It’s hard to get truly excited for JAY-Z’s upcoming album 4:44 if you’re not a Tidal subscriber or among Sprint’s 45 million customers. Many will have access to the release, but even more of us won’t.
JAY-Z has a few goals with his latest effort. First, he’d like to increase the number of Tidal subscribers, something that’s unlikely to happen based on the fact that if you’re a JAY-Z stan, you’ve probably already copped his streaming service. In 2016, Beyoncé’s Lemonade increased Tidal’s subscription base by 1.2 million.
While it’s unlikely that her husband’s album will have the same impact, JAY-Z has put his best foot forward, releasing a string of highly cinematic teasers that suggest 4:44 will be a deeply personal visual album in the same vein as Beyoncé’s game-changing Lemonade.
The latest such clip is called “Kill Jay Z” and features a younger man in full flight, wearing a shirt that reads “Stay Black.” In the background, faint sirens are layered over top a never-before heard instrumental. One thing is clear: this is not a leisurely jog. It’s also interesting to note that the “Jay Z” in the title is the rapper’s former stage name (it’s now spelled “JAY-Z"), which leads us to believe that the album, or at least this particular song is about his evolution, or if we want to get biblical, his rebirth.
Ultimately, 4:44 will be judged more on its effect on the culture than on JAY-Z’s bank account. This is his opportunity to snatch the belt back from the new guard’s three-headed monster that is Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Chance The Rapper. His last album, the bloated Magna Carta…Holy Grail, failed to move the needle or add much to the rapper’s overall mythology. 4:44 is his chance to rectify that.
But how? JAY-Z’s biggest problem is that he’s JAY-Z, a godlike figure whose most pressing concern is finding the right Malibu mega-mansion in which to raise his clan. Lemonade was a political, personal and purposeful masterwork that combined grandiose visuals with some of the most infectious songs of Beyoncé’s career. Based on what we’ve seen and heard so far, JAY-Z will try to bottle some of that same lightning with 4:44. If you have Tidal, you’ll have to let us know how it works out.