Words About Music
Jay-Z “Magna Carta Holy Grail”
Allow me to reintroduce this man: His name is Hov. H to the O-V. He used to move snowflakes by the O-Z.
But seriously, I have 100% confidence that if you’re reading this right now, you have a basic idea of who Jay-Z is. Whether you know him as Kanye’s big brother, the man behind one of the most stunning hip hop debuts of the 90s, or the dude who’s married to Beyonce, you know about the Jigga Man. Unfortunately for the Jigga Man though, many hip hop heads and music critics share the opinion that Jay’s musical quality has declined since the beloved 2003’s beloved “Black Album.” In these past 10 years however, you’d be hard pressed to find a Jay-Z solo studio album that reflected Jay’s skill as a rapper and lyricist. He came close with 2007’s “American Gangster,” but for the most part, Jay-Z fans consider his greatest albums to be 1996’s “Reasonable Doubt,” 2001’s “The Blueprint,” and the aforementioned Black Album. And now we’re here. 2013. A pivotal year in pretty much every field, and now Jay-Z is back with his 12th album.
One of the interesting things about “Magna Carta” is that the album was announced only a couple weeks before it came out. Now this would be pretty cool of Jay, if he hadn’t teamed up with Samsung. If there’s one thing I despise, it’s when artists team up with companies. Not because of anything to do with “selling out,” but it can discredit a lot of what is said on the album. And a lot is said on this album.
For the first half of this album, I’d say Jay-Z is, for the most part, on a roll. There are some pretty great songs on here, which include some of the most interesting beats I’ve ever heard Jay work with. The album kicks off with “Holy Grail,” which features some guest vocals by Justin Timberlake. This marks the second time this year JT and JZ have collaborated. Jay also provided a notoriously weak verse on Part 1 of Justin Timberlake’s “20/20 Experience.”
Jay also has Frank Ocean drop by for the aptly titled song “Oceans,” which is another great song with an amazing hook. I love when R&B singers bring their smooth voices to hip hop songs, which reminds me of the time Jay- released an album with R. Kelly and it flopped. Ha.
For the most part, I got what I expected with this album, since I’d already heard every mediocre review there is to hear about it. The fact of the matter is, Jay-Z needs to step his game up if he wants to continue to be taken seriously in this ever-changing rap game. He can’t really complain about life when he’s one of the richest men alive who can chill with Obama whenever he wants. He can’t talk about the evil of corporations when he convinces Samsung to buy a million copies of his album so it’ll go platinum upon its release. It’s why people are beginning to pay attention to more underground rappers like Chance the Rapper, Danny Brown, hell, even Lil B. It’s why A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar have seen an escalation in fame and even mainstream success over the past year or so. It’s why Pitchfork can give Kanye West a 9.5 for “Yeezus.” It’s just the way of the world. As I’ve said before (and as characters on The Wire have said before me), “The game done changed.” Time to change, Hov.
SCORE – 6.3
FAVORITE TRACKS – Holy Grail feat. Justin Timberlake, Tom Ford, Oceans feat. Frank Ocean, Somewhere In America