The title track for Jay-Z‘s latest album release is perhaps his most direct public display at vulnerability to date.
It is less about a specific transgression or transgressions that required a public apology, it is more of a love letter to fellow former roughnecks who can’t seem to shake their tough exterior to have honest conversations with one another surrounding heartbreak, failure, and loss. It seems, for Jay-Z, it as much an apology to himself as it is to anyone else.
The accompanying video to 4:44, arguably the standout track of the album, is directed by TNEG production (comprised of Malik Sayeed, Elissa Blount-Moorhead and Arthur Jafa) and is an extension of the vulnerability displayed on the track. The video weaves in archival clips of Eartha Kitt speaking about relationships, a young boy singing along to Nina Simone‘s “Feeling Good,” couples fighting in the street via Worldstar footage and Al Green singing the love song “Judy,” among other scenes of found footage.
The footage is framed by two dancing scenes that continue throughout the 8-minute video. One is of Storyboard P, whose usual acrobatics are downplayed here for more subtle and sensual movements and Okwui Okpokwasili who is also known for her direct, even bombastic movements. She is flowing, smoothly cutting through the air with determined ease. The second is Beyoncé and Jay on stage dancing and smiling, but almost never directly at one other. In both stories of dance, neither of the dancers touch. It’s hard to tell if it’s a story of love lost and regained, or a story of honest love, where intimacy and distance can share the same household.
We sat down with the three women behind the video, director Elissa Blount-Moorhead, a partner in TNEG, Melinda Nugent, the executive director of the production company Strangelove, Inc. and Gina Harrell, the line producer from Strangelove who all played integral parts in the making of the short film.