2017, Music

4:44 (2017) by Jay-Z

Maybe 3 years ago I listened to Jay-Z’s debut and didn’t love it but gave it a decent rating because it’s apparently been very influential. It’s been seven years since this came out so maybe this is the last one?

Unlike so many other rappers, I know Jay-Z’s voice well. He’s just been around so long and had enough of a cultural impact that even before I listened to his first album, I knew what he sounded like. So I feel like any album of his is instantly more familiar to me than, say, an album by a rapper who has only had a 10-year career without hits that crossover enough that someone who doesn’t listen to the radio could here them.

I feel like this familiarity is both a good thing and a bad thing for me. I’ve heard that Jay-Z is a really important and great rapper and I’ve never been able to hear it. Not that I know what I’m talking about but I don’t know what his innovation was (or were) and I remember being underwhelmed by his debut, which felt obsessed with money and success. But here he definitely sounds more mature, more introspective.

Much, though, not all of this album feels from another time, to me. That’s to be expected but it does sound to my ears like an album made by a ’90s rapper. Using the latest technology, sure, but it has a vintage feel. I’m not sure I mean that as a compliment. But I should be happy by the presence of live instruments. I don’t know that I always hear them and I wonder if they’ve been looped, which sort of defeats the purpose.

It’s hard to know how to feel about this. People seem to view this as a return to form after a decade that wasn’t very good but, of course, I’ve never heard any of that so I have no idea. I don’t find it particularly compelling.


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