There’s much to be said about Everything Is Love in relation to its function as a meeting of one of music’s biggest couples on and off wax. But it's just as compelling to examine within the context of JAY's contributions alone. Expectations for a full-length collaboration between him and Beyoncé were always high, and always fraught with anxiety. For every “Drunk in Love” or “Part II,” they have betrayed their better instincts in service of pop schmaltz (see: “Hollywood” or Bey filling in on “Young Forever” so often that you’d be forgiven for forgetting Mr. Hudson is the actual featured artist). Regardless of their batting average, there’s one disparity that’s pure fact: Beyoncé is in the midst of her creative peak, her imperial phase. Jigga himself would readily admit he’s far past his.

It’s stunning, then, to watch him catch a second (or, to be honest, third) wind that carries him close to his peak while offering a new take on the same ol’ Shawn. Everything Is Love finds JAY-Z staring down the barrel of 50 yet still continuing to move the goalposts on the genre’s age limits as he reconfigures our expectations of our veterans. Somehow, he’s rapping better on here than he was in his early 40s.

Even on an album where he’s mostly playing First Gentleman to Beyoncé Giselle Knowles, our true president, he’s activated and engaged. Most notably, he’s experimental. It’s not recency bias to say that the technical skills JAY deploys here are arguably more impressive than those he displayed on 4:44. That album found him rapping better than he had in years, albeit in sonic territory that he'd helped popularize and already conquered. No I.D.’s beats were timeless gems, but JAY’s proficiency was familiar. Here, he’s tackling Boi-1da, Vinylz, and Nav(!) production. The last time he borrowed a super-contemporary flow (Future’s “Karate Chop” on MCHG’s “La Familia,” R.I.P. JAY Z), he lost control of the power steering. Here, he peels off with the patented Migos style and does 100 mph on Mulholland with it. Love isn’t just devoid of missteps, but blemishes altogether—there isn’t one bar, verse, or line where Jigga stumbles.

Taken together, 4:44 and EIL represent a mastery and focus on content and execution that, bewilderingly, suggest a JAY-Z who is still charged up versus winding down. First he wrestled with emotional maturity; now he’s finally, firmly conquered contemporary soundscapes and flows. With a little help from his wife, the GOAT is rejuvenated and ready to go apeshit. —Frazier Tharpe