What is TIDAL’s 4:44?

Well, it’s NC-17 and that is more rare than you know

A mysterious black and white advertisement played during the NBA Finals last night. We now know that the ad — featuring recent Oscar winner Mahershala Ali hitting a punching bag held by Danny Glover— is part of some new release by TIDAL. The Jay Z-owned company promised more exclusive art for its subscrbers, and now it sounds like they have something visual to present. Just judging by the cast (which also includes Oscar winner Lupita Nyongo) the “content” has a solid pedigree. Other than that, it’s anyone’s guess.

The ad trades in the sort of mood-over-story mystery box hype that JJ Abrams would be proud of, which leaves us with little to parse. Although the initial viral clues surrounding 4:44 suggested new music by Jay Z or another artist, the final form is enough of a film that they choose to get it rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. To my knowledge, Lemonade’s accompanying HBO film was not given a rating. Most music videos don’t get rated because ratings are typically for feature length films that are going to receive a wide distribution in theaters or on video. Films are rated because they are going to be sold, not featured on Vevo or MTV. Is Jay Z going to distribute a film? Because if he wants to show it outside of TIDAL, he may have trouble.

Most major theater chains refuse to show NC-17 fare. If you didn’t have an art theater near you, it wasn’t easy to catch Blue is the Warmest Color. Back in the day, Blockbuster actually initiated a ban on all NC-17 material. As a result, NC-17 movies are a rare breed. They can’t make it through normal channels, so they can’t reach a wide audience. It’s bad business even if it’s good for notoriety.

If you peruse the NC-17 Wikipedia entry, most films on the list were only initially rated NC-17. They weren’t put out that way. The filmmakers made cuts based on the rating board’s recommendations, which totally isn’t censorship, right? Anyhoo…the number of true NC-17 films that were released for public consumption numbers in the dozens, perhaps. There are thousands of movies released every year, but no one makes an NC-17 movie and sits with it.

Jay Z and the filmmakers could appeal the decision on 4:44 or take it as a badge of honor. Maybe it will be worth the notoriety; Jay Z is a rapper and controversy might just be part of the game plan. I suppose if it is destined to show on TIDAL only, it’s all a moot point. He can do what he wants. For what it’s worth, TIDAL has made a film that’s in the same club as Showgirls. What a world!

How mysterious…