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Jay Z’s Album 4:44 is an Ode to the African American Community

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UK chapter.

Although Jay-Z’s album 4:44 dropped on June 30th back in 2017, I listened to this album relatively recently. In fact as my father and I were driving to the University of Kentucky to move out of my dorm, due to the unfortunate cancellation of classes for the rest of the semester because of COVID-19, my father forced me to listen to this album during our eight hour car ride. 


My father claims that this is Jay-Z’s best album and that this album is essentially an ode to the African American community and more specifically the community that Jay-Z grew up in. Each song tells its own story. My favorites: “Moonlight”, “The Story of O.J.”, and “Smile” all hold different tones and stories within them. 


“Moonlight”, in my opinion is ingenious, the opening line to it is: “We stuck in La La Land/Even when we win, we gon’ lose,” is a perfect ode to the La La Land and Moonlight mix up at the 2017 Oscar’s. Many people still believe that La La Land should have actually won this category due to this mix up and it overshadows the victory for the cast of Moonlight. This victory was not just for the cast of Moonlight, but also for the broader African American community and those in it who also fall into the LGBTQ+ community as well. 


“The Story of O.J.” has an entirely different feel to “Moonlight”. It alludes to both colorism and the financial gain and loss the African American community struggles with. Colorism is a huge part of this song with the opening of it being Nina Simone singing “Skin is, skin, is/Skin black, my skin is black/My, black, my skin is yellow.” Colorism has always been an issue within the black community. It stems from the belief that the lighter the skin the more desirable and superior you were.  


This song also speaks on the financial loss and gain the black community goes through and how many families in this community do not have “generational” wealth. Jay-Z says “I bought some artwork for one million/Two years later, that — worth two million/Few years later, that — worth eight million/I can’t wait to give this — to my children.” In these lines he is talking about saving for his children and giving them wealth that will accumulate until they are old enough to use it or even keep it for their children, creating generational wealth for his family. Or at least trying to.


“Smile”, my third and all time favorite song off the album is about Jay-Z’s mother and her coming out of the closet as a lesbian and how much he loves and accepts her. Jay-Z says “Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian/Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian/Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate/Society shame and the pain was too much to take/Cried tears of joy when you fell in love/Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her/I just wanna see you smile through all the hate” It’s basically an ode to her and anyone else who is gay or lesbian in the African American community. And for her and everyone else to smile through the hate they may come across. 


There are so many more amazing songs in this album that both call out and assure the African American community. I encourage everyone to give it a listen and really pay attention to the words being said. When you do you feel the pain and emotion behind each song. And the stories unfold before your eyes.

I am a sophomore at the University of Kentucky with a major in Journalism! My passions are writing and reading poetry, as well as, experiencing new things the world has to offer!