyst For Jay-Z’s Growth On 4:44

June 30, 2017  |  
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Last night, I was falling asleep to a movie when my sister announced that Jay-Z’s album 4:44 had dropped. Like I said, I was half sleep but even if I weren’t such news likely wouldn’t make me jump up and listen immediately. One, sleep is very important to me. And two, while I will always argue that me and my sisters’ lives were enriched when our father found The Black Album outside in the grass while he was walking our late dog, everything else from him since then hasn’t had the same effect on me.

But about an hour later, I hear like these repetitious, siren-like, almost wailing vocals. Even in my sleep, I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Who was hurt?

Still, I woke up slowly. I might have even drifted back to sleep. But then I started hearing lyrics in REM. And I asked myself, “Jay-Z’s mom is a lesbian?”

Huh?

That was it. I shot off the floor (y’all I was sleeping on the floor) and asked my sister what was I hearing.

Her eyes got big, she shook her head from side to side and her only verbal response was “Girl.”

And in that moment, I knew that for at least the third time, in the past five years, one half of the Carter couple had changed the game…again.

Today, perhaps you’ll read a lot of headlines about Jay-Z spilling tea. And that’s certainly one way to look at it.

There is a lot of juicy information but more importantly, the album is about growth and development, from a man who has consistently– and is still referring to himself as the “god MC.” It’s an album about feuding within the Black family, within the Black community. It’s about support of Black business and a reminder to spend our money wisely, like wisely enough to actually be able to leave something to our children. It’s aspirational and inspirational for all of us to say the least.

But most importantly, to me, 4:44  edifies, apologizes to, acknowledges and uplifts Black women in a way we don’t often see in Hip Hop.

I tweeted last night.

We’ll discuss the role of Black women in various songs on the following pages.

Jay-Z

Image via WENN

Kill Jay-Z

Jay-Z sat down with iHeart Radio and offered brief explanations to all the songs. And for this one, he says, ” 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.”He mentions his daughter first.

And you know better, nigga, I know you do
But you gotta do better, boy, you owe it to Blue
You had no father, you had the armor
But you got a daughter, gotta get softer
Die JAY-Z, this ain’t back in the days
You don’t need an alibi, JAY-Z
Cry JAY-Z, we know the pain is real
But you can’t heal what you never reveal

Solange

Solange

That read like more than enough. But he went even deeper.

You egged Solange on
Knowin’ all along, all you had to say you was wrong

At this point, if you follow either Solange or Beyoncé on Instagram, you could see that the three have come to some type of resolution. But chile, the way n*ggas was calling Solange crazy, like insane for defending her sister, this public acknowledgment is much needed.

Ciara

I don’t even know what you woulda done
In the future, other niggas playin’ football with your son
You had lost it

Somebody give Ciara a high five. I don’t know if this was his intention, but I know I certainly took this as a jab to all the Black men on Twitter who tried their damnedest to shame Ciara for moving on with her life and allowing her new man to get to know her son. These are the same men who had absolutely nothing to say when Future’s own womanizing caused his relationship with yet another one of his baby mommas to end. This time, shortly after their son was born. This is the potential price of being out here when you’re supposed to be in a committed relationship.

Beyonce pregnancy

Image via WENN

Beyoncé

You almost went Eric Benét
Let the baddest girl in the world get away
I don’t even know what else to say
Nigga, never go Eric Benét

Guffaw, y’all. If this ain’t updated and accurate! Just don’t do it. The lyric was made even more iconic not only when Eric Benet started trending on Twitter, but when he took time to respond to it.

Has Your Opinion Of The O.J. Simpson Case Changed Since 1995

Source: AP Images

Image via AP Images

The Story of O.J.

This is not so much women as it is about the community, the trivial things that are important to us, the way we spend our money on products that don’t uplift the community. But it is important to note that several of the features on this album are women. And for this one it’s Nina Simone. Not only do her vocals, a sample from “Four Women” (peep that!), a cartoon in her likeness is also featured in the animated video accompanying the song. Gotta have to Tidal to watch it.

Image via WENN

Smile

What I was hearing in my sleep about Jay-Z’s mom being a lesbian was correct. And in the song “Smile” we learn about the ways in which regal-voiced Gloria Carter sacrificed herself and the fullness of her identity.

Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian
Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian
Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate
Society shame and the pain was too much to take
Cried tears of joy when you fell in love
Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her
I just wanna see you smile through all the hate
Marie Antoinette, baby, let ’em eat cake

The song ends with an outro from Gloria Carter herself.

Living in the shadow
Can you imagine what kind of life it is to live?
In the shadows people see you as happy and free
Because that’s what you want them to see
Living two lives, happy, but not free
You live in the shadows for fear of someone hurting your family or the person you love
The world is changing and they say it’s time to be free
But you live with the fear of just being me
Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be
No harm for them, no harm for me
But life is short, and it’s time to be free
Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed
Smile

Beyonce and Jay Z

Splash

Image via Splash 

4:44

This is the wailing I was hearing in my sleep. And it makes sense because this song deals with pain. In his interview with iHeart, Jay-Z says: ‘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.”

