“I mastered my aesthetics. I know you often heard me wax poetic, bout bein’ back in the Lexus, But trust me, that was nothin’ a nigga up in the hundreds of millions. I have no ceilings, ah, this that feelin’, I’m that boy.” –Smile
I write this far from the streets of Brooklyn but honestly, I’ve never felt closer to home listening to this masterpiece. We all sat in bewilderment as the 4:44 advertisements popped up on subways, buses, and billboards across NYC, drawing everyone’s attention.
Upon the realization that the propaganda belonged to Hov, we were all left with two immediate questions.
First, what type of illuminati shit is this, Jigga?
Secondly and most importantly, what could you possibly have to offer us musically at this stage in your life?
Personally, don’t judge me, I’d anticipate music from Jay all the way into his 50s, if he still had the charisma and wordplay that he’s displayed his whole career. And before you be like, I’m dragging it, some of you go see all types of artists in concert well past fifty and even support the new bodies of work born out of those concerts.
We have given you good people a week to really internalize and digest 4:44. It’s almost like Black Music Month isn’t over yet. Hov came through on the last day to extend it and pushed forth that ‘you do what you want when you popping.’
“Kill Jay Z, they’ll never love you, you’ll never be enough, let’s just keep it real, Jay Z.” -Kill Jay Z
Okay, you got my attention Hov.
Thirty seconds in and chills are going up my spine. THAT GOD FLOW IS BACK.
In ten tracks Hov lays out themes that are nothing new. But I do believe there is a certain level of vulnerability and openness that we’ve never seen from Jay.
When you couple the foremost elder statesmen in the rap game with the underrated brilliance of No I.D., the album’s sole producer, you have an instant classic.
Jay engages us in conversations around Black generational wealth and how we prepare our offspring for the days ahead along with:
- Spirituality vs Religion.
- Innovation, business and Black empowerment.
- Honesty and vulnerability.
- Self actualization.
- BLACK EXCELLENCE.
- Combating White supremacy.
But most important the BLACK FAMILY, the BLACK WOMAN, BLACK LOVE and the ways TOXIC MASCULINITY threatens all of the above.
All 36 minutes of the album reverberate and affirm these themes and spark, not only nostalgia in the listener but a call to action: Stop shitting on our women, stop wasting this money, open businesses and make smart investments, take care of the family, be your authentic self, and if nothing else, stay the hell away from Becky with the good hair. LOL!
One of my favorite songs is Smile, which samples Stevie Wonder’s beautiful; Love’s in Need of Love Today, and combines it with Hovs call to live your truth as you grow and to appreciate the richness of life. Man, this has to be the flyest way to honor your moms via song since Tupac’s Dear Mama.
“Mama had four kids but she’s lesbian. Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian. Cried tears of joy when you feel in love, don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.” –Smile
Every time I hear this song I want to kiss my mom and make her smile.
Now, Marcy Me, where in one verse we get a flow reminiscent of the Streets is Watching Jay Z.
Oh ya’ll remember him right?
In his opening, he gives homage to the late great Notorious BIG. Then he quotes Hamlet before he spreads his own wizardry on the track.
“I started in lobbies, now I parlay with Saudis. I’m a Sufi for goofies, I could probably speak Farsi. That’s poetry, reek of coca leaf in my past, came through the bushes smelling like roses, I need a trophy just for that.”–Marcy Me
Like really Jigga?
Yeah that’s that timeless flow right there.
But honestly these are my favorites right now, because they switch every few hours or so because the album is that damn good.
All week we’ve been doing a comprehensive overview of 4:44, mostly because this album is culture changing and we want teachers to dissect the messaging and prepare to bring it into their classrooms in the Fall.
Now, your students may be too young to appreciate Jay Z as an artist, but you’re not. The messages and knowledge evoked are timeless and necessary, especially for our young Black men.
I want you to think of that one kid in your classroom that drove you crazy last year. You know, that kid that you know is brilliant, but who just won’t acknowledge his own potential? He’s a slick talker with that big bravado. He can finesse his way out of anything, (or he thinks he can) but he doesn’t seem to take his school work seriously.
Imagine that kid is a young Jay Z and this album is a record of his possible maturation. Thinking like that, I ask you, how can you use this album as a driving force for engaging that kid and students like him?
How can you as teacher help that kid to “master their aesthetics” and actualize their greatness? How can you teach them that life is about building a legacy and about laying the proper foundation to secure the future of generations to come?
Are we even teaching our students to think about the generations to come along by supporting all they can be?
In all of his brilliance, Jay has shown us consistency, longevity, and growth, all the while maintaining his status as the pulse of the culture. We changed clothes when he told us to and now Hov is telling us to change our mindsets and trajectories.
This makes me wonder what Jay can teach teachers about teaching the youth?
Hold it down good people!