Jay-Z
Magna Carta... Holy Grail


2.0
poor

Review

by Nathan Flynn CONTRIBUTOR (68 Reviews)
July 9th, 2013 | 248 replies | 28,010 views


Release Date: 07/07/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The death of Jay-Z

The most endearing image from the Watch the Throne era comes in the “Otis” music video. With the American flag as a backdrop, Kanye West has his arm, adorned with an icy watch, around Jay-Z, who rocks a thousand-watt grin and his trademark Yankees cap. It’s a symbol of unity and mutual respect; two titans of hip-hop, forever in each other’s debt, sitting at the apex of their genre, living their version of the American dream. Since then, it’s been hard to mention one without considering the other, so we won’t.

Magna Carta… Holy Grail is nothing like Yeezus and a huge difference is that, while Kanye was criticized for tarnishing the message of his earlier material, Jay refuses to forget the past. His boasts are followed by throwbacks to his days on the streets, perhaps acknowledging the resonance of his music in the Reasonable Doubt days compared to what it is now. Instead of finding a new edge or using his prominence to make a point, he sounds content brushing off his wealth and recycling lines about MC Hammer with the polish of someone who has too good an understanding of what sells. Thus, the line “I sold a million records like a million times” has true resonance: Jay’s business chops that started Roc-a-Fella Records (and sold a million records of Magna Carta to Samsung before it was officially released) also motivate his rhymes.

It’s futile to argue artistic integrity, but not when it sounds as manufactured as this. The official album trailer was a good indication of what to expect as Jay, Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, Pharrell and Rick Rubin sit around the studio in a round-table of established names. Each has been involved in the hit parade for the last decade or more, as have guest performers Beyonce and Justin Timberlake. For his part, Timbaland contributes an incredibly solid string of beats, especially the explosive “Picasso Baby” which was featured in the trailer, but it’s nothing that challenges the status quo like his work on Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience did. The contributions from everyone else aren’t immediately noticeable, although the Pharrell-produced “Oceans” has a nice feels to it, thanks to young gun Frank Ocean, whose falsetto will forever add flavor to even the blandest dish.

What stands out most about Magna Carta…Holy Grail’s homogeneity is its lack of urgency. If Kanye is Yeezus, then Jay truly is his artificer, discussing his many watches and cars in a way someone of lesser wealth would talk about their refrigerator. Even when Blue Ivy is name-dropped, egregiously often, her father sounds weary, like her wails awoke him at 3 AM the morning he recorded. All sense of hunger and purpose from his hustling days are gone even though we hear about them constantly. The fact of the matter is Jay-Z is no longer a hustler, he’s barely even a rapper; he’s a father, a husband, an agent, as mentioned on “Crown,” and a businessman, rapping only when he can collect his posse at the Parthenon.

Yeezus was created by a slew of guests too, but they were a whole different breed (although Rubin, Frank Ocean and Travi$ $cott were involved in both projects). Instead of Swizz on the beat, it’s TNGHT producer Hudson Mohawke; it’s not Timberlake as the hook-man, it’s Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Kanye created an innovative work by incorporating many industry newcomers, rising stars and his staple inner circle to draw on an underappreciated facet of production and did it with the conviction that had him proclaiming himself a God. The contributions from industry staples might have sold Jay-Z another truckload of CDs, but the finished product is barely worthy of the HOVA name.

What Jay-Z has created in 2013 is the hip-hop version of the Ringling Brothers circus, giving us the same show every time but with a shinier veneer which will probably delight those who thought Yeezus was hip-hop sacrilege. This time around, it seems more obvious that he’s a pitchman, if it’s possible to be more obvious than his Budweiser-sponsored comeback Kingdom Come. Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter is certainly the greatest of all time, not for his skills on the microphone, but because for his mark on the music industry. Anyone with a Samsung phone could have heard this before I did on Independence Day- perhaps the “Otis” flag was foreshadowing- and has already changed the way the RIAA classifies album sales. This is just the latest innovation from the man on the throne, but he might have been too busy signing Kevin Durant to notice.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
July 9th 2013



9033 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

sup

jefflebowski
July 9th 2013



7328 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

still better than kingdom come!

Digging: The Fall - Hex Enduction Hour

jefflebowski
July 9th 2013



7328 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

also sad to say picasso baby is pretty much adrien young's 'sirens' pitched/speeded up

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
July 9th 2013



9033 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

yeah but he doesn't get a production credit so for all intents and purposes it's Timbaland and J-Roc's

Kiran
Emeritus
July 9th 2013



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

this guy could've retired gracefully once

Kronzo
July 9th 2013



990 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

well-written review but I actually really liked this, holy grail and part 2 are spot-on

newjunk2
July 9th 2013



230 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Yeah this is 100% middle of the road boring. I wouldn't say it's terrible, but I can't find anything positive to say about it either.

JazzHands333
July 9th 2013



312 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Great review.

The beats here are cool but I don't care about anything he has to say and therefore don't care about this album.

johncoelho7
July 9th 2013



6 Comments


It's superior to the Blueprint 3.

That's not saying much.

theacademy
July 9th 2013



28223 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

great review

Kanye created an innovative by incorporating many


inconsequential typo

Adabelle
July 9th 2013



4213 Comments


RIP

theacademy
July 9th 2013



28223 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

Comeback

2006 - Budweiser sponsored Kingdom Come
2007 - Universal Music Group release to accompany Universal Pictures Film
2008-9 - Sequel recalls (in name only) previous work to benefit launch of lucrative Roc Nation joint venture with Live Nation
2011 - Collaboration with Kanye West, Jay invisible/forgettable 99% of the time
2013 - Pre-sells 1M copies in lucrative deal with Samsung to push cell phones


why are we even talking about this guy on here.


Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 9th 2013



9963 Comments


Since then, it’s been hard to mention one without considering the other, so we won’t.


We won't mention one artist without mentioning the other? Even though the next paragraph does this exactly?

I know what you're trying to say, but I'd edit that line a bit so its tail end makes more sense.

Digging: Deniro Farrar - Rebirth

theacademy
July 9th 2013



28223 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

that line is fine. he doesn't need to come full circle in the immediately following paragraph

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 9th 2013



9963 Comments


Not sure I understand, Academy. I'm only pointing out that sentence because its ending implies he isn't going to talk about both the artists, although I doubt that's what he intended.



Kiran
Emeritus
July 9th 2013



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

jay is 40+ and has a wife and a kid and a business and i'm not sure how anyone can take anything he raps seriously when it's so blindingly obvious he's just run out of toilet paper and needs a fresh wad of franklins

AtomicWaste
Staff Reviewer
July 9th 2013



1972 Comments


Excellent review.

Digging: Chris Letchford - Lightbox

Kiran
Emeritus
July 9th 2013



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

is there actually a song called "fuckwithmeyouknowigotit"?!

theacademy
July 9th 2013



28223 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0 | Sound Off

I'm only pointing out that sentence because its ending implies he isn't going to talk about both the artists, although I doubt that's what he intended.


Hmm... Not sure if im seeing what you're thinking... I think the sentence conveys that he won't try to talk about one without talking about the other.

mynameisSlimShady
July 9th 2013



102 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Just to let you know, Yeezus sucked donkey balls. This is at least 10x better (which honestly saying much). Kanye did nothing remotely good on that POS.



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