And this ladies and gentlemen is what we’ve been waiting for. Like, “The O.J. Story,” this one also starts off with a female vocalist. It’s interesting to note that now that we know Jay-Z’s mom is gay, Kim Burrell, who has been ghost since her hate-fueled comments, provides background vocals for the track.

Elsewhere, there are also vocals from Hannah Williams.

The whole song is an apology, a reckoning of wrongs done. Which is why people are calling it the response to Lemonade. It’s a fair assessment. Since every single word is of importance, I’ll share all three verses below.

Personally, I’m thankful for it. Shortly after Lemonade was released, Jay-Z had a verse on DJ Khaled song that said, “You know you made it when the fact/Your marriage made it is worth millions/Lemonade is a popular drink and it still is…”

I heard it and I thought, that’s how you’re going to respond? It wasn’t enough. “4:44” gives the real, spills that tea that people are talking about. But again, represents the growth and the maturity it takes to publicly acknowledge your wrongs when your private business has become public.

Do I find it so hard
When I know in my heart
I’m letting you down everyday
Letting you down everyday
Why do I keep on running away?

[Verse 1: JAY-Z]
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 harass you out in Paris
Please come back to Rome, you make it home
We talked for hours when you were on tour
Please pick up the phone, pick up the phone
Said: “Don’t embarrass me,” instead of “Be mine”
That was my proposal for us to go steady
That was your 21st birthday, you mature faster than me
I wasn’t ready, so I apologize
I’ve seen the innocence leave your eyes
I still mourn this death, I apologize for all the stillborns
‘Cause I wasn’t present, your body wouldn’t accept it
I apologize to all the woman whom I
Toyed with you emotions because I was emotionless
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

[Chorus: Hannah Williams]
I’m never gonna treat you
Never gonna treat you like I should

[Verse 2: JAY-Z]
I apologize, our love was one for the ages and I contained us
And all this ratchet shit and we more expansive now
Meant to cry and die alone in these mansions
Or sleep with our back turned
We’re supposed to vacay ’til our backs burn
We’re supposed to laugh ’til our hearts stops
And then we end a space with a dark stop
And let love light the way
Like the men before me, I cut off my nose to spite my face
I never wanted another woman to know
Something about me that you didn’t know
I promised, I cried, I couldn’t hold
I suck at love, I think I need a do-over
I will be emotionally available if I invited you over
I stew over what if you over my shit?

[Chorus: Hannah Williams]
I’m never gonna treat you
Never gonna treat you like I should

[Verse 3: JAY-Z]
And if my children knew, I don’t even know what I would do
If they ain’t look at me the same
I would prob’ly die with all the shame
“You did what with who?”
What good is a ménage à trois when you have a soulmate?
“You risked that for Blue?”
If I wasn’t a superhero in your face
My heart breaks for the day I had to explain my mistakes
And the mask goes away and Santa Claus is fake
And you go online and see
For Blue’s tooth, the tooth fairy didn’t pay
In-credible.

Family Feud

This is my absolute favorite song on the album. And it just so happens to feature vocals from The Clark Sisters’ “Ha Ya”. Y’all know The Clark Sisters vocals are unparalleled. So I encourage you to listen. But back to Jay-Z’s lyrics.

Yeah, I’ll f*ck up a good thing if you let me
Let me alone, Becky
A man that don’t take care his family can’t be rich
I’ll watch Godfather, I miss that whole shit
My consciousness was Michael’s common sense
I missed the karma and that came as a consequence
Niggas bustin’ off through the curtains ’cause she hurtin’
Can’t losin’ the babies ’cause their future’s uncertain
Nobody wins when the family feuds
We all screwed ’cause we never had the tools
I’m tryna fix you
I’m tryna get these niggas with no stripes to be official
Y’all think small, I think Biggie

Image via WENN

Legacy

I mean, it is what it is. And we’re introduced to the song with Blue Ivy asking her father, “Daddy, what’s a will?”
He talks about leaving money to his sisters and other family members and then talks about problematic pathologies passed down from the generations.

You see, my father, son of a preacher man
Whose daughter couldn’t escape the reach of the preacher’s hand
That charge of energy set all the Carters back
It took all these years to get to zero in fact
I hated religion ’cause here was this Christian
He was preachin’ Sundays, versus how he was livin’ Monday
Someday I forgive him

At the end of the day, 4:44 is about Jay-Z. But you can’t ignore that Black women are, in many ways, the catalyst of his growth and development. And I appreciate that. When Black men take great joy and delight in insulting us publicly, it’s beautiful to see a man so revered and respected by Black men to come out and profess that he needs to be better to us and thereby himself. There is no self actualized Black man without respect for Black women. Tell a friend. Not only is this growth beautiful for Jay-Z and his family and his personal life, it’s a moment of cultural significance and progression that cannot be overstated.

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