In yet another confessional addendum to one of his music videos, Jay-Z has released “Footnotes for 4:44” days after he shared the video for his new album’s title track. Like his “Footnotes for the Story of O.J.,” the video features a number of interviews with famous men of color — Chris Rock, Will Smith, Kendrick Lamar, Chris Paul, Jesse Williams, Aziz Ansari, Mahershala Ali, Lil Rel, Meek Mill, and more — about toxic masculinity, black love, and relationships with women. It’s an especially eye-opening account from Jay-Z about the emotional toll the near-dissolution of his marriage to Beyoncé took on them both and what led to their breaking point, without getting into specifics.
“This is my real life. I just ran into this place and we built this big, beautiful mansion of a relationship that wasn’t totally built on the 100 percent truth and it starts cracking. Things start happening that the public can see,” he says. “Then we had to get to a point of ‘Okay, tear this down and let’s start from the beginning … It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
He alludes to the fact that fighting for his marriage was more difficult to overcome than growing up in Marcy Projects and being shot at, and recalls a moment on vacation with Beyoncé where he begged her not to go. “What is happening to my body right now? Did I just say … ‘Don’t leave’? All this is new for me,” he says. In a later clip filmed in his studio surrounded by his friends and team, Jay-Z also reveals that he played “4:44” for Beyoncé early on: “We just got to a place where in order for this to work, this can’t be fake. Not one ounce. I’m not saying it wasn’t uncomfortable because obviously it was.”