Shawn Carter made some serious history this year. In June, the renowned Brooklyn MC ended up being the very first hip-hop artist in history to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Popularity. Obviously, he needed to miss the ceremony to be with Beyoncé, who was providing birth to the super star couple’s twins.
The recognition is significant, but it’s likewise one honor in a long list for Jay-Z. More crucial to the rapper’s legacy is exactly what occurred later in June; he launched 4:44, his 13th solo album and 6th prominent work considering that he “retired” with 2003’s The Black Album. The idea of the late-career gem does not really exist in hip-hop. It’s still a fairly young musical category, and therefore remains focused on younger artists who are approaching or running in their prime. At 47 and well into the magnate phase of his career, Jay-Z has actually proven that not just can he continue producing relevant and resonant music, he’s capable of creative development.
4:44 is the proof, deserving footing alongside timeless Jay-Z albums like Sensible Doubt and The Blueprint. Easily his most personal and vulnerable album, it blows away all hip-hop clichés, trading in the rap artist’s renowned blowing for mature self-questioning. He’s still laser-precise with his lyrics and delivery, and now he’s his own target. Chicago producer No I.D. crafted a vintage, soulful noise for all 10 tracks, a perfect canvas for the sophisticated lyricist.
It’s suitable Jay-Z stands alone as a rap artist in the Songwriters Hall of Popularity, because his body of work is a likewise singular monolith– one he continues to shape. Jay-Z at T-Mobile Arena, October 28.