After Jay-Z’s wife Beyoncé Knowles aired details of his rumored infidelity on her album Lemonade, the US rapper has now addressed the scandal on his new album, 4:44. Released today on the Tidal streaming service that he part owns, various lyrics refer to the trials the couple have experienced.
After footage emerged of Beyoncé’s musician sister Solange Knowles attacking Jay-Z in a lift – interpreted by many to be over an infidelity – Beyoncé sang: “Of course sometimes shit goes down when there’s a billion dollars on an elevator.” Jay-Z has now also addressed the moment, rapping: “You egged Solange on, knowing all along all you had to say you was wrong / You almost went Eric Benet, let the baddest girl in the world get away … I don’t even know what you woulda done, in the future, other niggas playing football with your son.” The Eric Benet reference pertains to the R&B singer and actor who was unfaithful to Halle Berry.
Jay-Z also says he would “probably die with all the shame” if he had let the episode break up his relationship with his daughter Blue Ivy Carter: “What good is a menage a trois when you have a soulmate / You risked that for Blue?”
He also references the most infamous song on Lemonade, Sorry, where Beyoncé sings: “Looking at my watch, he shoulda been home / Today I regret the night I put that ring on … He only want me when I’m not there / He better call Becky with the good hair.” Jay-Z raps: “I’ll fuck up a good thing if you let me / Let me alone Becky! / A man who don’t take care of his family can’t be rich.”
To coincide with the release of 4:44, Jay-Z gave a breakdown of the songs’ meanings on US radio. He said that Kill Jay-Z, in which he references the Solange incident, is “about killing off the ego, so we can have this conversation in a place of vulnerability and honesty”.
Another track, Moonlight, alludes to the Oscars fiasco in which La La Land was wrongly awarded the best picture award over Moonlight. “We stuck in La La Land / Even if we win, we gonna lose,” he says, later explaining it as “a commentary on the culture and where we’re going”.
The details of the supposed infidelity have never been fully aired, though they were extensively rumoured in the runup to Lemonade, which then made numerous references to it. “How did it come down to this? Going through your call list,” Beyoncé sings at one point, along with: “This is your final warning / You know I give you life / If you try this shit again / You gon’ lose your wife.”