Hov Back to His Roots?

When I started writing this blog, I promised myself I would not write any pieces about megastars; the last thing we need is another cookie cutting blog always looking for the next big hype. But one day later Jay-Z randomly dropped his 13th studio album “4:44”. As a native New Yorker, I basically grew up on Hov; I still remember running to Coconuts record store to purchase the hard copy of “The Blueprint”. I recall his wordplay, swag and flow over Kanye`s melodic and innovative production. So, when I pressed play on the album, track one, “Kill Jay-Z”, dropped and all I could think was, “this s**t is raw as f**k”. I felt like I turned on “the Blueprint 2”, with Jay-z just talking his truths, perhaps taking a shot at Kanye about giving him twenty million for a twenty minute rant. The biggest shot at Kanye West though, is the fact that he did not take part in a single production throughout this album, which I certainly missed sonically; I guess I became too accustomed to Watch the Throne-esqe bangers. Credit to Kanye`s mentor, No I.D., on producing the whole project, its apparent through the sample choice that Jigga man is attempting to bring back his old style. Additionally, he brought Young Guru back to take care of his engineering, which definitely gives it that raw, early 2000s feel. I have to be honest though, I wasn`t thrilled with the mixing of this album; maybe Hov should have brought in some young guns to help these older cats with some new game (no disrespect to the OGs). I don`t know, I guess when you call yourself a billionaire, I just expect the production/mixing to be out of this world, but who knows? Maybe Jay-Z was specifically going after that raw feel. Anyways, track two comes on, “The Story of O.J.”, Hov talking business and politics as usual, but this time around, he discusses some truth about the industry and the state of black entrepreneurship. He goes on to call himself a “field n***a” and offer some property investment advice to his listeners. It seems Jay has had enough of people other than those who make Hip-Hop and the culture that surrounds it, profiting off of it- frankly, I agree. I’ve always felt like Hov has not took enough responsibility for black empowerment compared to the amount he profits off his people, but it seems he has turned over a new leaf of consciousness. I just hope his words will turn to action, because honestly, it’s simply words and we have been there done that. My favorite song on this project is undoubtedly “Bam” feat. Damian Marley. I love how Damian kept it gully trench town, and Jay-Z complemented, what to me felt like a Guerilla Black “Compton” style beat, which I must say, goes so hard. Overall, I believe the album is not bad with just 10 tracks and 3 features (one including his mother), it feels like an MC expressing things he felt obligated to, using the form of expression he knows best, and I hope Jay-z continues to raise some of the controversial points he has in this album. I look forward to hearing more truth from this Hip-Hop great.