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Why Jay Z’s ‘4:44’ Is The Perfect Album For The Twitter Era

Tune Collective Staff

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What you about to witness is my thoughts
Just my thoughts, man — right or wrong
Just what I was feeling at the time

The hardest thing to achieve as a world-famous, millionaire-going-on-billionaire rapper is a sense of spontaneity. JAY-Z has been a businessman and/or business, maaaan for such a long time now that nearly every move he’s made has long felt inherently workshopped, focus-grouped and plotted to the finest detail — when the stakes are so high, you can’t leave anything to chance. In 2001, a still-ascendant Jigga could advertise his album as an off-the-cuff collection of disparate trains of thought and the idea was at least mildly plausible; in 2017, such rawness seems like it should be impossible from Shawn Carter.

The few glimpses that we have gotten in the past few years of a relatively unfiltered JAY-Z, though, have come in the form of sporadic Twitter splurges he’s indulged in from his @S_C_ account — like the #FactsOnly Q&A spree he went on after the release of Magna Carta Holy Crail in 2013, and just a couple weeks ago, the “people that have inspired me” series of shoutouts he offered before his induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. They’re disorganized, they have tons of typos, they show the level of Twitter mastery of somebody who only uses social media a handful of times a year — but they more or less feel real, which for someone of JAY-Z’s stature is an increasingly rare and refreshing thing, especially for longtime fans who’ve felt increasingly disconnected from the MC along his journey from Marcy to Bel-Air.

At midnight on Thursday (June 29), JAY-Z released his 13th solo LP, 4:44, as a TIDAL and Sprint exclusive, and the most immediately striking thing about the album upon first listen was its conversational directness. JAY makes up for lost verses over the four years since his last LP by addressing everything from his tarnished relationship with Kanye to his infamous elevator video with Solange to his Lemonade-inspiring unfaithfulness to Beyonce — all within the first track, “Kill Jay Z.” Making Jigga’s bars hit even harder is the fact that there are barely any choruses, big hooks or even major guest appearances on the set: The three credited guests on the set are Frank Ocean, Damian Marley and Jay Z’s own mother Gloria Carter, with full-album producer No I.D. by far the biggest other voice on the set, interjecting it with samples from Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill and Nina Simone whenever Shawn seems to need a breather.

It’d be easy to view the album as defiantly uncommercial, if not downright experimental in its practically free-associative nature. But while the set will almost certainly be a non-starter at radio — ask JAY what the first single from the set is, and watch him cackle in response — the rapper has wisely learned, probably from no one more than his own wife, that the FM dial has been replaced by the Internet as the most important space for pop music to own. And that’s the way that 4:44 is designed to be consumed, debated and evaluated — as a shared social media experience, with JAY-Z firing off tweets-as-bars about O.J. Simpson, Steve Harvey, and Prince and you can practically see the likes and RTs being racked up by the thousands as you’re listening.

The new album feels like one of those just-my-thoughts Twitter deluges, S Dot caught in a (relatively) unguarded moment, sharing his feelings on topics as close to home as his mother’s closeted homosexuality, the possibility of his daughter one day discovering his infidelity, and the legacy both real and intangible that he’ll leave behind when he’s dead.

And like those sprees, it’s occasionally messy — JAY’s notes about “why Jewish people own all the property in America” are pretty ill-advised, as is his “Marie Antoinette, baby, let ’em eat cake” message to his mother at the end of his otherwise affecting “Smile” verse. But the occasional lack of editing-for-content has the ultimate effect of making the set more endearing, since they seem like moments that the MC let slip because he didn’t even give himself the chance to overthink things. It’s like catching a pop star in a live vocal crack and feeling grateful to know that at least the performance isn’t lip-synced.

4:44‘s framework also made its manner of debut particularly powerful. An incidental function of the age of streaming and Global Release Fridays is that a wide number of highly anticipated releases end up being listened to for the first time in informal midnight listening parties, in which the Internet is able to react to an album in real time, the same way users would provide running commentary on an awards show or sporting event. Many of those albums aren’t really optimized for such man I should’ve gone to bed hours ago listening, but JAY-Z’s latest certainly is, allowing fans to hear it for the first time in the same mindstate that Jigga presumably recorded it, contemplative and vulnerable. It felt like a revelation, even more so because it was clear that it was dawning on so many fans around the globe at the same time and in the same way as it was dawning on you.

The second-most-immediately striking thing about 4:44 is just how quickly it ends: Ten tracks, 36 minutes, and it’s out. In the playlist era of artists pushing their albums’ run-times well past single-CD constraints — both Drake and DJ Khaled’s latest sets very casually ran past the 80-minute mark — for JAY-Z to revert to Illmatic lengths for his latest is certainly jarring. But it makes perfect sense for 4:44: Like any good social-media bender, when you’re out of stuff to say, the move is to just log off. And all the rest of us can do is set a Twitter alert and go back to sleep.

This article originally appeared on Billboard.

