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Jay-Z’s ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ Album Review | Has Jay Lost His Touch?

 

Magna Carta Holy Grail. I’m not 100% rocking with this album. It’s not that Jay-Z is a terrible rapper in 2013, because he isn’t. But he’s just not the same guy he was 10 years ago. He’s a businessman AND a business, man.

That being said, songs like “Jay-Z Blue,” “Part II (On The Run),” “Holy Grail,” and “Oceans” show that Jay-Z is still far superior to most everyone in the game, at present. But the fact of the matter is, Jay-Z has nothing to prove to any one. He’s doing “it” better than everybody. So rap, for him; it’s not a do or die situation like it was when Reasonable Doubt dropped, or even when the first Blueprint album dropped. It’s all fun and games for him. This album was made because Jay-Z is good at rapping; it’s fun for him. He admitted on Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club that he doesn’t even think this is his best work; he says it’s his 4th best album behind the two aforementioned and The Black Album.

“I’m never satisfied, can’t knock my hustle.”

With Roc Nation Sports just now taking off, a young daughter going through her most precious years, deals with Samsung and Budweiser and Live Nation, scoring soundtracks for blockbuster films, the creation of music festivals, and owning his own label, Jay-Z is a busy man. Long gone are the days where he can just focus on the music, and the music only. Which is why in his new music, he “brags” about all of his money and business deals and extravagant vacations. But for him, it’s not really bragging; it’s his every day life. He wakes up, has a meeting, gains a few million dollars then goes to the studio to talk about it. After he leaves the studio, he hops on a private jet and chills on a yacht in Italy for a week with his wife. That’s his life, whether we like it or not. He makes you respect him through his accomplishments more so than he lyricism, nowadays. And their’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not for everybody.

“I brought sand to the beach cause my beach is better.” 

Magna Carta does; however, make up for the bad taste Yeezus left in our mouth last month. Jay is 43 years old, and still killing the hip hop genre like he’s 25. He isn’t delivering the classic records like he used to, but the material is still superior to most. More specifically, the production is far superior. It’s real, authentic hip hop music. Jay isn’t trying to be the mad scientist/enigma/rockstar of his time, he’s simply doing to do what he KNOWS he can do, and at the highest level, and we respect that. All credit goes to Timbaland & J. Roc (who helmed majority of the project), Pharrell (who did “Oceans” and “BBC”), and The-Dream (who produced the amazing single “Holy Grail”) for creating such landscapes for Hov to flex his muscle on.

“I don’t pop Molly. I rock Tom Ford.”

“F.U.T.W.” reminds us of classic hip hop. So does “Picasso Baby” and “Heaven”. But Jay also plays to the new generation of music on songs like “Beach Is Better” and “Crown”, the latter record actually being produced by a 16-year old female producer, Wondagurl, and Travi$ Scott. “BBC” delivers that classic Pharrell sound, but on an entirely different level thanks to the party vocals from Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Timbo, Nas, and Pharrell. A crazy record, but not one of our favorites, like we thought it would be.

“Girl, as long as you took you better look like Halle Berry…Or Beyonceeeeee…”

The standouts come, surprisingly (or maybe not), from the 3 records with the singer features on them: “Holy Grail” featuring Justin Timberlake, “Oceans” featuring Frank Ocean, and the super smooth “Part II (On The Run)” featuring Mrs. Carter. The latter was made as a super grown and sexy sequel to “03 Bonnie & Clyde.” The record would be nothing had Beyonce not blessed the track with her late 90’s Brandy-esque vocals. We hope her album showcases some of those same riffs and deep tone. “Holy Grail” will most definitely go down as the biggest single on the album, as it’s clearly an anthem. And with Jay-Z and JT about to tour together, the record is going to smash for the next 3 months. And it deserves to. The-Dream killed that one. As did Justin with those crazy, soulful vocals.

Our clear favorite comes with “Jay-Z Blue”, which sees the first-time father rap about his insecurities of raising a daughter. Between the spanish guitar mixed with the drums and the “neighborhood” background sounds, Jay’s 2nd verse being somewhat of a back-and-forth with Notorious B.I.G., and the intense mind-racing, fast-paced 3rd verse…truly, our favorite of the album comes with “Jay-Z Blue.” It’s such an honest song; with lyrics about Beyonce changing outfits again even before noon hits, Blue needing pampers, her face getting chubby as she grows, Jay hoping nothing bad ever happens to her. We haven’t heard Jay this vulnerable, ever maybe. And we love it.

“Out in Paris on a terrace watching the Eiffel Tower
And a Ferris wheel yet and still, nothing could prepare us
For the beauty that you be Blue be
Looking in your eyes is like a mirror, have to face my fears.”

As you can see, we actually love the album (well, sans “Nickels & Dimes” and “La Familia”). We just were imagining it to be entirely different from what we got. The lyrics aren’t AS great as they used to be, the insane metaphors aren’t AS insane as they used to be. Instead there’s a lot of rich talk, a lot of business deal talk, and a lot of crazy hip hop beats. It’s not his best, and Jay knows that; as do we. Jay’s having fun at this stage in his career, and you can’t fault that if the material is still quality. And it definitely is. Magna Carta is definitely a quality hip hop album.

 

“Yellow Basquiat in my kitchen corner/ Go ahead, lean on that shit, Blue, you own it.”

 

Rating: 8/10

Standouts: “Holy Grail”, “Jay-Z Blue”, “Oceans”, “Part II (On The Run”, “Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit”

 

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