Jay Z spent a good amount of time on 4:44 firing shots at his peers in the rap industry. Can you blame him? While he has been on the sidelines the last few years focusing on business and his family, there have been plenty of rappers claiming they're taking the throne, and Jay wanted to remind you all he's still a force to be reckoned with on wax.
But he also took some time to show love on 4:44, making sure hip-hop fans don't start telling revisionist history about the old days. He left a note in "Family Feud" for his older contemporaries, asking them to respect what younger artists are doing, even if their style choices are a little different. Jay specifically mentioned 2Pac's nose ring as an example of something that was seen as "different" back when he rocked it.
One particular artist took notice. Young Thug shared a picture of the lyric's description on his Instagram page, attached to a simple caption: "Thanks JAY..."
Thug has taken more criticism for his style than the average rapper. The cover for his project Jeffery was eye-catching, but it was also a major curve ball within rap's broader adherence to strict masculinity. Thug has created a lane where there really wasn't one before, introducing dress designers to the culture and embracing his status as a tastemaker. He even dropped a singing project this year, talking about love in the most Young Thug way possible.
The 2Pac line isn't the only one on "Family Feud" where Jay appears to be showing respect to younger artists who are thinking outside the box. In fact, the vast majority of the song is about Jay wanting to give back to younger artists, providing help for them that he feels he didn't get when he was on the way up. He dismisses some older men like Al Sharpton taking bizarre selfies instead of guiding the youth, but reinforces his belief in helping out other black business owners and friends. "I'll be damned if I drink some Belvedere while Puff got Ciroc," he says to close out his last verse on the song.
Jay's general line of thinking on "Family Feud" reflects the wisdom of the rest of the project. 4:44 succeeds because Jay is not an old artist trying to convince you he's still the same guy at age 47. By admitting his own limitations and sharing the trials and tribulations that produced his street smarts, he has managed to stay relevant long past when most rappers have bowed out. Thug and most of his contemporaries can certainly respect that.