HipHop/Rap/R&B

Stream Dave B’s New LP, ‘Pearl’

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Critically acclaimed Seattle Hip-Hop artist Dave B is thrilled to announce that his luminescent new album ‘Pearl’ is available now. Following his late-night performance alongside Macklemore last week on Jimmy Kimmel Live, performing Makclemore’s new single featuring Dave B, “Corner Store”. Leading with his new single, “Sweetest Thing”, Dave B unveils his best work yet in a breakout 8-track new album.

‘Pearl’ is Inspired by heartwarming summer days down at the beach. While the road to making ‘Pearl’ with producers Elan Wright, Nima Skeemz and Darius Rios was not as smooth as originally planned. To Dave, it became a true labor of love.

He explains in recent interview:

“It’s been a long journey making this album. So Elan, Nimon, Darius and I pretty much created the whole project. Then I lost my laptop with everything and we had to start again from scratch. We locked ourselves in the studio and with no time that summer to hit the beach, we created feel good music that took us there. And after all that, the end product is this luminous Pearl… it started off as a grain of sand and transcended into a beautiful, rare gem.”

On ‘Pearl’, Dave B combines Hip-Hop, Jazz, R&B and Funk elements with vocal versatility, lyrical dexterity and boundless creativity in his latest effort resulting in a multifaceted lustrous album.

Breakout songs on the new album include, “Sweetest Thing”, “Scrolling”, and his Mom-featured, “Dreamboy”.

Dave will also be closing out the year on a very special note when he performs with Macklemore for his hometown show in Seattle on December 23rd.

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HipHop/Rap/R&B

Stream T-Pain’s New LP, ‘OBLIVION’

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T-Pain releases his forthcoming 5th studio album, OBLiViON. The multi-platinum artist has been teasing the release of his new album for the last few months, releasing a steady stream of singles including “Textin’ My Ex” ft. Tiffany Evans, “Goal Line” ft. Blac Youngsta, and “F.B.G.M.” ft. Young M.a. Following his darker and melancholic 2011 album, rEVOLVEr, T-Pain’s first album in 6 years feels more like a celebration for the icon. The album features Chris Brown, Ty Dolla $ign, Wale, and more. OBLiViON was mostly produced by Dre Moon and includes some production from T-Pain himself as well.

Hands-down one of the most influential figures in modern music, T-Pain continues to explore and experiment with new sounds on OBLiViON. His innovative use of vocal effects, his singular voice, and unparalleled songwriting abilities changed the way artists have approached making music for more than a decade.

The two-time GRAMMY Award winner is fresh off a special acoustic tour in which he played new versions of his hits like “Buy U a Drank,” “Bartender,” and “5 O’Clock.” On the tour, T-Pain showed that his songwriting and vocal talents don’t need to hide behind Auto-tune or any effects and reaffirmed for any doubters that his hits are timeless and classic songs.

Stream OBLiViON above and find full album details below.

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HipHop/Rap/R&B

Premiere: Tim Maiden Takes Us To “The Other Side” Of His Soul In New Video

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The single landed on the Spotify’s Fresh Finds Playlists and was picked up by well respected music outlets. Now it’s time for rising singer/songwriter Tim Maiden to unveil the visual presentation to his soon-to-be dark R&B hit single, “The Other Side” .

In the Derek Anthony Welte-directed video, Tim Maiden shows us the cruel, twisted, dark, tortured side of love. Filled with dark elements and moody sounds that has become a popular trend in today’s dark R&B genre. The director illustrates the singer’s heart and soul to the world for the first time ever for an amazing first impression.

After years of searching for his sound, Tim realized being 100% honest in his music was the only thing that lead to clarity. Holding back his emotions not only stifled him creatively, it also led to a music career that was unfulfilling. He now finds himself exposing his truth by blending R&B melodies with lush soundscape’s. Maiden’s soulful vocals will captivate listeners instantly as evident.

Tim Maiden on the making of “The Other Side”:

“The Other Side was found by mistake really. Originally I had put so much time and resources into another idea that was supposed to be the last song of the album. In the last session for it I realized I hated it. Everything was contrived and I hit a massive wall. I was thinking to myself, this is my last idea, I’ve spent way to much time on it and it sounds like shit. Cool.

So it was kind of a make or break moment for me. I was exhausted after a few years of working on this album and didn’t want it to end like this. I took a red-eye from NY to LA and only had 1 day left on this record. So I told my producer I wanted to write and record a new idea from scratch with the 2 hours we had left. I didn’t have my Prophet, which I made my entire record on, and we were at a friends home studio in east LA that was much more suited for production work not recording vocals and tracking from scratch. Little did I know I was totally wrong and had a lot to learn.

So much of this process is less about gear and money and more about guts. When you have nothing to hide behind is when your ready to make something special and worthwhile.

30 minutes to an hour later we had a song that I couldn’t be more proud of. This song taught me what it’s all about and even though I couldn’t hear myself as I was tracking and we had little to no gear, it’s probably my most personal and proud work because it has guts.”

Enter the mind of Tim Maiden below.

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