All 54 People JAY-Z Name-Drops on '4:44,' an Absurdly Detailed Investigation

Surprise: Hov’s latest album is jam-packed with references to public figures.
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Surprise: Hov’s latest album is jam-packed with references to public figures.
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Hip-hop is a fantastic arena for anyone that loves pondering and dissecting linguistic acrobatics, and few emcees have come to garner the type of intense perusal that JAY-Z has throughout his career.

Hov has built his legacy on his masterful use of the English language, stitching together dizzying entendres and references that—even with the use of Genius—often require the same type of studious examination many of us were forced to apply to Shakespeare and Goethe during our school days. Jay's also known for name-dropping a shitload of people in his music, and when those two facets converge, well, you have grounds for an Absurdly Detailed Investigation.

On his 13th album, entitled 4:44, JAY-Z continues to weave words together with artisan skill, mercilessly plunging into the innermost details of his life to share vulnerabilities in the most JAY-Z way possible—name-dropping. 54 of them to be exact, ranging from mythical characters to TV executives—and of course, Kanye. I know this because I checked, and I’m about to share them all with you, in alphabetical order, because I’m a hip-hop nerd.

Al Sharpton

"Al Sharpton in the mirror takin' selfies / How is him or Pill Cosby s'posed to help me?" ("Family Feud")

You know how I know JAY-Z is an incredible rapper? There's a line about Al Sharpton selfies on his album.

Anita Baker

"I have no ceilings, ah, this that feelin', I'm that boy / Anita Baker's 'You Bring Me Joy'" ("Smile")

The woman has won eight GRAMMYs and influenced a generation, she deserved a mention.

Beyoncé

"When Slick Rick made "Mona Lisa" When / Lisa Bonet was Beyoncé of her day, I had divas, y'all" ("Marcy Me")

C’mon, you KNEW this album was gonna be ‘Yonce heavy.

Big Daddy Kane

"Shout out to Big Poppa, Daddy Kane, heroes / Thus concludin' my concerto; Marcy me" ("Marcy Me")

Hov always manages to give respect where it’s due, whether in a song or a jumbled, late-night Twitter spree.

Bill Cosby

"Al Sharpton in the mirror takin' selfies / How is him or Pill Cosby s'posed to help me?" ("Family Feud")

To be fair, he said, “Pill Cosby,” but I think we all know who he meant.

Blue Ivy

“But you gotta do better, boy, you owe it to Blue” ("Kill Jay Z")

Like Jay isn’t gonna mention his daughter in almost every song? I love it, long live dad raps.

Bobby Shmurda

"Put that drum in your ear, don't get Srem'd / I'll Bobby Shmurda anybody you heard of" ("Bam")

Bobby Shmurda continues to get heavy shout-outs, although, I doubt these are the kind you want when you’re serving time on charges of murder conspiracy.

Chris Paul

"Kept the tray on me like Chris Paulin'" ("Smile")

This album is surprisingly light on sports references by Hov’s standards, but CP3 had to get a mention.

Dennis Rodman

"Cookin' coke in the kitchen / Back when Rodman was a Piston / Mike was losin' to Isaiah, but he soon would get his sixth one" ("Marcy Me")

Ok, I know, I just said this album was surprisingly light on sports references, this just happened to be the next alphabetical name, it’s halfway down the album.

Denzel Washington

"When Denzel was blottin' carpet, I'll pack a... nine millimeter" ("Marcy Me")

I think JAY-Z might actually be contractually obligated to mention Denzel in every album since American Gangster, but I can’t prove it.

Diddy

"What's better than one billionaire? / Two I'll be damned if I drink some Belvedere while Puff got CÎROC / Y'all need to stop" ("Family Feud")

They’re both multi-millionaires and they both have a bunch of kids now. Of course, Diddy got a drop. #BillionaireDadRap.

Doug Morris

"Lucian is cool but Lucian don't write / Doug ain't this tight, so" ("Moonlight")

Usually, when record label higher-ups make it into Hov’s raps it’s not in a flattering context, and this is no different. Next.

Dumbo 

"That same building today is worth 25 million / Guess how I'm feelin'? Dumbo" ("The Story of O.J.") 

More of a play on feeling stupid than a cry for help over some oversized ears, the way Hov manages to implicate characters from the farthest stretches of pop culture is insane. 

Elohim

"But he gotta respect the Elohim as a whole new regime" ("Smile")

Even the big guy upstairs got a name-drop by his Hebrew namesake, adding to JAY-Z's repertoire of ways to refer to himself as God. 

Emory Jones

"Turn my vocal up / That's how you feel, Emory? / Turn my vocal up some more" ("Family Feud")

Hov’s former plug and longtime friend got a few mentions on 4:44.

Eric Benét

"You almost went Eric Benét / Let the baddest girl in the world get away / I don't even know what else to say / Nigga, never go Eric Benét" ("Kill Jay Z")

This one is amazing because Eric Benét actually responded, bragging about the fact that he is now with...Prince’s ex-wife. Now I’m sad.

