Rapper JAY-Z set social media on fire following the release of his much-anticipated new album, 4:44, last month. But while fans have praised the quality of the work itself, it was the surprising details the star revealed in his music that really got people talking. After Beyoncé's hugely-successful 2016 visual album Lemonade sparked rumors of infidelity in their marriage, JAY-Z's album seemed to have been his response — and he pretty much owned up to it all. But he's not done talking candidly about his private life: according to People, on Monday the rapper released an 11-minute video called "Footnotes for 4:44," on Tidal, and in it, JAY-Z revealed a huge secret about his marriage to Beyoncé. But while it's easy to judge JAY-Z for his mistakes, his honest message is one that's worth really listening to.
In "Footnotes for 4:44," JAY-Z was joined by a number of other celebrity men including Chris Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Jesse Williams, Mahershala Ali, Will Smith, Chris Paul, Aziz Ansari and Meek Mill, and together, they got real about the difficult reality of love and commitment. What resulted was an insightful and powerful conversation about relationships and the mistakes they'd made along the way. One of JAY-Z's major admissions? That his marriage to Beyoncé "wasn't totally built on 100 percent truth," and, in fact, that it almost broke down completely, according to People.
In the clip, JAY-Z spoke about the album's title track — a song that many considered to be an apology to his wife — and revealed how he struggled to figure out how to be a good husband. He said, according to People:
What I thought, when I met my dad, was, 'Oh, I'm free to love now,' but it's like, 'OK yeah, but how are you gonna do it? ... You've never done this before, no one informs you how to do this, you don't even have the tools to do it.' ... And that's why I say [on "4:44"], 'you mature faster than me, I wasn't ready.'
JAY-Z then explained that he and Beyoncé "built this big, beautiful mansion of a relationship that wasn't totally built on 100 percent truth. And it started cracking, and then things start happening that the public can see," according to People. But unlike many celebrity marriages that often end in divorce couched with carefully negotiated pre-nups, it sounds like JAY-Z and Beyoncé weren't at all ready to call it quits. JAY-Z said, "we had to go to a point of, ‘OK, tear this down and let’s start from the beginning' … By far, I'm telling you, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done."
It's honestly surprising to hear JAY-Z admitting so openly to the challenges he faced in his marriage — not just because it's not usually something that people open up about, but because JAY-Z and Beyoncé did still seem like they had a picture-perfect life, even with rumors swirling. Yet despite their fame and money and glamorous, jet-setting lifestyle, it sounds like they still struggled with a lot of the same issues as many other couples, and that they, too, had to figure out a way to make it work.
Another major point raised between the men in the video? What it's been like to learn to navigate their emotions as adults, and to figure out how to have empathy and compassion. That might not necessarily be a topic you'd expect grown men — let alone rappers and Hollywood actors — to sit around and talk about, but what they shared was eye-opening.
Talking about the what he'd learned from the men in his life growing up, JAY-Z said, according to the video:
They knew that street stuff impeccably, just this invisible wisdom that you couldn't see ... Their super strength was on '10', but their emotional wisdom was on '0'.
"Emotional wisdom" might seem like a fluffy term, but again, JAY-Z's words are important — especially for men who may have been raised to feel like they weren't supposed to even have emotions, or that if they did, they certainly shouldn't let them show. Talking about that openly — the fact that men really do need to be allowed to express their feelings without stigma — not only helps change the game for other men, but also for the next generation of boys who have the opportunity to be taught differently.
"Footnotes for 4:44" is the second video JAY-Z has released so far in which he delves deeper into the meaning and inspiration behind the tracks on his album, so it's likely that there will be more to come. According to Spin, the rapper has already released "Footnotes for The Story Of O.J.," in which he was joined by a similar group of famous men to discuss racism in America and how fame and success affects them.
Despite recently welcoming twins into the world, JAY-Z doesn't seem to be slowing down creatively: in addition to his album, JAY-Z recently announced that he'll be heading out on a 31-city tour in October, according to USA Today. And it seems safe to assume he'll likely have even more to say along the way.