It’s 2017, and we’re finally getting a new JAY-Z album. 4:44 was was officially announced on Sunday night, and it will be rolled out with an accompanying film starring Mahershala Ali, Lupita Nyong’o, and Danny Glover. Before its release at month’s end, here’s a rundown of everything we know about JAY-Z’s 13th studio album.
The hyphen is back, baby
As you’ve probably noticed by now, JAY-Z has decided to bring back the hyphen after abandoning it in 2013. His name is stylized in all caps now, too. There’s been no comment on the umlaut.
This is a Tidal exclusive
4:44 will first be an exclusive for Tidal subscribers through a partnership with Sprint when released on June 30. This will be the first Tidal-exclusive JAY-Z album. His last album Magna Carta Holy Grail dropped in 2013, two years before his acquisition of Tidal.
Of course, the first-look strategy isn’t new for JAY-Z. MCHG was originally offered to the first 1 million Samsung Galaxy owners to use the necessary app. Hopefully the 4:44 rollout is a little smoother.
There’s a song called “Adnis”
The song was teased in the 4:44 album announcement trailer. It features JAY-Z letting his guard down to share some thoughts about his father, Adnis Reeves. It’s probably no coincidence this dropped on Father’s Day.
Letter to my dad that I never wrote
Speeches I prepared that I never spoke
Words on a paper that I never read
Prose is never pen, they stayed in my head
JAY-Z’s father has remained a known figure within his lore. He dedicated a few bars to him on The Black Album‘s “Justify My Thug” and rapped about his absence in The Dynasty: Roc La Familia‘s closer “Where Have You Been.”
4:44 is produced entirely by No I.D.
Billboard confirmed that the legendary producer No I.D. will be producing the entirety of JAY-Z’s upcoming effort. Although this is JAY-Z’s 13th album, this will be the first time he’s stuck to just one producer. JAY-Z and No I.D. have struck gold before with The Blueprint 3‘s “Run This Town” and American Gangster‘s “Success.”
But JAY-Z did work with other producers during this album cycle
Although 4:44 will be produced by traditionalist rap royalty, he has at least shown his willingness to experiment with other sounds. JAY-Z has worked with Atlantan producers Mike Will Made-It (who produced MCHG‘s “Beach Is Better”) and Zaytoven. The latter spoke to Hip-Hop DX about JAY-Z’s positive reaction to their collaborations. “When we got to the third track he was like, ‘Hold up. Play that one again,’” he said. “That’s when I [knew] I got his attention. I knew what he wanted so I had like 25 beats on [the CD]. He was like ‘Give me all [of] them,’”
There’s no word on if the results will ever see the light of day or if they’ll appear on 4:44 as bonus tracks, a tradition JAY-Z has largely discontinued since 2007’s American Gangster. (“Open Letter” did appear as a bonus on the vinyl version of MCHG.)
JAY-Z will probably address Lemonade in some way
Many speculated that Beyoncé’s latest opus Lemonade also referenced JAY-Z’s alleged infidelity. Soon after, Us Weekly published a report claiming he was making an album-length response to his wife’s project, which didn’t sound like a believable thing that a man synonymous with cool would do. But it is likelier that JAY-Z would at least make a passing allusion to Lemonade; he did reference it in his appearance on last year’s “All the Way Up” remix. (It’s true that, as JAY-Z asserted, lemonade is a popular drink.)
He’s probably done with the high art motif
As if the Samsung-sponsored rollout wasn’t ostentatious enough, Magna Carta Holy Grail was also marred by JAY-Z’s obsession with high art. He revealed the album’s cover art next to one of the few surviving copies of the actual Magna Carta, a move that felt more of a flex than artfully purposeful, and staged a multi-hour dancing something-or-other at the MoMA.
So far, the rollout for 4:44 has been fairly minimal. It’s still corporate-backed, but the ads are only composed of serif font against an earthy pink background. In the commercials, Mahershala Ali is a boxer training with Danny Glover. A black Million Dollar Baby is quite the switch-up from Jemima Kirke harassing you at the Pace Gallery.