Got your Jay-Z album bingo card at the ready? Poised to cross off ‘selling drugs’, ‘owning Basquiats’ and ‘beautiful wife’ in the first twenty seconds as usual? Well Jay’s fourteenth album ‘4:44’ has some unexpected surprises in store. ‘Possible infidelity admission’? ‘Elevator punch-up’? ‘Random Becky’? And that’s just in the first track. ‘4:44’ is arguably the most curveball-laden set of lyrics Jay-Z has yet produced, and here’s the most whaddafack moments.
“You almost went Eric Benet/Let the baddest girl in the world get away” – ‘Kill Jay-Z’
The opening track is a real confessional, touching on the full panoply of Jay’s public (and not so public) alleged misdemeanours in order to purge himself of his past sins and, as the title suggests, kill the Jay-Z part of Shawn Carter. Among references to his stabbing of Lance Rivera, shooting his crack addict brother over a stolen ring as a 12-year-old and selling drugs to his own loved-ones, this one line has been picked up by commentators as a strong hint that the long-standing rumours of his infidelity are true. Eric Benet, remember, was married to Halle Berry before his cheating broke up the marriage. “Almost”, though, suggests we still don’t know the whole story – “almost” unfaithful or “almost” in divorce court?
“You egged Solange on/Knowing all along all you had to say you was wrong” – ‘Kill Jay-Z’
The lead track also makes reference to the time Beyonce’s sister Solange opened a whole barrel of whup-ass all over a crowded elevator. Turns out Jay was in the wrong after all. Is this his doghouse record?
“You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America?” – ‘The Story Of O.J.’
Jay is referring to the stereotype of the Jewish real estate investor here, and there’s nothing more likely to prompt calls of anti-Semitism than a Jewish stereotype.
“Mama had four kids but she’s a lesbian” – ‘Smile’
How many rappers have outed their own mothers on record? Gotta be fewer than 50, right? Which is what makes this line all the more startling, as Hova reveals that his mother Gloria “had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian/Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate/Society shame and the pain was too much to take”. Not that Jay loves her any less of course: “cried tears of joy when you fell in love,” he continues, “don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her/I just wanna see you smile through all the hate”. Are you listening, the DUP?
“Heroin flow, I spaz on the stove” – ‘Smile’
Not entirely sure what he’s getting at here, but it certainly isn’t ‘oh, look at the controversy Kanye caused by using this offensive word in ‘Four Five Seconds’.
“I sat down with Prince, eye to eye/He told me his wishes before he died” – ‘Caught Their Eyes’
Jay did indeed sit down with Prince, and his wishes apparently included putting his music exclusively on Tidal. “After one meeting, it was obvious that Jay Z and the team he has assembled at Tidal recognise and applaud the effort that real musicians put in2 their craft 2 achieve the very best they can at this pivotal time in the music industry,” Prince said of the agreement.
“Look, I apologise, often womanise” – ‘4:44’
Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ album appeared to tackle Jay’s alleged womanising, and here he seems to hold his hands up, spending the entire title track of the new album admitting to his roving eye in reply to Beyonce’s accusatory track ‘Sorry’. Discussing how he’s seen “the innocence leave your eyes” until “you stare blankly into space”, the miscarriage that tested them both and the on-tour phone calls Beyonce wouldn’t answer, he even goes on to confess “I never wanted another woman to know something about me that you didn’t know” and that “I promise, I cried… I suck at love, I need a do-over”.
“What use is a ménage a trois when you have a soulmate/’You risked that for Blue?’” – ‘4:44’
“Let me alone, Becky” – ‘Family Feud’
On ‘Lemonade’, Beyonce called Jay’s alleged mistress “Becky with the good hair”. Everyone from Rihanna to Rita Ora and Rachel Roy has come up as a potential Becky, all having quite fabulous hair, but this is the first time Jay has mentioned her, clearly still hassling him.
“How is him or Pill Cosby s’posed to help me” – ‘Family Feud’
Sly dig at the notoriously free-with-the-surreptitious-quaalud Bill Cosby, there.