Fresh out of The Atlantic:
If you weren’t a Tidal subscriber or Sprint customer as of June 26, you will need a new phone program to play Jay-Z’s new album, 4:44, this week. Simply signing up for Tidal, the streaming service co-owned by Jay-Z and a number of other star musicians, won’t do it–you want a Sprint contract also. To any would-be listeners annoyed in this situation, Jay-Z’s spin on the matter may not help matters. “This is a perfect storm of sharing music with fans,” he said in a press release. “Sprint allows for and promotes creative independence.”
Finding virtue in what is apparently selling out has, of course, long been part of Jay-Z’s package. His record of corporate partnerships over the years is lengthy, and Sprint is the third separate phone company through which he’s released an album. But 4:44, Jay-Z’s best album in quite a long time, tries to answer those concerns. It is the thoughtful refinement of a career-long argument that Jay-Z has made: that for him, making huge dollars serves a greater good.
The hip-hop veteran No ID created the album’s 10 tracks, using chopped-up soul samples and crisp rhythms for controlled, bittersweet soundscapes which foreground the lyrics. And what juicy lyrics that they are. Lemonade’s implication that Jay-Z cheated on Beyoncé? Confirmed, and heartily apologized for, on the title track. The mysterious video of his sister-in-law assaulting him in an elevator? His increasingly tense relationship with Kanye West? They are officially on the outs, with Jay-Z suggesting that his onetime protégé and buddy is “insane.” There is even a revelation that Jay-Z’s mother is a lesbian: “Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take.”