4:44 is the fourteenth studio album and thirteenth solo album by American rapper Jay-Z. It was released on June 30, 2017 through Roc Nation. The album is solely produced by No I.D. with additional production from Jay-Z. The album features guest appearances from Frank Ocean, Damian Marley, Beyoncé and Jay-Z's mother, Gloria Carter. 4:44 was released as an exclusive to Sprint and Tidal customers, and is the first in a planned series of music exclusives from the Sprint-Tidal partnership. A physical release has been confirmed and will include the three bonus tracks.
4:44 was teased after posters were displayed in New York City and Los Angeles, as well as banner ads started appearing on the Internet. A one-minute teaser ad was aired during the NBA Finals on June 7 featuring actors Mahershala Ali, Lupita Nyong'o and Danny Glover, ending with "4:44 – 6.30.17, Exclusively on Tidal". On June 18 (Father's Day), a clip titled "Adnis" was posted on Sprint's YouTube page. Adnis was Jay-Z's father's name. A second teaser trailer was released on June 27 titled, "Kill Jay Z", featuring a young man with a "Stay Black" T-shirt. A third one followed on June 28 titled, "MaNyfaCedGod", featuring Lupita Nyong'o crying hysterically on the floor.
No I.D. says Jay-Z approached him about working together, and initially declined. He cited feeling "uninspired" and "didn't think had anything at the time" but talks about researching Quincy Jones as inspiration to begin work with Jay-Z. It is the first time Jay-Z has worked with one producer for an album. No I.D. states he "began to play the samples like I would play an instrument." To get inspiration for 4:44, No I.D. pointed to albums such as, What's Going On by Marvin Gaye, Confessions by Usher, The Blueprint by Jay-Z, Illmatic by Nas, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West, saying he "analyzed the mistakes and tried not to make those mistakes."
"4:44" was written when Jay-Z woke up one morning at 4:44 AM, and recorded at his house using Beyoncé's mic. Stereogum writer Tom Breihan calls the track, "one long, tearful, soul-ripped-open apology.
In April 2016, Beyoncé, Jay-Z's wife, released her sixth studio album, Lemonade. Lyrically, it alleged that Jay-Z was unfaithful. Many critics have noted that 4:44 is a response to Lemonade, with Jay-Z referencing lines from Lemonade, such as the "You better call Becky with the good hair" line on Beyoncé's "Sorry", with Jay-Z retorting, "Leave me alone, Becky" in "Family Feud".
Rolling Stone writes, "Jay-Z takes a pro-black stance, addresses intergenerational conflicts in hip-hop and talks about marital troubles after many had interpreted lines for his wife Beyoncé's 2016 album Lemonade as alluding to infidelity".
The album contains samples such as, Stevie Wonder's "Love's in Need of Love Today", Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free", and Nina Simone's "Four Women" and "Baltimore". Elia Leight of Rolling Stone notes 4:44 is "sample-heavy at a time when so much of rap has moved away from that sound". Lyrically, Jay-Z touches on an array of topics such as his friendship with Kanye West, his infidelity, his mother being a lesbian, and the people in charge of Prince's estate, among others.
4:44 has received general acclaim from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 84, based on 21 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". Neil McCormik of The Telegraph gave the album a perfect score, stating "It's a highly personal work bravely opening up the artist's very human flaws as an example to others, locating in his own suffering a path towards forgiveness, redemption and, ultimately, a better world. There is little braver than admitting your mistakes and trying to change your ways. By embracing vulnerability, Jay Z has taken a step towards genuine wisdom."
"Smile" was named "Best New Track" by Pitchfork, with editor Marc Hogan commenting, "JAY-Z is near peak form as a rapper. There are sneaky internal rhymes ("Everybody wave bye to the guy you thought you could lie to") as he rips into people who'll rip the album from Tidal, casting his own business success within the black American struggle. In a classy move that's also a tearjerker, the final word goes to his mom."
Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone called the album, "a stunning, raw and mature apology that's as much an ode to partnership and family as it is an example of how vulnerability can make for truly excellent art." Spanos states "4:44" is "the most specific and touching" song on the album.
4:44 was named "Best New Music", with Pitchfork reviewer Sheldon Pearce writing, "The most crafty and evasive MC lays bare his complicated life. This late-career gem is personal and diamond-sharp, confronting the failings and legacy of Shawn Carter and America." Pearce also calls the album a "historical artifact". User Comments