Mark Anthony Neal

Mark Anthony Neal is Professor of African & African American Studies and Professor of English at Duke University where he is Chair of the Department of African & African American Studies and Founding Director of the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship.

"The Excesses of Interiority:  On the Footnotes of 4:44"
For all of the attention generated by 4:44,  a recording generally regarded as Shawn Carter’s most cohesive and thoughtful, Jay Z’s most significant intervention might have been made on the margins -- literally in the form footnotes, the series of music videos and short documentaries that Carter released shortly after the release of the album.

Carter could make such an intervention in part because of the Tidal platform (which he has an ownership stake in) that he has curated as an high-end media delivery system for urban culture. As such the 4:44 footnotes function as digital addendums to the therapeutic processes that largely inform the album.  4:44’s footnotes might be read as excess, given the general lack of interiority that has been afforded Black vernacular expression historically, and perceptions that the  typical consumption of Blackness is excess.

Working within a musical genre in which both interiority and excess have been mechanisms for the so-called “queering” of cis-gender performances of Black Masculinity, Jay Z’s 4:44 footnotes offer alternative frameworks;  literal footnotes that augment what is typically not allowed within the (Black)  text, and the recentering of (Black) excess as primary text.