It’s been quite a month for the Carters. Just a couple of weeks after Beyoncé reportedly gave birth to twins — though the family has yet to release an official statement — Jay-Z dropped his 13th solo album. “4:44” debuted Thursday night at midnight on the rapper’s music streaming platform, Tidal, and the Internet has buzzed about it all morning. We know you have questions, so let’s get started.
How long have we known about “4:44”?
That’s a complicated first question, friend. The Carters are known for shrouding upcoming projects in mystery, and “4:44” was no exception. Peach-colored ads with a bold “4:44” began to pop up in New York and on the Web in early June, and nobody had a clue what it meant. Was it a biblical verse, or perhaps someone’s favorite time of day? Internet detectives traced it to Tidal, though, which is when the Jay-Z album rumors started to float. Tidal then aired a teaser trailer starring Mahershala Ali and Lupita Nyong’o during the NBA Finals on June 7, which led everyone to believe it was a film.
It wasn’t until early last week that “4:44” was confirmed as an album that would be available exclusively to Tidal subscribers or Sprint customers.
What’s the main takeaway from the album?
Hov’s all grown up. The title track of “4:44” is being interpreted as an apology to Beyoncé, as he appears to own up to the infidelity Beyoncé seemed to condemn in her album “Lemonade” and lament his absence during critical moments of their relationship. In an interview with iHeartRadio, Jay-Z described the song as “the crux” of the album, and says it was written at 4:44 a.m.
“4:44” explores other aspects of the rapper’s personal life as well. His mother, Gloria Carter, comes out as a lesbian on the track “Smile,” in which he says she “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,” he raps. “Cried tears of joy when you fell in love/Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.”
What does this tell us about Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s relationship?
They’ve been through the wringer, but they persevered. Emily Nussbaum, the New Yorker’s TV critic, put it well:
I usually root for musicians to divorce & make brilliant post-divorce albums, but it’s crazily impressive to make the albums & STAY married.
— emily nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) June 30, 2017
What’s the deal with those capital letters?
Jay-Z also revealed this month that he was changing the stylization of his name from Jay Z to JAY-Z, much to the annoyance of copy editors everywhere. (The Washington Post’s style is to refer to the rapper as “Jay-Z.”) We’re not sure whether this changes his nickname — has “Jay” been replaced with the much louder “JAY”? — but we’ve encountered this issue before. The rapper has also been referred to as Hov, Jigga, Shawn Carter and Blue Ivy’s dad.
What’s that I heard about Kanye West?
Ah, yes. It’s been almost six years since the frequent collaborators — and, now, potential frenemies — Jay-Z and Kanye West put out their triumphant work “Watch The Throne.” During a Sacramento concert last December, West called out Beyoncé and Jay-Z, among others, and ended the performance early.
“Beyoncé — I was hurt … because I heard that you said you wouldn’t perform unless you won Video of the Year over me and over ‘Hotline Bling,’” he said about the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, according to Entertainment Weekly. “Sometimes we be playing the politics too much and forget who we are just to win.”
He later added, “I’ve been sent here to give y’all my truth even at the risk of my own life, even at the risk of my own success, my own career. I’ve been sent here to give y’all the truth. Jay-Z — call me, bruh. You still ain’t called me. Jay-Z, call me, Jay-Z — I know you got killers. Please don’t send them at my head. Just call me. Talk to me like a man.”
On the “4:44” track “Kill Jay Z,” which presumably also refers to the rapper’s stylistic name change, Jay-Z responds.
“I know people backstab you, I felt bad too/But this ‘f— everybody’ attitude ain’t natural,” he raps. “But you ain’t a Saint, this ain’t KumbaYe / But you got hurt because you did cool by ‘Ye.”
What about Eric Benét?
West isn’t the only one burned on “Kill Jay Z.” While referring to his own infidelities, Jay-Z raps, “You almost went Eric Benét/Let the baddest girl in the world get away/I don’t even know what else to say/N—-, never go Eric Benét.”
Benét, a neo-soul singer, was married to actress Halle Berry for a few years in the early 2000s, but their marriage fell apart after he notably admitted to cheating on Berry and went to rehab for sex addiction.
Hey yo #Jayz! Just so ya know, I got the baddest girl in the world as my wife….like right now! ✌
— Eric Benét (@ebenet) June 30, 2017
How can I listen to “4:44”?
That’s a right reserved for Tidal subscribers or Sprint customers only. Tidal offers a six-month free trial, though. Or, you could switch to Sprint — the Verizon guy did it. (iHeartRadio will also stream the album on its website and a few radio stations nationwide at various times on Friday.)
I have seen too many tweets about 4:44 not that many of y'all have tidal
— Shani O. Hilton (@shani_o) June 30, 2017
This post has been updated.