Releasing an album after a four- year gap, Jay – Z has bared himself like rarely before . He apologises to Beyonce for cheating and pours out love for his mother whom he reveals to be lesbian, all while taking familiar but timely shots on the politics of race .
“ 4:44, ” the 13th studio album by the rapper born as Shawn Carter, came out Friday as an exclusive on his upstart Tidal streaming service whose new part-owners, telecom provider Sprint , is banking on the release to woo customers .
Jay -Z — who , apparently energised on punctuation , has restored his name’ s hyphen — delivers a long – awaited public reply to Beyonce who chastised him for infidelity on her acclaimed “ Lemonade ” album a year ago .
“ I apologise / Our love was one for the ages and I contained us , ” Jay – Z raps over a brassy Gospel refrain.
“ What good is a menage – a-trois when you have a soulmate? You risked that for Blue ?” he asks rhetorically, referring to the couple ’ s five – year -old daughter Blue Ivy .
Beyonce recently gave birth to twins , her father revealed on social media, although the family has yet to confirm details. Jay – Z on “ 4:44” suggests they conceived the twins naturally .
Jay -Z , discussing the album on iHeartRadio, said “ 4:44” was named for the time of morning when he woke up and wrote the song . He and Beyonce have matching ring -finger tattoos of the Roman numeral “ IV ” — four being the day in different months of their wedding and both their birthdays.
– Embracing lesbian mother –
Jay -Z , who recently became the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame , infuses the album with touches of house music and reggae , giving a sleeker, contemporary sound to the artist whose later albums had veered into mainstream pop .
On the soulful “ Smile , ” Jay – Z for the first time confirms hushed rumours that his mother is lesbian, explaining how she turned to substances to cope with the stigma.
“ Mama had four kids but she’ s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long , that she ’ s a thespian , ” raps Jay -Z , who has spoken of how his father ’ s absence contributed to his troubled youth in public housing in Brooklyn .
“ Don’ t matter to me if it’ s him or her / I just want to see you smile through all the hate, ” he raps.
“ Smile ” opens with a snippet from Stevie Wonder and closes with a poem by Jay – Z’ s mother , Gloria Carter , who recites, “ The world is changing and they say it’ s time to be free / But you live with the fear of just being me. ”
Jay -Z , like many rappers of his generation, employed homophobic slurs in his early music but was also one of the first prominent voices in hip -hop to speak out in favour of gay rights.