Jay-Z / 4:44

4:44 [Explicit]

4:44 is the thirteenth studio album by American rapper Jay-Z. It was released on June 30, 2017 through Roc Nation and Universal Music Group, as an exclusive to Sprint and Tidal customers. The album is the first in a planned series of music exclusives from the Sprint–Tidal partnership. For a short time, on July 2, the album was made available for free digital download in Tidal’s site. A physical edition was released on July 7, including three additional tracks. On the same day, the album was made available to other streaming platforms, such as Apple MusicGoogle Play Music and Amazon Music.

Like Jay-Z’s previous album, Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013), 4:44 was not preceded by any singles. The album was recorded from December 2016 to June 2017, and produced by No I.D. and Jay-Z. James Blake and Dominic Maker also produced the album’s bonus tracks. It features guest appearances from Frank OceanDamian MarleyBeyoncé and Jay-Z’s mother, Gloria Carter. It also has additional vocal contributions from Blue Ivy Carter, James FauntleroyKim Burrell and The-Dream.

The album received widespread acclaim from critics, who praised its emotional and personal content. On July 5, the album was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), in recognition of one million copies purchased by Sprint and offered to consumers as free downloads.[2] It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, making it Jay-Z’s 14th consecutive studio album to top the chart. The album spawned one single, the title track “4:44”.

The Analysis—-

Kill Jay-Z—-There is a remarkable familiarity when you listen to a new Jay-Z release. The beats are very familiar and almost predictable…it is how the word play is delivered that is remarkable. Jay sounds a bit angry….spitting verse after verse that makes you step back and think ‘Damn…He Mad’. This is nice…exactly what was needed.

The Story Of O.J.—-Giving us an intro that is piano laden and screwed, this is odd but undeniably infectious. Jay always speaks on things that are relevant and important. There is always a magical hook in the music that sucks you in and causes an instant addiction. The wordplay from Jay is remarkable..intelligent….somehow respectable and incredible necessary. For me this speaks to much of what is happening right NOW!

Smile [featuring Gloria Carter]—-New York rap beats are unique in themselves….Jay’s vocals are even more unique. This is a great story/rap…a song of acceptance and one that speaks on inclusion and love. Jay delivers a magical flow…and the hook of the song…from his Mom is irresistible…you can’t get this out of your head after you hear that magical hook. Sometimes the words come at you so fast…there is always an urgency to get the message out…I got it!

Caught Their Eyes [featuring Frank Ocean]—-Jaunty and damn fun at the intro, this has a remarkable reggae lean to it that makes me just sit and revel in the instrumentation. Jay always has a strong vocal delivery…but here it never seems to take away from the music that is addictive and hooky as all get out. This is fresh…new…predictable…but fantastic.

4:44—-This track….well, it wears on me after a bit…all the wailing going on. I could do without the histrionics. The backdrop of the song threatens to completely drown out the lyrics of the track that Jay delivers. Not a favorite….but many others love it.

Family Feud [featuring Be’yonce]—-It’s always a guaranteed masterpiece when you combine these two superstars together on one track. I know there is much discussion about the meaning of this song…but to me…it really is about how all of the lines feed together with the hook and the beat. This is brilliant…some of the lines from Jay are practically brilliant. This is a key part of the song for me….a true standout and centerpiece.

Bam [featuring Damian Marley]—-This is just brilliant….noisy and filled with so many sounds from so many different directions…all balanced by the steady vocal from Jay. It is remarkable…no matter the chaos going on in the track…the vocal sounds perfect. Marley delivers a built in hook that sucks your cerebellum out of your ear. This is perfect.

Moonlight—-Wow….muted and perfectly delivered…the sample running through the under belly of the song is almost pretty…but Jay sounds pissed and full of venom as the song continues. I love the vocal being RIGHT in your face…this is fantastic.

Marcy Me—-A bit brighter in sound, the reverb sound that runs through the underbelly of the song is irresistible. Jay comes with line after line of remarkable and perfectly constructed lyrics. If you really sit back and listen to the release, this shit will make you think and start to analyze. I love this….every listen reveals something new to me. And that fuckin’ hook…..OMG…..

Legacy—-Brilliant….Blue Ivy…Jay-Z….irresistible horns…remarkable lyric lines. An almost perfect song. This is a bit laden with the ‘Orleans’ sound for me…but the message is clear and the words all speak for themselves. Jay is afraid of nothing…unafraid to insult anyone….able to discuss anything…all in his style…it all becomes acceptable.

