meta-scriptJay-Z, No I.D. & More On Making '4:44' | Album Of The Year |
Jay-Z AOTY Oral History


Jay-Z, No I.D. & More On Making '4:44' | Album Of The Year

Take a look back at the making of Jay' GRAMMY-nominated magnum opus album with key collaborators

GRAMMYs/Jan 26, 2018 - 03:04 am

The legend of Jay-Z's 13th solo studio album preceded the actual work.

Following 2014's "Elevator Gate" and Beyoncé's candid GRAMMY-winning project Lemonade, rumors swirled that Hova would release his own album in response.

Once the New York City buses with 4:44 emblazoned on the sides started rolling around in late spring 2017, speculation ran rampant about the title being informed by the incident —  a hotel elevator camera capturing Solange attacking him as Beyoncé looked on. (The address of Le Bain, the hotel's rooftop bar, is 444 West 13th Street. Meanwhile, Jay-Z's favorite number is 4.)

Just how intimate was Jay-Z planning to be?

On June 30, 2017, we found out.

4:44 is much more than the sum of its parts. On one hand, it's the quintessential one artist/one producer masterpiece, as Jay and super producer No I.D. pieced the LP together (with famed engineer Young Guru) until perfection was achieved. On another hand, it's a coming of age project for not just Jay-Z, but hip-hop in general. 4:44 travels beyond the ageism crossroads rappers have often reached and lost their way. Jay-Z proved that grown rap music can exist and punctuated it by being an open book and stripping away his mystique. He admitted past sins, acknowledged failures (for perhaps the first time in two decades) and the result was his most personal project to date — yielding eight 60th GRAMMY nominations, including Album Of The Year.

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No I.D., Jimmy Douglass, Chaka Pilgrim and other key participants revisit the making of the album and how the magnum opus came together.

*Jay-Z (artist/co-producer): Before I started this album I studied — not just hip-hop — any genre. I studied Prince, I studied Mike [Jackson], Bono had "Beautiful Day" [when] he was like 40, I think. Just like from the beginning of someone's career, and that sort of album that really means something that touches the culture. The touchpoint that moves, that starts a conversation, and be really f***ing good. It's a hard thing to do because you're so removed from where you were at the beginning.

No I.D. (producer): We had discussed this type of project for a couple years. When he first came to me — two, two and a half years ago — he told me he wanted to do something that was a little more revealing. I think at the time I didn't have a sonic direction; he didn't have a sonic direction. It kind of led to us running back and forth into each other. I really was just trying find something sonically to do that would be different, but familiar.

*Jay-Z: No I.D. came to me with a technique. He said, "I got this thing. … I got your next Blueprint. … I know that's a lot to say."

No I.D.: I told him, "I got something," and played him tons of beats that kind of had the technique, and some of the stuff we ended up using was in that batch.

*Jay-Z: We were at the Roc Nation offices here in L.A., and he played me what he was working on, and I was like, "That's amazing."

"4:44 was putting all of the marbles on the table on every front — between the home front, the fan front, all of it. It's like, 'Here it is: all or nothing.'"

No I.D.: As we began to actually hone in and work and [Jay-Z] knowing I had the specific technique, I was like, "What direction do you want to go in?" He had a playlist, and he was saying, "This is what inspires me at this moment." I was like, "Give it to me and let me work off this template, so to speak."

Ron Gilmore Jr. (keys/bass/vocoder): When I came in, a lot of the samples were already done — a lot of the drums were already done, and what I was doing was embellishing, maybe adding a bassline here or there.

No I.D.: For the majority of the time it was me, [Jay-Z], and [Young] Guru, and it would either be at my studio or his house, which automatically made it super intimate. No one knew that we were even doing it. So once he made an announcement — if we really got going in January, then he kind of walked in by April and told everybody "Hey, I've got an album." And it was out by June.

Dave Kutch (mastering engineer): It was pretty close to the release date that we did everything. It all happened very, very fast.

Jay-Z: We kind of moved on the fly because in the beginning, I wanted to drop the title — which we did, we put the 4:44 all around on buses and on billboards.

Will Perron (creative director): We went back to the old way of doing things — billboards and posters and subways.

*Jay-Z: By the night it was like on the Channel 11 News everywhere. CNN was like, "I think Jay-Z is dropping an album." I dropped the billboard and it got figured out in 24 hours, and I was like OK we've got three more weeks.

Jimmy Douglass (engineer): The nature of it was quite simple: There's only one surprise element, one time.

