After weeks of hints, teases, trailers, and promos, JAY-Z has dropped his latest album “4:44” — available only on streaming service Tidal — along with a much-hyped visual accompaniment in the form of an animated music video directed by the rapper and Mark Romanek.
While expectations long held that JAY-Z would deliver a full visual album to match the new album, likely drawing inspiration from his own wife Beyonce’s work on her lauded “Lemonade,” a lush and compelling visual album that accompanied her latest album while standing magnificently on its own, the result appears to be something much slimmer and more traditional.
In the first clip from the video, JAY-Z and Romanek appear to be hard at work twisting and taking back African-American stereotypes, and as Rolling Stone notes, the rapper’s own animated character, Jaybo, is modeled off Sambo, the protagonist of Helen Bannerman’s controversial children’s book “The Story of Little Black Sambo.”
The rapper recently told iHeartRadio, “‘The Story of O.J.’ is really a song about we as a culture, having a plan, how we’re gonna push this forward. We all make money, and then we all lose money, as artists especially. But how, when you have some type of success, to transform that into something bigger.”
It’s unclear if JAY-Z will be releasing more visuals to accompany his new album, though clips and teases advertising the contributions of stars like Mahershala Ali and Lupita Nyong’o seem to hint at a much larger project to come.
You can get a taste of the video over on Pitchfork, thanks to a short clip. Want more? You’re going to have to subscribe to Tidal. “4:44” debuts exclusively on Tidal today, June 30. The album will also be available to Sprint customers.