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A plethora of ambiguous, keenly placed advertisements set the internet ablaze Tuesday, prompting Twitter users to speculate on the prospects of a new Jay Z album.
Specifically, ads bearing a simple “4:44” in black text against a pink background cropped up on Complex.com, Fader, and Hypebeast. The ads also appeared in New York City subway stations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Los Angeles, and even New Zealand.
4:44 billboards have now been spotted in New Zealand. This is a worldwide campaign. Where have you seen one?— AintNoJigga (@AintNoJigga) June 7, 2017
Clicking on the digital ad does nothing, but the source code on Complex’s ad reveals a URL including the text “tidal-444” and “SuperHero,” Variety reports. Given Jay Z’s ownership of the streaming service Tidal, and his affinity for the number “four,” these ads triggered a torrent of theories surrounding Jay, Beyoncé, their children, and potential collaborations between the two superstars.
Those theories were frustrated on Wednesday night, however, when a minute-long ad ran during Game 3 of the NBA Finals for a project titled 4:44. According to Uproxx, it’s an NC-17 rated film starring Mahershala Ali, Lupita Nyong’0, and Danny Glover, produced by Tidal and Sprint. The ad itself offers no other clues; it’s merely a collection of black-and-white shots of Ali hitting a punching bag, then looking at his reflection in a mirror as Glover walks out another door.
HD Version of the 4:44 Ad. More Details coming tomorrow Per Sprint’s CEO pic.twitter.com/V0KelrtXbh— Chris Uño (@CRS_One) June 8, 2017
Does this mean there’s no Jay and Bey album? Not exactly. The details on 4:44 are still murky, and this could simply be the first component of a huge multimedia project from Jay. (After all, Beyoncé did release the monumental visual album Lemonade last year.) Given the couple’s personal history and penchant for unconventional creative endeavors, it seems fair to assume this ad is only the beginning of something huge.
What’s in a number?
First, it’s important to unpack the significance of the number “4” among the Carter family. As Variety also notes, Jay and Bey both donned matching “IV” tattoos on their wedding day, April 4, 2008. Jay was born on Dec. 4; Beyoncé on Sept. 4. Their daughter’s name is Blue Ivy, which bears the Roman numeral “IV.” Jay’s also released tracks called “22 Twos” and “Forty-Four Fours” throughout his career.
Adding fuel to the new album theory, Jay Z hasn’t released an album since Magna Carta… the Holy Grail—which he dropped nearly four years ago, on July 4, 2013.
What does it mean?
Of course, when an artist as massive as Jay Z hints at the possibility of new music, it’s never just an album. Fans immediately ran with the limited info they were given, spouting off theories that ranged from plausible to wildly off-the-mark.
Since the source code for the Complex ad includes the text “SuperHero,” it’s reasonable to predict Jay could name his new project Superhero. But a more exciting—and still realistic—theory is that he’s preparing to release The Blueprint 4. The first three installments in the series all debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. If the recent hype indicates the beginning of a traditional album rollout cycle, Jay could realistically drop The Blueprint 4 near the eighth anniversary of its predecessor, which he released on Sept. 8, 2009.
Other fans elaborated on the theory, suggesting the first “4” in “4:44” represents The Blueprint 4, while the “:44” represents a collaboration album between Jay and Bey.
The true internet masterminds took it one step further still, pegging the yet-unconfirmed album as the power couple’s formal announcement that Beyoncé already gave birth to her twins on June 4.
My 4:44 theory is simple........ a track with Jay Z and Beyonce announcing the twins are here. A pic from Beyonce to come afterwards— #BreakingLu (@BreakingLu) June 6, 2017
4:44 is a movie of Beyoncé and Jay'Z journey to giving new life and the joint album will be the soundtrack. A CONCEPT— #FreeKathy (@clearlyiconic) June 6, 2017
Rap Press Secretary (@CAWBBBB) posited a slightly different theory: “Beyonce x Hov ‘4:44’ album on the way. Watch them drop it same night the twins are born and go diamond in one week.”
Beyonce x Hov "4:44" album on the way. Watch them drop it same night the twins are born and go diamond in one week.— Cawb (@CAWBBBB) June 6, 2017
Other theories broached potential themes for an album that, again, still might not actually exist. Perhaps “4:44” is a reference to John 4:44, which reads, “A prophet has no honor in his own country.” (Evocative, but also inaccurate, seeing as New York has mad love for Jay.) The album could also be a tribute to Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States and close friend of the Carter family.
JOHN 4:44 - For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown— Geespin (@geespin) June 6, 2017
.....read what you may into that.
Then again, maybe Jay just wrote a concept album all about his favorite fast-food joint, Wendy’s, and their acclaimed 4-for-$4 deal.
What if this Jay Z 444 thing, is just Wendy's promoting the 4 for 4 🤔🤔— JOIE GREY (@jxgmusic) June 6, 2017
Hell, maybe we’re not even talking about the right Jay. What if Jay Electronica is finally ready to drop his full-length debut?
4:44 has something to do with Jay Elect finally giving up an album— Buddy Love (@black_virginian) June 7, 2017
It's right here all black and white pic.twitter.com/1AfQ2Dhv9o
Check the evidence
Let’s be real, though, this is probably about Jigga. His recent activity would indicate the beginning of a promotional cycle, as he announced a handful of festival dates in August and September including V Festival in London, the Meadows Music and Arts Festival in New York, Austin City Limits, and his own Made in America Festival in Philadelphia. Swizz Beatz also Instagrammed a picture of him and Jay together last month with the caption “AlbumModeZone.”
Elliott Wilson, hip-hop journalist and editorial director of culture and content and hip-hop at Tidal, did not respond to the Daily Dot’s inquiry about a potential new Hov album. Rumors will continue to swirl and the internet will continue to lose its collective mind until something more definitive materializes.
Hopefully Rap Twitter will be vindicated in the end. It could use a win after botching the Kendrick Lamar NATION. theory.
Bryan Rolli is a reporter who specializes in streaming entertainment. He writes about music and film for Forbes, Billboard, and the Austin American-Statesman. He met Flavor Flav in two separate Las Vegas bowling alleys and still can’t stop talking about it.