JAY-Z's 4:44: What we know so far
Later this month, JAY-Z — fresh off a revision to his name’s stylization — will return with his first album since 2013’s Magna Carta Holy Grail. Four years is an eternity in the hip-hop world, but from recent team-ups with DJ Khaled, Pusha T, and Frank Ocean to a buzzy slate of rumored collaborations, the genre titan seems poised for a comeback. Read on for more details on what we know about JAY-Z’s 13th studio album, which drops June 30 via TIDAL.
It’ll be a TIDAL exclusive
After Beyoncé, Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, and more released their 2016 albums as exclusives to specific streaming services, the trend has cooled this year. JAY-Z, naturally, is reviving it with 4:44. That’s not too surprising: The mogul’s biggest move since 2013 was launching the nascent streaming service.
No I.D. reportedly produced all of the album…
Esteemed producer No I.D. helmed two of JAY-Z’s most recent top 10 singles on the Hot 100, 2009’s “Run This Town” and 2013’s “Holy Grail,” and reports have indicated JAY-Z is reuniting with him to produce all of 4:44. But while No I.D.’s recent credits include tracks by Kanye West, Nas, and Common, he’s also tapped into hip-hop’s current zeitgeist: The musician produced or co-produced nearly every song on Vince Staples’ boundary-pushing 2015 debut Summertime ’06.
…but he’s likely not the only one who contributed to the beats
Many of today’s hip-hop stars enlist writing camps — assortments of music’s best and brightest who unite to deliver a singular product — for their albums. So even if No I.D. worked on all 4:44‘s tracks, he’s probably not the only one who was involved. After posting an Instagram with Jay last November, Zaytoven — who has worked with Future, Gucci Mane, Migos, and more — confirmed to Billboard earlier this year that he had logged a studio session with Jay. And Mike Will Made-It, who aided Beyoncé with her titanic 2016 single “Formation,” also has alluded to studio time with Jay.
“4:44” could contain JAY-Z’s “Lemonade” response — just don’t count on it
While JAY-Z has featured on songs by Pusha T, Frank Ocean, Drake, and others since Beyoncé issued Lemonade‘s scathing marital indictments in 2016, his only solo release since then is July 2016’s “Spiritual,” which focuses on police brutality — meaning 4:44 could be Jay’s first real space to offer his Lemonade rebuttal. But with two new additions to their family — and the 2017 collaborative DJ Khaled track “Shining” — any substantial pushback seems unlikely.
Don’t expect JAY-Z to be the only Carter on “4:44″
A year ago, on the heels of Lemonade, rumors flared that JAY-Z’s first studio album in years would actually be a collaborative effort with Beyoncé. Bey, of course, recruited Jay for her self-titled smash hit “Drunk in Love,” and their recording history dates back to his 2002 cut “’03 Bonnie and Clyde.” Another team-up is probable, but don’t count out appearances from the couple’s children, either. Their daughter, Blue Ivy, has appeared on Beyoncé’s two previous albums and the timing of 4:44‘s release, just a couple weeks after she gave birth to twins, is eyebrow-raising.
JAY-Z has teased a visual component
Earlier this month, Jay released a teaser clip featuring Mahershala Ali, Danny Glover, and Lupita Nyong’o — plus snippets of new music. Just two days before the album’s release, he shared another such video which focuses on the face of a distressed Nyong’o. Will he go full visual album? The jury’s out, but he is married to the medium’s foremost auteur.