Eric Carter

"Take those moneys and spread 'cross families / My sisters, Hattie and Lou, the nephews, cousins and T.T. / Eric, the rest to B for whatever she wants to do" ("Legacy")

Jay’s older brother Eric is mentioned as one of many who will be rich as hell if Hov passes unexpectedly on “Legacy,” which is fair considering Hov shot him when he was 12.

Future

"In the Future, other niggas playin' football with your son" ("Kill Jay Z")

Man, this is not the type of name-drop you want to get on a JAY-Z album. Someone send this man a card and an Edible Arrangements fruit bouquet.

Gloria Carter / Lou (her nickname)

"Take those moneys and spread 'cross families / My sisters, Hattie and Lou, the nephews, cousins and T.T. / Eric, the rest to B for whatever she wants to do" ("Legacy")

Not only is Shawn Carter’s mother referenced multiple times throughout the album, she’s featured on “Smile.” I have nothing funny to say about this, it’s lovely. Call your mom.

Hamlet

"Or better yet here's a verse from Hamlet / "Lord, we know who we are / Yeah, we know not what we may be" ("Marcy Me")

Oh shit, Hov went straight Shakespearian on this one. Literally, he quoted Shakespeare. 

Hattie

"Take those moneys and spread 'cross families / My sisters, Hattie and Lou, the nephews, cousins and TT / Eric, the rest to B for whatever she wants to do" ("Legacy")

I similarly have nothing quippy to say about the inclusion of Hov’s grandmother, Hattie. If your grandma is alive, call her too. If not, hit me up on Twitter, my grandma would love to talk to you.

Isaiah Thomas

"Cookin' coke in the kitchen / Back when Rodman was a Piston / Mike was losin' to Isiah, but he soon would get his sixth one" ("Marcy Me")

Okay, I’m starting to take back what I said about the light sports references. “Marcy Me” alone is packed—hell, the verse this reference occurs in is packed.

Jam Master Jay

"Back when ratchet was a ratchet and a vixen was a vixen / And Jam Master Jay was alive I was mixin'" ("Marcy Me")

Of course, the original Jay gets love on Hov’s tribute to the streets that birthed him. R.I.P.!

Jimmy Hoffa

"Launderin' dirty money like the Teamsters, huh / Shout out to Hoffa back home, he in the church" ("Smile")

I know none of our readers younger than 25 probably know who Jimmy Hoffa is... and I’m not going to try to get into it in one sentence. It’s a whole thing, just Google it.

Jimmy Iovine

"Respect Jimmy Iovine / But he gotta respect the Elohim as a whole new regime" ("Smile")

I’m seriously considering doing a separate Absurdly Detailed Investigation on Jimmy Iovine references in hip-hop. It could take months.

Kanye West

“But you ain't a Saint, this ain't KumbaYe / But you got hurt because you did cool by 'Ye / You gave him 20 million without blinkin' / He gave you 20 minutes on stage, fuck was he thinkin'?" ("Kill Jay Z")

Hov couldn’t get past the first track without addressing his rocky bromance with Yeezy, and if his math on the song is accurate, he’s got 20 million reasons to be upset.

Kareem Biggs Burke

"Shout out to Hoffa back home, he in the church" ("Smile")

Hov's "Hoffa" name-drop was both a reference to Jimmy Hoffa and a nickname for Roc-A-Fella founder Kareem Biggs Burke. Why you want to be named after Jimmy Hoffa, I have no idea, but hey man, it's your life. 

Kay Adams

"Niggas bustin' off through the curtains 'cause she hurtin' / Kay losin' the babies 'cause their future's uncertain" ("Family Feud")

This is a reference to the Godfather character played by Diane Keaton, so technically it’s a DOUBLE name-drop. Levels. Did I blow your mind?

Lance "Un" Rivera

"You stabbed Un over some records / Your excuse was "He was talkin' too reckless!" ("Kill Jay Z")

Sometimes I almost forget about some of the crazier shit JAY-Z did back in the day—like stabbing a dude for bootlegging his album—but then here we are.

Lauryn Hill

"Y'all niggas still signin' deals? Still? / After all they done stole, for real? / After what they done to our Lauryn Hill?" ("Moonlight")

Lauryn Hill is a legend. Unfortunately, even legends get fucked over by the major label system.

Lenny Santiago

"I just pose a threat, blame Lenny S for that"("Moonlight")

A Roc-a-Fella A&R veteran, Lenny is also an established photographer, making this name drop part of Hov’s dope “pose a threat” wordplay.

Lisa Bonet

"When Slick Rick made "Mona Lisa" When / Lisa Bonet was Beyoncé of her day, I had divas, y'all"("Marcy Me")

Lisa Bonet deserves to be mentioned in every rap song. She’s my Nia Long.

Londell McMillan

"Now, Londell McMillan, he must be color blind / They only see green from them purple eyes" ("Caught Their Eyes")

Jay goes the fuck IN on Prince’s former lawyer over the greedy handlings of the Purple One’s estate.

