On Thursday night, June 29, Jay-Z released his new album “4:44” exclusively on his streaming service Tidal. It’s his first album since “Magna Carta … Holy Grail” in 2013, and his first since Beyonce opened up about their marriage on her 2016 smash hit “Lemonade.” Jay-Z had allegedly cheated on Beyonce — with “Becky with the good hair,” it seems. Now Jay-Z responds with a revealing album of his own.
“Lemonade” won two Grammys for Beyonce earlier this year: Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video for “Formation.” Those wins actually allowed her to leapfrog her husband on the list of the all-time biggest winners: now Beyonce has 22 Grammys to Jay-Z’s 21. But Jay-Z could catch up again thanks to “4:44.” Could he even win Album of the Year? That’s the award that notoriously eluded Beyonce; “Lemonade” had been expected to win, but was upset by Adele‘s “25.”
“4:44,” which is Jay-Z’s 13th solo album, is described as musically “conservative,” but it’s also “personal,” “vulnerable,” and “confessional.” It’s a “striking reinvention” for the veteran musician, and “arguably one of his best” albums. Check out some of the reviews for “4:44” below to see what else critics had to say.
Joe Coscarelli (New York Times): “Coming in the wake of ‘Lemonade,’ an ambitious multimedia project that was simultaneously Beyonce’s most personal and most political work to date, ‘4:44’ finds Jay-Z in a similar mode, weaving confessional and biographical songwriting with big-picture perspectives on black life in the United Stats.”
Rodney Carmichael (NPR): “Jay-Z opens his latest album, ‘4:44,’ by slaying his own ego. For an MC who’s spent his entire career constructing such a formidable facade, it’s a tall task. But ‘Kill Jay Z’ sets the stage for what becomes his most personal, vulnerable album yet — and arguably one of his best.”
Andrew Emery (The Guardian): “As much as there is appetite for lyrics about the state of affairs in Chez Knowles-Carter, there’s music to be considered as well. Sonically, 4:44 is a conservative affair, his longtime collaborator No ID opting for recognisable samples (Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sister Nancy’s much-used Bam Bam) in what seems like a concerted effort not to get in the way of Jay-Z’s confessional.”
Andrew Barker (Variety): “Abandoning his trend-hopping tendencies, delving into matters of race and politics with newfound clarity, and turning a pitiless eye on his own failures rather than simply rehashing his accomplishments, Jay’s 13th solo set is less a return to form than a striking reinvention, and perhaps the most mature album yet released by a member of hip-hop’s Mt. Rushmore.”
Maeve McDermott (USA Today): “Of the many questions Jay-Z fans had in anticipation of his new album ‘4:44,’ which dropped Friday at midnight on TIDAL, was how the rapper would respond to his wife Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ album, if at all. Now, we know. Released barely two weeks after welcoming twins with Bey, Jay spends ‘4:44’ meditating on his fame, wealth, troubled upbringing and experience as a black man in America. But before he gets to all that, he has a certain elevator fight to address.”