“I know people backstab you, I feel bad too,” JAY-Z raps on the album’s first track, “Kill JAY-Z.” “But this ‘f— everybody’ attitude ain’t natural/ But you ain’t the same, 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, f— was he thinkin’?/ ‘F— wrong with everybody?’ is what you sayin’/ But if everybody’s crazy, you’re the one that’s insane.”
During a November concert in Sacramento last year, West left the stage after going on an extended rant that included comments about JAY-Z. “I’ve been sent here to give y’all my truth even at the risk of my own life, even at the risk of my own success, my own career,” West said. “I’ve been sent here to give y’all the truth. JAY-Z — call me, bruh. You still ain’t called me. JAY-Z, call me, JAY-Z — I know you got killers. Please don’t send them at my head. Just call me. Talk to me like a man.” West’s tour was later canceled.
West also referenced JAY-Z during an October tour stop, when he discussed TIDAL and Apple Music and quashed any hopes for a Watch the Throne sequel with JAY-Z.
“You know why?” he said, explaining he and JAY-Z could have appeared on Drake’s “Pop Style” before Drake’s album was sold to Apple Music. “Because that’s the reason I wasn’t on the song. I wasn’t on this song because of Hov. This is Tidal, Apple bulls—. Y’all didn’t get what y’all are supposed to get when me and Drake on this song cause of some Tidal-Apple bulls—.” At the time, West claimed things became “political” over “some s— about percentages on songs.” He added, seemingly to JAY-Z, “I can’t take this s—, bro.”
During that same show, West also said he was upset JAY-Z never met with him face-to-face after West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, was robbed in Paris. “Don’t call me after the robbery and say, ‘How you feelin’?’ You want to know how I’m feelin’? Come by the house, bring the kids like we brothers. Let’s sit down.”
West’s last album, The Life of Pablo, was released on JAY-Z’s streaming service TIDAL last year. On his track “Saint Pablo,” West referenced negotiating between TIDAL and Apple Music and cited $20 million as a number while discussing JAY-Z. “When I was negotiatin’ with Apple, it was Larry and me/ Told Tim Cook to call me, I was scary to see/ I would’ve took a hundred million and gave 20 to Hov/ I heard it’s the way they did it when we only had a stove,” West rapped.
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Speaking about his new album, JAY-Z explained that “Kill JAY-Z” is not to be taken “literal.”
“It’s really about the ego,” he explained after 4:44 debuted. “It’s about killing off the ego, so we can have this conversation in a place of vulnerability and honesty.”