Lucian Grainge

"Lucian is cool but Lucian don't write / Doug ain't this tight, so"("Moonlight")

Just another major label executive caught in the crossfire of Hov’s lifelong conquest, Lucian makes it off rather unscathed, just being mocked for the fact that he’s not an ill emcee.

Marie Antoinette

"Marie Antoinette, baby, let 'em eat cake" ("Smile")

The older JAY-Z gets, the more educational his music gets from an art and history perspective. Someday I’ll make a graph.

Michael Corleone

"I'll watch Godfather, I miss that whole shit / My consciousness was Michael's common sense" ("Family Feud")

Another double name-drop (Al Pacino), by now there should be no surprise in a Godfather character getting name-dropped in a song from this guy

Michael Jordan

"Cookin' coke in the kitchen / Back when Rodman was a Piston / Mike was losin' to Isiah, but he soon would get his sixth one" ("Marcy Me")

C’mon, he’s the most referenced basketball player of all time next to maybe Kobe, and half of those are by Kanye.

Nat Turner

"Niggas could not be further, I fathered your style / Birth of a Nation, Nat Turner style" ("Bam")

JAY-Z referencing Nat Turner on a track featuring the son of Bob Marley. It doesn’t get much more revolutionary than that.

Norman Lear

"Norman Cake, he looked up and out of the Lear / How niggas can't relate?" ("Smile")

Ah yes, the man responsible for producing a bunch of great sitcoms plus one that was super racist.

The Notorious B.I.G.

"But ain't no Biggie, no lazy eye, huh" ("Caught Their Eyes")

Biggie gets multiple references on Hov’s latest album, and every album from everyone forever. Ditto Tupac, who is also in here. Just wait.

O.J. Simpson

"O.J. like, 'I'm not black, I'm O.J.'… okay" ("The Story of O.J.")

Another one of the most referenced sports figures ever, O.J. got a next level name-drop this time, snagging a whole track title.

Pamela Jones

"Back when Pam was on Martin / Yeah, that's where it all started" ("Marcy Me")

Another double name-drop, this is a reference to the character Pam on Martin, played by Tichina Arnold. Man, I need to re-watch Martin, it’s been a while.

Prince

"I sat down with Prince, eye to eye / He told me his wishes before he died" ("Caught Their Eyes")

Rest in peace to the real GOAT. I’m listening to Purple Rain on TIDAL later just because.

Rae Sremmurd

"Put that drum in your ear, don't get Srem'd" ("Bam")

That's such a fucking dope line. I think Slxm and Swae might've walked away with the coolest name-drop on the album. 

Santa Claus

"My heart breaks for the day I had to explain my mistakes / And the mask goes away and Santa Claus is fake" ("4:44")

I mean, shout out to the ultimate plug, right?

Slick Rick

"When Slick Rick made "Mona Lisa" When / Lisa Bonet was Beyoncé of her day, I had divas, y'all" ("Marcy Me")

JAY-Z has always given praise to Slick Rick and given the emphasis on “vibe” in current hip-hop, a gentle reminder to the youngins couldn’t hurt.

Solange Knowles

"You egged Solange on / Knowin' all along, all you had to say you was wrong" ("Kill Jay Z")

You kind of have to include an apology to Solange when half the album is about you cheating on her sister.

Steve Harvey

"Nobody wins when the family feuds / But my stash can't fit into Steve Harvey's suit" ("Family Feud")

The song is called "Family Feud," of course, the mustache who can’t read an envelope got a ‘drop!

The Tooth Fairy

"And you go online and see / For Blue's tooth, the Tooth Fairy didn't pay" ("4:44")

You chuckle, but the Tooth Fairy is an OG. She makes BANK off those teeth but gives kids like 50 cents, and they’re happy as hell. We call that a “finesse.”

Teanna/T.T.

"Take those moneys and spread 'cross families / My sisters, Hattie and Lou, the nephews, cousins and T.T. / Eric, the rest to B for whatever she wants to do" ("Legacy")

Hov’s niece T.T. got a mention alongside the rest of the Carter family, no surprise there. Moving right along to...

Tupac

"And old niggas, y'all stop actin' brand new / Like 2Pac ain't have a nose ring too, huh" ("Family Feud")

Told you he was in here! If there’s a Biggie reference, there’s a Tupac one, and vice-versa. It’s a universal law. Like a lyrical yin-yang.

Tyran Smith

"Emory passed you niggas and he did a bid / Ty Ty jumped over niggas and he's like 5'6"" ("Bam")

Co-founder of Roc Nation, Tyran has been Jay’s homie since their drug runner days, and apparently once maced R. Kelly, which has to be an amazing story.

Wu-Tang Clan

"I've been listenin' to Wu-Tang and niggas like / 'Your seed, married his seed, married my seed' / That's how we keep Carter money all in the family" ("Legacy")

Only Hov could weave in a Wu-Tang reference on a heartfelt, family-oriented album closer.

Young Guru

"Turn my vocal up, Guru!" ("Family Feud")

What a fitting end to this exhaustive process. The man who holds the keys to Hov's musical fortune, Young Guru. 

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