JAY-Z’s new album 4:44 is out today. On one song, “Caught Their Eyes,” the rap icon and entrepreneur bitterly addresses his battle with Prince’s estate.
“I sat down with Prince, eye to eye,” raps JAY-Z (who’s newly reclaimed the hyphen in his name, and upgraded himself to all-caps). “He told me his wishes before he died/ Now, Londell McMillan, he must be color blind/ They only see green from them purple eyes.”
McMillan is an attorney who worked with Prince during his lifetime and became a close advisor to the late Minnesota music great’s estate in the first months after Prince’s death. That put him at the center of firestorms including an ongoing dispute with JAY-Z’s streaming service Tidal.
Prince made an agreement with Tidal during his lifetime, and the precise nature and scope of that agreement have become a matter of contention between Tidal and Prince’s estate. Tidal has claimed the agreement gave them exclusive rights to stream Prince’s entire catalog for a certain period of time; the estate, on the other hand, claims the agreement only covered a single album (2015’s Hit N Run Phase Two) for a more limited window. JAY-Z also reportedly made an unsuccessful bid to manage Prince’s music catalog, giving him further reason for beef with the estate.
The reference to color-blindness may be an allusion to the fact that one reason Prince favored Tidal over other streaming services — which now have much of his catalog — was that it’s a black-owned business. The reference to green…well, that’s less ambiguous.
“This guy had ‘slave’ on his face,” continues JAY-Z. “You think he wanted the masters with his masters? You greedy bastards sold tickets to walk through his house. I’m surprised you ain’t auction off the casket.”
Those lines, of course, refer to Paisley Park — now open as a museum. Prince didn’t have a casket, but he does have a controversial Paisley-shaped urn.
Via Billboard, McMillan responded to the lyrics. “I like the beat,” he said, “but I wonder who he thinks helped Prince to take ‘slave’ off of his face. It was a homie JAY-Z grew up with in the same neighborhood, Londell McMillan.”
4:44 is available exclusively on Tidal. For the complete “Caught Their Eyes” lyrics, and further analysis of the Frank Ocean collaboration, see Genius.
Prince factors into the 4:44 story in a more roundabout way as well. On the album’s opening track, “Kill JAY-Z,” the rapper addresses the infidelity that became the subject of his wife Beyoncé’s acclaimed album Lemonade. “You almost went Eric Benét,” JAY-Z raps, addressing himself. “Let the baddest girl in the world get away.”
That refers to the fact that Benét, an R&B singer, was formerly married to Halle Berry. Benét, taken aback given that he’s remarried since, responded to the rapper on Twitter.
Hey yo #Jayz! Just so ya know, I got the baddest girl in the world as my wife….like right now! ✌🏾
— Eric Benét (@ebenet) June 30, 2017
Benét’s current wife? Manuela Testolini, who was married to Prince from 2001 to 2006.