Music Review: JAY-Z finds his third act on 4:44

JAY-Z sounds old. More than that, he sounds tired. On 4:44‘s title track and centerpiece, he sounds like he’s rapping into a cellphone; there’s a tinny, 8-track immediacy as the rapper disembowels himself over his much-publicized infidelities. By the third verse, he’s picturing his kids hearing the song, barely even on the beat—“You risked that for Blue?” he asks, a crack audible in his voice, Hannah Williams sample wailing indefinitely. As the story goes, Jay woke up and wrote the track at 4:44 in the morning, a cosmic reminder of his devotion to Beyoncé—they were both born on the fourth day of their respective months, and have matching “IV” tattoos on their ring fingers. Accordingly enough, the track sounds like a dark night of the soul, as though he ripped off the verse in a hotel bathroom before the sun was even …

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