After the release of 4:44, JAY-Z has given literal meaning to his 1997 song "A Million and One Questions." Like the song, which features lines like "I'm seeing this industry clearer, as if I had coke in the trunk and cops in the rear mirror," since its June 30 release, the much-talked about album has spawned speculation and conversation on several aspects of the rap mogul.
In keeping up with Friday tradition in this post-4:44 era, JAY-Z gave fans exactly what they wanted this past weekend, by sitting down with Rap Radar hosts Elliott Wilson and B. Dot for an all-encompassing interview. In part one of this sit-down, which is available on Tidal as both video and audio, Jay leaves no stones unturned, speaking on topics like his relationship with Kanye West ("You can't bring my wife or my kid into it"), that controversial line in "The Story of O.J.," the elevator incident with Solange, and much, much more. Here are all the things we learned from their conversation.
The first two songs recorded for 4:44 were "Kill JAY Z" and "The Story of O.J."
In what may be a perfect example of serendipity, the first two records JAY-Z recorded for 4:44 happen to be the exact two records that open the album: "Kill JAY Z" and "The Story of O.J." The songs were recorded back in January.
JAY-Z originally wanted to drop the album on April 4th
With all the floating theories surrounding the 4:44 album title, Jay would have fueled even more conversation had the album arrive on its intended release date. As it turns out, Jigga originally had April 4th pencilled in for the release of his 13th studio album, however those plans eventually changed. "[The intent was to get it out in April] only because of the date," he shared. "It wasn't about a real thing, it was just let's get this out on 4/4 because it's 4:44." Interestingly enough, had it arrived on its original date, the album would have fell on Jay and Beyoncé's nine-year wedding anniversary.
Mold altered the 4:44 recording sessions
During the 4:44 recording process, Jay revealed that a mold problem in a Los Angeles house he was renting at the time caused him to get sick, which affected his vocals on the tracks "Smile" and "Moonlight."
"It gave it like a vulnerability on its own," he admitted. "These things would just happen as far as the vocal production."
There are "a couple" 4:44 leftovers
During the 4:44 sessions, a number of records were recorded and some were left on the cutting room floor. Despite adding three more songs to the deluxe edition of the album ("Adnis," "Blue's Freestyle/We Family," "MaNyFaCedGod"), a few others are still lying around. As revealed, Jay mentioned songs like "Black Gold" and "Part 2" were leftover. The latter record happens to be a response record to the album intro "Kill JAY Z." According to Jay, the song was to come before "Bam" and features "this beautiful" Al Green sample.
JAY-Z regrets Tidal's press conference
Since the 2015 launch, Tidal has received its fair share of criticism. If the 2015 press conference for the streaming service happens to be the first thing that comes to mind, well, even Jay-Z agrees. "I think it's important, even if I at some point failed, that people see. Maybe the next person will see the things that I have done wrong, like that terrible press conference," he explained. "I would never do that again, the launch of the entire thing. Things like that, that I've done wrong, that I'll never do again. I thought it was wrong. I thought it was a bunch of big artists complaining about money, and it wasn't even about that."
There is a rift with Kanye West, but it's fixable
Last fall, Kanye West infamously called out JAY-Z and Beyoncé on stage of his Saint Pablo tour and lamented on the fact that their daughters don't play together. Given the personal nature of the rant, this diatribe undoubtedly affected Jay. "What really hurt me was, you can't bring my wife and my kids into it," the Roc Nation mogul said of West's rant. "Like, Kanye is my little brother. He's talked about me a hundred times. He even made a song called 'Big Brother.' We've gotten past bigger issues. But you brought my family into it, now it's a problem."
"He knows it's a problem because me and him would have been talked about it, we would have been resolved our issue, but he knows he crossed the line," he added. "I know him. He knows. Not only does he have to know, I know he knows because we never let this much space go between one of our disagreements and we've had many. That's part of who we are. That's what I like about him. He's an honest person. He's open and he'll say things and he's wrong a lot of times but we'll confront it."
JAY-Z uses voice notes app for his raps
After years of banking rhymes in his head, Jay found new delight in storing these mental notes in the voice notes app. "I don't know what I was trying to prove," he mocked, while revealing how the app came in handy for the 4:44 sessions.
The "future" line in "Kill JAY-Z" was a play on words
When asked if there were any intentional jabs thrown in the "Kill JAY-Z" line, in which he raps, "In the future, other niggas playing football with your son," Jay explained how it was just a play on words. "I thought about that line. I thought about hip-hop and I was like, 'I really don't mean malice," he said. "What I mean by that is, the way his situation plays out because he's such a public figure, mine would have played out like that or maybe four times more.' His child is in a loving environment from what I see, I don't know. I'm not discrediting step pops in the whole world. It was just a line to say, 'That could happen to me in my future.' Just so happened, his name was Future, and then I just made a scheme out of it." As far as his stance with the rapper, whom he collaborated with last year for "I Got the Keys," Jay said there are no issues. "I don't have any problems with him. I don't have a reason to try to embarrass him," he shared. "It was just a rap thing. We're so sensitive with rap, too."
He believes the world has yet to experience the full impact of 4:44
Although the album has been generating critical acclaim by fans and music outlets, Jay believes the full impact of the album has yet to be felt. "This is beyond music," he said. "We haven't seen the importance of this album yet, until it really starts manifesting itself in culture."
Jay's aware of the criticism behind the subject matters presented on "The Story of O.J."
Despite touching on financial freedom and the power within cultural togetherness, the gravity of Hov's million dollar worth of game on "The Story of O.J." was unfortunately spoiled by whiny, braggadocio reactions to his money phone line — all of which confused Hov. "I didn't even tell people to stop using the money phone. I didn't say that. It doesn't say that anywhere. I had to listen again. How is this being misinterpreted," he questioned. " I just said it ain't money to us. It ain't. That's just an honest statement. Money to us is me and my three friends on the floor in Golden State. Not because the seats are expensive but because that's what we're doing here. You never seen that. Or building brands and pushing them forward. That can't be the end-all. That can't be our goal, to get money and show it on the Internet. That's some corny shit. You can do it. I've been saying it. 'Chains is cool to cop, but more important is lawyer fees.' That's my first album. I've always been trying to give people game. Here, learn from my experiences."
But the money phone was all. In addition, Hov also caught heat for a line that some critics were quick to call anti-Semitic. On the song, Jay raps, "You wanna know what's more important than throwin away money at a strip club? Credit./ You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it." The American Defamation League made a statement against the lines, but to that Jay made clear that "context is everything."
"It was an exaggeration, much like that racist cartoon," Jay-Z said in response to the critics. "It's hard for me to take that serious because I've exaggerated every Black image in the world [in that video]. And if even you, as a Jewish community, if you don't have a problem with the exaggerations of the guy eating watermelon, and all of the things that was happening, if you don't have a problem with that, and that's the only line you pick out, then you are being a hypocrite and I can't address that in a real way."
"Context is everything," he later added. "And the context of the song clearly outlines everything I'm trying to say and the point I'm trying to make, which is you guys did it right."
With so many jewels and more, listen to JAY-Z's full interview on the Rap Radar Podcast below.