He's threatened it many times. He nearly did it when he "retired" in 2003. But on Kill Jay-Z, the opening track of the rapper's new album released exclusively via Tidal, he actually does it. Jay-Z kills himself.
Of course, he's not talking about suicide. The 47-year-old rapper is axing his former guise, the bling-lugging boaster who became the world's biggest hip-hop star by rapping about money, fame, and "the hottest chick in the game wearin' my chain," over the most expensive beats money could buy.
It served him pretty well. But times have changed. Here, on his 13th album, with a five-year-old and newborn twins disturbing the peace, and Lemonade, Beyonce's controversial adultery album, weighing heavy on his shoulders, Jay-Z's been forced to reinvent himself.
After the lacklustre returns of The Blueprint 3 and Magna Carta Holy Grail, it's a necessity. But it's also a revelation. Because 4:44 is unlike any other Jay-Z record ever made.
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It's slower and calmer, a meditative, headphone-ready journey through Shawn Carter's soul, one that addresses every single elephant standing in the corner of the room.
That elevator fight with Solange? "You egged Solange on / Knowing all along / All you had to say you was wrong," he raps to Beyonce on that opening track. Becky with the good hair? "Yeah, I'll f*** up a good thing if you let me / Let me alone, Becky," he declares on Family Feud. That beef with Kanye? "You ain't the same, this ain't kumbaya," he says in a declaration many are assuming means war.
But 4:44 goes further than that, addressing elephants we didn't really know existed. "I apologise for all the stillborns / 'Cause I wasn't present your body wouldn't accept it," he tells Beyonce. He even outs his mother on Smile, rapping: "Mama had four kids, but she's a lesbian/Had to pretend so long that she's a thespian."
It says a lot that we're analysing Jay-Z's lyrics, not the beats. Laced with soul-laced samples by No I.D., they're just as important, nicely matching Jay-Z's reflective mood. It adds up to an album that sounds like it was recorded in a confessional box at 4am with Blue Ivy asleep in the next room.
There's not an "H-to-the-Izzo" in sight, not a single, "It's your boy," yelled in your face. 4:44 is a laid-back soul-barer, and it's the realest Jay-Z's been in more than a decade. Let's just hope he has enough fans left dedicated enough to subscribe to Tidal and hear it.
Jay-Z - 4:44
Label: Roc Nation/Tidal
Verdict: Rapper decodes himself on raw confessional