It’s officially Jay-Z (yep, the hyphen’s back) season.
The hip-hop titan topped off a Father’s Day weekend of (reportedly) welcoming twins and bailing out dads by announcing his 13th studio album, 4:44. The LP, due June 30, will end Jay-Z’s four-year musical drought as the official follow-up to 2013’s Magna Carta Holy Grail.
The album announcement comes weeks after cryptic subway posters and banner ads started popping up. News of the rollout of 4:44 has been similarly mysterious. There hasn't been much in the way of hints and teases, but here’s what we know so far:
It’ll be a Tidal exclusive.
Honestly, would you expect anything else from the company's founder and co-owner? 4:44 will hit the streaming service at 12:01 a.m. EST on June 30 and will be available to current Tidal subscribers and Sprint customers, who are eligible for a free six-month trial of Tidal’s premium HiFi service. It’s unclear how long the exclusive window will last, or if a physical release is planned. If Beyoncé’s Lemonade is any indication, though, expect 4:44 to remain a Tidal exclusive for a long time.
There’s a song called ‘Adnis.’
The album announcement trailer features a snippet of a song called “Adnis,” named after Jay’s father, Adnis Reeves. The clip stars Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali as a boxer, and Lupita Nyong’o and Danny Glover are also set to appear in the album's visual component. Jay, meanwhile, is heard letting his guard down with intimate bars: “Letter to my dad that I never wrote / Speeches I prepared that I never spoke / Words on a paper that I never read / Proses never penned, they stayed in my head.” Since Jay just became a father for the second time, we may be in for some familial themes on 4:44.
No I.D. reportedly produced the entire thing.
Billboard reports that esteemed producer No I.D. was at the board for all of 4:44. There’s no precedent for Jay-Z to make an entire album with a single producer, but the two have been collaborating for a long time — No I.D. produced huge hits like “Run This Town” and “Holy Grail.” He may not have been the only one who contributed beats to 4:44, though. Zaytoven and Mike Will Made-It have also said they logged studio time with Jay, so we’ll see if their contributions made the final cut.
It comes with a new stylization of Jay’s name.
What was once Jay-Z, then Jay Z, is now to be stylized as JAY-Z. After abandoning the hyphen in 2013 (for reasons never adequately explained), Jay has brought it back, and he'll be stylizing his name in all-caps now, too. Should this be read as a tell about the new music — possibly a hint that he’s throwing back to an old-school vibe? Maybe, maybe not, but the name change is worth knowing about anyway. Edit your playlists and type your tweets as you will.
The title alludes to the Carter family’s favorite number.
What does 4:44 mean? There are some theories about it being a reference to Barack Obama, the 44th president. But the number four itself is also a meaningful one for the Carters — Jay’s birthday is December 4, while Beyoncé’s is September 4. The couple were married on April 4, 2008, meaning their anniversary is on 4/4 every year. Bey named her fourth studio album 4. And their daughter Blue Ivy also has a special connection with the number — her name is a reference to IV, the Roman numeral for four.
It features minimal artwork.
For Magna Carta Holy Grail, Jay went all high art on us, revealing the album artwork next to an actual version of the Magna Carta in Salisbury Cathedral. The 4:44 approach seems to be a lot more bare-bones — the album announcement and ads employ a simple serif font and flesh color scheme.
It may reference Lemonade ... but probably won’t be a full-on rebuttal.
Last year, Us Weekly reported that Jay was prepping an album-length response to Beyoncé’s heralded visual album. It’s possible that Jay will make reference to Lemonade in some capacity (like he did on the “All the Way Up” remix), but after the couple's united front on DJ Khaled’s “Shining,” any substantial rebuttal seems unlikely.
Expectations are high.
Jay-Z is 47 years old, and he doesn’t have to make another album — music isn't his only business these days, and his legacy is untouchable no matter what (see: his historic induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame last week). Apparently there’s more he wants to prove, though, so the bar is set for Hov’s very best.