Hip-Hop is coming of age with every release, a genre rooted in youth culture ironically has it’s first iconic worldwide star in one of it’s elders. JAY Z who most fittingly grew up side by side with the genre, born just a few years before Kool Herc threw his first party, has become Hip-Hop’s Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney. A wide reaching figure that fans of other genres, whether fond of the culture or not, know by name simply off his fame. Even more ironic JAY Z has solidified his status in a culture based on counter-culture impulses and anti-establishment angst by paradoxically, and perfectly, playing the game of capitalism and simultaneously pandering to the pavement, concrete, and streets that are naturally the home of Hip-Hop’s true residents- the people. In this pseudo-politically correct climate most would jump at the chance to criticize such an artist, contradicting oneself is the one thing the masses can attack viciously with a clear conscience today. To the contrary JAY Z brilliantly unveils a unique perspective on a system that benefits tremendously on entire communities being ignorant to the rules of society. On ‘4:44’ JAY touches on capitalism, generational wealth, Hip-Hop culture’s generational civil war, legacy and most honestly his marital infidelities.
In a time where Snapchat, Instagram Live, and Periscope make celebrities personal lives more public than their public lives, cultural heavy weights like Kanye, JAY-Z, Beyonce and others scarcely use these apps. ‘4:44’, the title track, is a lift of the curtain, strategically piggy-backing off the ‘Lemonade’ narrative JAY bares it all in one of the most honest tracks of his career. Self-loathing, regret, and depression are not emotions we are used to affiliating with the gods of this genre, the revelation of JAY’s flaws make him, to most people’s disbelief, appear actually human. ‘Kill JAY Z’ continues this trend, JAY gives the listener a glimpse into the turmoil in his life, a genius’ mind sporadically dealing with his many multi-dimensional dilemmas. If his thoughts of ‘letting the baddest girl in the world get away’ aren’t weighing heavy enough on his mind then the apparent mutiny of his one time mentee, and present day musical icon, Kanye West add on to equate to a mesmerizing mental load. One of the underlying themes in their disagreement that may be effecting their relationship is Hov’s financial philosophy ‘what’s better than one billionaire? -Two. Specially when they’re the same hue as you’, Kanye stepping away from his Tidal deal may have cut deeper than the words he spoke while floating above fans several months prior.
‘The Story Of OJ’ finds JAY Z trying to lead his people out of the darkness, leaving a more thorough ‘blueprint’ than he ever has before. ‘Oh these people is gonna kill me! .. cause the more I reveal me the more they afraid of the real me.” The cost of truth is heavy and at the top of the game JAY no longer needs to equivocate, his view point is clear, so clear musical god Prince sat with him ‘eye to eye’ and they left in agreement. The track ‘Legacy’ plays as a farewell and doubles as the final bullet point on his financial philosophy not just his musical memory. JAY makes it clear that leaving behind wealth to his family and inevitably his people is the true mark of success.