JAY-Z Breaks Down ‘4:44’ Track by Track

A few hours on from the release of JAY-Z’s fourteenth studio album, 4:44, and the conversation has gracefully shifted away from the fact that it’s a TIDAL exclusive. Instead, we’re talking about how JAY-Z—a 47-year-old mogul and legend coming off a string of less-than-stellar solo LPs—has created a deft, exciting, and distinct album, one that has him completely at ease with his own voice and style. If you don’t have TIDAL (and you’re not looking to switch your cell phone coverage), 4:44 is playing front-to-back on over 160 iHeartRadio stations for 24 hours, and Hov himself guided listeners through the record with a track-by-track breakdown for the stations this morning.

The walkthrough doesn’t give too much away—he only offers a sentence or two on each track. But there are some interesting nuggets in there. He explains that the title track, and the album itself, came from something seemingly incidental. “I woke up, literally, at 4:44 in the morning, 4:44 AM, to write this song,” he says. “So it became the title of the album and everything…. It’s such a powerful song, and I just believe one of the best songs I’ve ever written.” He explains that “Moonlight” stemmed from the Academy Awards cock-up that led to La La Land erroneously being announced as the winner of Best Picture before handing it over to the real winners, the cast and crew of Moonlight. “It’s a commentary on the culture and where we’re going,” he says. He also adds an important note on opener “Kill JAY-Z”: “Obviously, it’s not to be taken literal.”

Listen to Hov explain the album right here or read a transcript below, graciously tweeted out by writer Brandon Caldwell.

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