JAY-Z really killed Jay Z on 4:44. In doing so, he concocted one of the most candid albums in his entire catalogue. Far from the repetitive posturing heard in his previous work Magna Carta Holy Grail, Hov properly tore up the rulebook, digging deep into his former moniker’s worries, fears and thoughts by providing a brutally honest reflection of his legacy. The album contains some spectacular production helped out by the likes of No I.D and James Blake, but it’s the album’s lyrics which are the undoubted highlight of JAY-Z’s short, but sentimentally brilliant, 14th studio album. We ranked the 10 best and most brutally honest lyrics below.

10. “Smile”

I said, “Perhaps I Freudian slipped in European whips”
God sent me to break the chain

Arguably the most genius, and up there with the most powerful, pieces of wordplay on the album, the bars of course initially draw on the wealth of cars Jay’s driven over the years, but also breaking free from the tool used to punish slaves that were kept in chains during the slave trade era. Does the unconscious mind of white people still control their behaviour?

9. “The Story Of O.J.”

Y’all think it’s bougie, I’m like, it’s fine
But I’m tryin’ to give you a million dollars worth of game for $9.99

One of the more jovially honest bars on the record, Jay points out the wealth of his legacy that is contained in the mere price tag of the physical album.

8. “Legacy”

Pray your father’s father wasn’t touching his little daughter
Creating trans-generational trauma, that shit’ll haunt ya.

Jay opens up on how the effects of learning about the sexual deviancy of his grandfather, Adnis Reeves, and his sexual assault of his granddaughter. It’s Hov at his most cutting, and utterly devastating in it’s honesty.

7. “Kill JAY-Z”

You egged Solange on
Knowin’ all along, all you had to say you was wrong

The album’s lead track finds Jay opening up about that elevator incident with Beyonce’s sister Solange, who planted many a palm slap on Hov’s head that fateful night. He knew he was wrong the whole time, but was too proud to admit it at the time. He’s not now.

Billboard

6. “4:44”

My heart breaks for the day I have to explain my mistakes
And the mask goes away, and Santa Claus is fake.

Mannnnn. This one hits you right in them feels. Hov reflecting on one day knowing he’ll have to explain everything to his daughter, including his own infidelities… and the existence of Santa!? That’s tough to say the least.

5. “Caught Their Eyes”

But ain’t no Biggie, no lazy eye, huh
This guy had ‘Slave’ on his face
You think he wanted the masters with his masters?
You greedy bastards sold tickets to walk through his house
I’m surprised you ain’t auction off the casket

Sometimes in life, being brutally honest means questioning the inhuman greed and corruption that can befall the legacy of your mentors and teachers. Simple stuff, really.

Billboard

4. “Smile”

Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian
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

While some may question Jay’s motives in outing his mother on the largest and most lasting scale possible, what is undeniable is the profound emotional impact this decision made. Is it dusty in here?

3. “Kill JAY-Z”

But you ain’t a saint, this ain’t kumbaye
But you got hurt because you did cool by ‘Ye
You gave him 20 million without blinkin’
He gave you 20 minutes on stage, fuck was he thinkin’?

The friendship of Kanye West and JAY-Z is like that of the titans, mythic in its ethos and cataclysmic in its effect on culture. So yeah, it’s a bit of a stunner to hear him talk serious shit about a perfect bromance gone sour.

Tidal

2. “4:44”

And if my children knew, I don’t even know what I would do
If they ain’t look at me the same
I would prob’ly die with all the shame
“You did what with who?”
What good is a ménage à trois when you have a soulmate?
“You risked that for Blue?”

Sure, affairs can really good. It’s nice to let your responsibility slip and have some fun sexy times with someone who’s not your spouse. What’s not as fun? Having your kids find out about those sexy fun times in graphic detail then looking them in the eye.

1. “4:44”

You mature faster than me, I wasn’t ready
So I apologize
I seen the innocence leave your eyes
I still mourn this death and
I apologize for all the stillborns
‘Cause I wasn’t present, your body wouldn’t accept it

In an album full of emotionally frank, brutally honest sentiments, it just does not get more emotionally frank or brutally honest than this. A husband apologizing to his wife for their stillborn children borne from a lack of devotion and attention on his part? Yeah, not sure we want to see anyone try and top that.

Be sure to read our review of ‘4:44’ right here.

Music Editor
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