Chaka Pilgrim (video producer): Jay came up with the deeper meaning of the songs on the project overall, and we kind of figured what was the visual accompaniment to it. We wanted to do something that was non-traditional, not music videos but a little more esoteric that allowed you to put yourself in the place of [Jay-Z] in being honest and open on where that can lead.

Kutch: The first song I worked on was "Kill Jay-Z," and I was like "Oh my god." It was similar to the first time I got to listen to Lemonade entirely when I mastered that. When you heard the full lyric, and you heard the full storyline. It hits you like a ton of bricks. This much honesty. This much difficult honesty coming through in a project. It shows you why Jay-Z is Jay-Z.

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Douglass: At first I was like, "This is an amazing piece of work. It's amazing that he can actually be able to bare his soul and be able to apologize to his wife for his ill behavior. This was a really unique way of doing that, and it's amazing that he's in a position to have a platform like this to do that instead of bringing roses and chocolate home." That was my first impression. As I listened more, I was like, "He's saying some real s***." I was blown away.

Jay-Z: I've never been so open for so long; usually it's been one song, two songs, three songs on an album — then it's sprinkled in other songs. But for an entire album, to make 10 "You Must Love Mes" is new and kinda makes people uncomfortable.

Pilgrim: It's like the song ["Kill Jay-Z"] says, "You can't heal what you never reveal."

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">4:44. WOW. MASTER TEACHER.</p>&mdash; Kendrick Lamar (@kendricklamar) <a href="">June 30, 2017</a></blockquote><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Perron: Originally, we'd thrown some ideas around about what the album was going to be called. It was meant to be this really stripped away record, very didactic and super honest. We threw around ideas of doing like these grotesquely honest photos, and throughout the exploration of this — and the record was getting closer and closer to being done — it seemed obvious that "4:44 was the lead song on the record and what the record was anchored on. We landed on that being the title."

Douglass: I was awestruck by what he was doing and the courage that he had. It was putting all of the marbles on the table on every front — between the home front, the fan front, all of it. It's like, "Here it is: all or nothing."

*As told to Rap Radar podcast

(Kathy Iandoli has penned pieces for Pitchfork, VICE, Maxim, O, Cosmopolitan, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Billboard, and more. She co-authored the book Commissary Kitchen with Mobb Deep's late Albert "Prodigy" Johnson, and is a professor of music business at select universities throughout New York and New Jersey.)

Catching Up On The GRAMMY Awards Just Got Easier. Have A Google Home Device? Just Say "Talk To GRAMMYs"

Jon Batiste
Jon Batiste

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images


GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Jon Batiste’s Encouraging Speech For His 2022 Album Of The Year Win For 'We Are'

Jon Batiste accepts the Album Of The Year award for We Are, a win that he dedicated to "real artists, real musicians."

GRAMMYs/Apr 26, 2024 - 04:50 pm

Jon Batiste walked into the 2022 GRAMMYs with a whopping 11 nominations, making him the most recognized artist of the evening. By the end of the night, he received five GRAMMYs for Best American Roots Performance, Best American Roots Song, Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media, Best Music Video, and the highly coveted Album Of The Year.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, watch Batiste take the stage to accept the award for Album Of The Year for his sixth studio album, We Are

Batiste began his praises by acknowledging God: "I just put my head down and work on the craft every day. I love music, he said. "I've been playing since I was a little boy. It's more than entertainment for me — it's a spiritual practice." He also thanked the "many people that went into making this album," including his grandfather, nephew, father, and executive producer, Ryan Lynn.

"This [award] is for real artists, real musicians. Let's just keep going. Be you! That's it. I love you even if I don't know you," Batiste cheered.

Press play on the video above to hear Jon Batiste's complete acceptance speech and check back to for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

Watch: Jon Batiste Delivers A Heartfelt Performance Of “Ain’t No Sunshine” & “Lean On Me” | 2024 GRAMMYs Performance

Taylor Swift hold her GRAMMY Awards from the 2016 GRAMMYs
Taylor Swift at the 2016 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Getty Images


GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Taylor Swift Become The First Woman To Win Album Of The Year Twice

Celebrate the release of ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ by revisiting the night Taylor Swift made history as the first woman to win Album Of The Year twice at the 2016 GRAMMYs.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 10:32 pm

At the 2024 GRAMMYs, Taylor Swift became the artist with the most Album Of The Year awards in GRAMMY history with four total wins. But her first record-breaking AOTY moment traces back eight years ago, when she became the first woman to win the category twice.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, relive the moment she won the historic golden gramophone for her iconic fifth studio album, 1989, at the 2016 GRAMMYs.