*****out of 5


Banks And Steelz / Anything But Words

Anything But Words (explicit)

Banks & Steelz is the collaborative effort between American musician Paul Banks (Interpol) and American rapper RZA (Wu-Tang Clan). The duo began making music together in 2011 and began recording a full album in 2013. They released their debut studio album, Anything But Words, on August 26, 2016 through Warner Bros. Records.

The Analysis—-

Giant—-Kicking off with a huge bombastic beat and a very aggressive fast vocal from RZA, this track is literally a masterpiece. The combination of these two different styles should never work….but boy it does….masterfully. Banks is such a contrast to the rap that it melds together to create a landscape of perfection. RZA delivers line after line, sometimes so hyper and aggressive you fear he may jump clear through the speakers.

Ana Electronic—-A masterful synth line and familiar Wu-style beat introduces the track…followed by the smooth higher tone vocal from Banks. This song has a mellow flow that seems to float along, the rap lines a bit more sedate and relaxed. It is the chorus that makes this track stand out….I miss Interpol and the vocal from Banks.

Sword In The Stone [featuring Kool Keith]—-This is a bit hit or miss for me….the chorus begins the track and it is a bit weak. The rap lines are aggressive and hyper-kinetic….driving the song to be much larger than it began. I like the pace of the song…it keeps your attention despite the weak lines delivered by Banks. There are some odd musical effects, typical of Kool Keith. Odd but not a throw away track.

Speedway Sonora—-Fuzzy Interpol style guitars hit the first chord…followed by a hyper beat and manic rap verse from RZA. This sounds a bit naked and stripped down….the one thing I never really liked about NY style rap…but then the chorus hits you….WOW!!! Banks provides such a contrast to the rap lines, there is no way this can’t find a home in your brain and live there. This is fantastic! This track belongs to Banks!!!

Wild Season [featuring Florence Welch]—-An old school high hat beat kicks off the track and allows for Banks to introduce the chorus first….as it seems like many of these tracks are constructed. The sparse bass beat is played underneath the higher tones and allows RZA to shine on his vocal….settled and clear, you catch every word. Florence enters the track with an ethereal vocal that is mysterious and haunting…adding an entirely different dimension to the track. A great collaboration.

Anything But Words—-Banks opens the track with a vocal that could be right off a new Interpol release….his vocal dies away and the familiar stripped down RZA lines carry the song in yet another direction. This is classic in every semblance of the word…both in Interpol standards and Wu standards. This is indeed…the best of both worlds

Conceal—-.Really odd at the onset, the vocal is weird and the beats are a slight escalation of bass that manages to stay in one place. Banks delivers a smooth and sedate vocal that glides over the waterfall effects of the track and gives it even more texture. The higher tone of his voice is really pleasant and addictive. The song seems to belong to Banks almost entirely, ….but that is ok…its a nice break in the CD the pace of the release. This is a chill and relaxed track.

Love And War [featuring Ghostface Killah]—-This was the first thing I heard from this release and was immediately enthralled with this collaboration idea. The horns and the stripped down NY rap sound is very WU…but the chorus line has the hook and the addictive quality that sucks you in. Ghostface delivers a higher pitched vocal…breaking the monotony of sound…..this is fantastic.

Can’t Hardly Feel—-Sticking to the same recipe as most every track on this release, Banks begins the track with his chorus and trademark vocal. This is a bit removed from the music…the vocal a bit distorted and moved to the back of the music. RZA delivers a rap full of lines that remind me of many old school ‘rap love songs’….this is unexpected but a nice listen.

One By One—-Kicking off with a mystic barely audible beat, Banks enters with a ghostly and sedate vocal that matches the mood of the music. The slight echo to the vocal adds a beef and mysterious sound to the song…but this is a definite throw back to earlier Interpol days when everything was minimal and less huge. The horns that are barely audible at the onset seem to build a bit larger and then RZA enters with his own sedate yet intense vocal that again matches the mood of the song. Think dark….and you have it.

Gonna Make It—-Full of synth blips and vocal effects, it is hard to tell where this track is going to go at the onset. Again, they stick to the monotonous recipe and let Banks kick off the track with the chorus ….a double tracked extravaganza that sound really brilliant. RZA resorts to his hyper-active vocal delivery….breaking the sedate mood of the song…but the contrast…again….saves this from obscurity.

Point Of View [featuring Method Man and Masta Killa]—-Typical albeit classic Wu beats begin this track with once again [!] Banks taking the lead off vocal. This track is erratic and a bit obnoxious to my ears…really not a favorite. I don’t even care for the odd vocal from Banks…everything about this song grates my nerves…..not leaving a great taste in my mouth after such a great effortless collaboration.

***3/4 out of 5