Reference Jay Z in 2017 and various monikers will pop up: He is Beyoncé’s husband, the subject of scorched-earth feminist manifesto Lemonade. He is the sports agent and music mogul. He is a meme. He is a business, man.
Most coverage will recognize Jay Z the celebrity before acknowledging Jay Z the rapper. This makes sense: He hasn’t really had it since 2011’s Watch The Throne, though some high velocity hit-or-miss guess features—that intro to Frank Ocean’s “Biking” is subtle fire and “Drug Dealers Anonymous” proves Jay and Pusha T should collab on a nostalgic coke boy/hustler EP already—showcases Hov still has bars. How much that matters is (kind of) irrelevant, however. Jay Z remains the always-in-your-top-five GOAT, and you look silly pretending otherwise.
Since Lemonade, rumors have percolated that Jay was quietly working on an album. It would serve as the public response to Beyoncé and that record and every other grainy elevator footage drama around Hov. At one point, it was to be a joint record between Bey and Jay, the evolution of their On The Run collaboration tour. That album was supposedly finished last year and Page Six reported it would drop as a TIDAL exclusive “very soon” last summer.
Of course that hasn’t happened. But Jay has pulled some classic testing-the-waters moves he has played in the past. Appearing on not one, but two DJ Khaled records, demonstrating a) an ability to blend in with a contemporary radio single sound and b) he could spit with dexterity, changing flows and rhythms and voices with ease.
The most significant indication came through two recent moves, though. The first is the most prominent as longtime Jay Z collaborator Swizz Beatz posting an Instagram early May 5 of Jay and Swizz together. Captioning the picture, Swizz wrote, “They don’t even know what’s about to happen.” He also added: “Album ModeZone.”
Also worth noting is Jay Z signing on as a headliner for two fall festivals: Philadelphia’s Made In America festival in September and Austin City Limits in October. Since Jay co-founded Made In America, that move wasn’t too brow-raising. But headlining ACL seemingly out of nowhere would be a strange move if he didn’t have a record to promote alongside with it.
The clues are out there is what we’re saying. It’s been four years since Jay’s last LP, Magna Carta Holy Grail. We’re not saying the world needs another Jay Z record to save it or something outlandish like that, but damn, Hov. We sure could use it.