Jay-Z, Beyonce

Hagop Kalaidjian/

With the release of 4:44 last month, Jay Z finally offered a response to Beyoncé’s landmark 2016 album Lemonade, which chronicled her coming to terms with her husband’s infidelity. He references his tiff with Solange Knowles in the Standard Hotel elevator in 2014; he mentions “Becky” (with the good hair); and, in the title track “4:44,” he raps, “What good is a ménage à trois when you have a soulmate / You risked that for Blue?”

But perhaps nowhere is the rapper more explicit about his cheating, and how he and Beyoncé attempted to repair their relationship, than in a new video paired with the album’s Tidal release, entitled “Footnotes for 4:44.” In it, Jay Z gathered a group of peers like Chris Rock, Mahershala Ali, Kendrick Lamar, Will Smith, and Jesse Williams to discuss toxic masculinity and its impact on their relationships with women. And, as part of that discussion, Jay Z continues to illuminate the cheating allegations that seem to have inspired his latest record.

This is my real life,” the rapper says, according to New York magazine. “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.” Rumors of a Jay Z-Rita Ora affair started surfacing around 2013, and even before that, the rapper was briefly linked with Rihanna before he and Beyoncé were married. The couple fought publicly on several occasions, prompting speculation they would split. There was also, of course, the Rachel Roy/Rachael Ray fiasco following Lemonade.

“Then we had to get to a point of ‘Okay, tear this down and let’s start from the beginning,’” Jay Z adds in “Footnotes to 4:44.” “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” He describes an incident in which he begged Beyoncé to stay with him, likening it to an out-of-body experience: “What is happening to my body right now?” he wonders. “All this is new for me.”

When Lemonade debuted last year, there was some brief speculation that it was a fictional concept album Beyoncé and Jay Z had devised together, illuminating a made-up infidelity. 4:44 would seem to put any lingering doubts to rest: “We just got to a place where in order for this to work, this can’t be fake. Not one ounce,” Jay Z says in “Footnotes to 4:44.” “I’m not saying it wasn’t uncomfortable because obviously it was.

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