“I want to thank the fans for the last 10 years,” Swift beamed, praising her loyal fanbase, the Swifties. She later acknowledged the Recording Academy for “this unbelievable honor” and the project’s main producer, Max Martin, who “deserved to be up there for 25 years.”

Before she left the stage, she offered an inspiring message to aspiring female musicians in light of her groundbreaking win. “To all the young women, there are going to be people along the way who try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame,” she explained. “But if you just focus on the work and don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday, when you get where you’re going, you’ll look around and know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there. That will be the greatest feeling in the world.”

Check out Taylor Swift’s complete acceptance speech for her second Album Of The Year win, before diving into the release of The Tortured Poets Department, and check back to for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

Get Ready For Taylor Swift's ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ Album Release: Everything You Need To Know

Taylor Swift AOTY Win Photo
Taylor Swift accepts Album Of The Year at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy


2024 GRAMMYs: Taylor Swift Makes GRAMMY History With Fourth Album Of The Year Win For 'Midnights'

'Midnights' earned Taylor Swift her fourth Album Of The Year win at the 2024 GRAMMYs — the most of any artist of all time.

GRAMMYs/Feb 5, 2024 - 04:42 am

Taylor Swift has made GRAMMY history once again.

The pop superstar won the GRAMMY for Album Of The Year for Midnights at the 2024 GRAMMYs, marking her fourth win in the Category — the most Album Of The Year wins of any artist at the GRAMMYs. (She had been tied with Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, and Paul Simon.) 

Swift was shocked as she accepted the award, bringing up her producer Jack Antonoff — who had already won the GRAMMY for Producer of the Year — and collaborator Lana Del Rey, who was also nominated for Album Of The Year for Did You Know There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd. She acknowledged both in her acceptance speech, calling Antonoff "a once in a generation producer" and Del Rey "a legacy artist, a legend in her prime right now." 

She continued, "I would love to tell you that this is the best moment of my life, but I feel this happy when I finish a song, or when I crack to code to a bridge I love, or when I'm shortlisting a music video, or when I'm rehearsing with my dancers or my band, or getting ready to go to Tokyo to play a show. For me the award is the work. All I wanna do is keep being able to do this. I love it so much, it makes me so happy." 

The 66th GRAMMY Awards were already a big night for Swift before her Album Of The Year victory. Midnights won Best Pop Vocal Album earlier in the telecast, marking her 13th win; as Swifties know, 13 is Swift's lucky number because of her Dec. 13 birthday.

And at the 2024 GRAMMYs, it was her lucky number indeed: along with making history, Swift used her first win to announce a brand-new album. Swift will release her 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, on April 19.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

All Things Taylor Swift

Karol G poses with awards during the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023 in Seville, Spain
Karol G poses with awards during the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023 in Seville, Spain

Photo: Courtesy of The Latin Recording Academy/Borja B. Hojas, Getty Images © 2023


2023 Latin GRAMMYs: Karol G Wins Album Of The Year For 'Mañana Será Bonito'

Karol G won the Latin GRAMMY for Album Of The Year for 'Mañana Será Bonito' at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs.

GRAMMYs/Nov 17, 2023 - 12:57 am

Karol G won the Latin GRAMMY for Album Of The Year for Mañana Será Bonito at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs.

Pablo Alborán's La Cu4rta Hoja, Paula Arenas' A Ciegas, Camilo's De Adentro Pa Afuera, Andrés Cepeda's Décimo Cuarto, Juanes' Vida Cotidiana, Natalia Lafourcade's De Todas Las Flores, Ricky Martin's Play, Fito Paez's Eadda9223, and Carlos Vives' Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así were the other nominees in the category.

Karol G first made a splash by cross-pollinating reggaeton and Latin trap; these days, she has eyes on an entire country: her native Colombia.

Musical powerhouse, reggaetonera and general bichota, Karol G is one major reason why all eyes are on Colombia. After establishing herself as a hit-making star in the adjoining worlds of reggaeton and Latin trap, she is clearly enjoying her success and savoring the moment.

As its sunshine-and-rainbows-festooned cover suggests, Mañana Será Bonito was one of 2023's most irresistible albums — it radiates verve, panache and sexuality. Not only that: it’s filled with inspired features by the likes of Romeo Santos, Shakira, Carla Morrison, and Sean Paul. Mañana Será Bonito debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 200, making it the first all-Spanish language album by a female artist to hold that impressive distinction.

Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs.