Album Review: Jay Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail

Heads up, here’s a quick trivia question: do you know the REAL NAME of Jay Z (who recently dropped the hyphen in his stage name)?  Don’t Google it!  C’mon, what is your answer?

 

Anyway, Shawn Corey Carter (born December 4, 1969), or internationally known as JAY Z, is an American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur and one of the most financially successful artists, as published by Forbes, whose net worth reach in approximately $500 million in 2012.  He has sold approximately 50 million albums worldwide, with 17 Grammy Awards under his belt.  And who would forget him being the other half of yet another worldwide superstar in music—Beyonce?  They are indeed one of the hottest and most successful power couples in the world.

 

Personally I really don’t know some of his past works but what I do know is that I loved his past two albums, The Blueprint 3 (2009) and Watch The Throne, which he collaborated with Kanye West in 2010.  Now let’s take a look at his latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, Jay Z’s twelfth studio album, an album where he worked with bunch of other artists panning from his wife, Beyonce, to JT.  Let’s check out the tracks:

 

  1. Holy Grail feat. Justin Timberlake – Holy smokes!  We got a hot one tonight, as what Randy Jackson would say!  What a way to start an album, this song starts off with Justin Timberlake singing his heart out on a piano solo, then shifts wonderfully into a beat where Jay Z coming in and hitting hard with his rumination about his position in the music industry.  With several references to Mike Tyson and MC Hammer, a particular verse referring to Kurt Cobain adds a little nice touch to the whole track, “I know nobody to blame, Kurt Cobain | I did it myself | And we all just entertainers | And we’re stupid and contagious | no we all just entertainers.”
  2. Picasso Baby – Such a perfect follow up to Holy Grail, this sounds like a creative loose track from one of his mixtapes.  This is certainly a cool track, heavy on the bass that basks in Jay Z’s riches and what he would do to his billion, make that, trillion dollar money.  Jay Z is on fire!
  3. Tom Ford – DOPE TRACK!  Reason? The intermittent sounds in the background that were ripped from a Nintendo game give a nostalgic and playful vibe to the whole song.  Aside from that, Jay Z delivers a witty rap phrases that spans from the world of Tumblr to F*cking hashtags and retweets.  The song ends with Beyonce whispering in the background.
  4. FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt featuring Rick Ross – From the second I heard the intro, I felt that this is going to be a great track.  And damn sure I was right.  Almost feeling like I’m being violated with the number of curses on this song, FuckWithMe… is a hard-hitting track about basically, well, I’m not quite sure!  I think Jay Z and Rick Ross tried to say that they got all the riches and bad bitches in the world? I guess I’m lost.
  5. Oceans featuring Frank Oceans – This is a powerful track that tackles black and American history during the slave trade.  Layered in masterful imagery of history, one particular line struck me, “I hope my black skin don’t dirt this white tuxedo.” As Frank Ocean effectively narrates the song wonderfully, I got lost in translation when Jay Z rapped about Oceans 11.
  6. F.U.T.W. – I kinda felt weird while listening to this track.  I think this track is another metaphor of him and Muhammad Ali, with shades on racial and other relevant political issues in between the lines.
  7. Somewhere in America – Sound gives a throwback, noir feel, with a splash of fantastic rapping coming from Jay Z.  I loved the whole production, but the last part where he added a dash of Miley twerking missed the mark for me.
  8. Crown – Production-wise and lyrics-wise, Crown is one of the better songs in the whole album.  Jay Z compares himself to a King and a God.
  9. Heaven – And it does not stop there, Heaven is another solid track, though I am a bit bothered about him giving a god-like imagery of himself, then encourages the listeners to question everything, Question religion, question it all | Question existence until them questions are solved.  Then he threw a bit of R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion in there somewhere.
  10. Versus – INTERLUDE which Jay Z lashes other rappers, telling them that they’re not on his level.
  11. Part II (On The Run) featuring Beyonce – You can never go wrong with Beyonce.  Her voice in this track gives a beautiful, almost haunting vibe to the whole track.  Such a smooth, romantic track. Repeat worthy.
  12. Beach Is Better – Another short interlude about him bragging about his money and rich lifestyle. Meh. Next.
  13. BBC – Now we’re talking.  Honestly I got a little bored and tired with all the brags and religious rants for the past few tracks, but with BBC, Jay Z goes back to being radio-friendly.  This track gives me major Blurred Lines vibe.  My favorite track of the whole album.
  14. Jay Z Blue – After a fun song in BBC, the album took an abrupt turn to somewhere dark and dreary.  Honestly I got uncomfortable listening to this track.  Maybe I was just not expecting Jay Z to rap a very personal, introspective, and honest track that tells everyone that his “Father never taught me how to be a father.”
  15. La Familia – The longest interlude in the album, I did not care much about this track, next.
  16. Nickels And Dimes – Aside from Jay Z’s amazing, authentic way of rapping smart wordplay, this song is completely listenable that brings back why you love this superstar rapper in the first place.

 

 

Final Thoughts: Nice album but stayed the safer road by getting collaborations with the people that are closer to home—his friends.  Pharrell Williams, Swizz Beatz, Nas, Rick Ross, Frank Ocean, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and of course Beyonce all gave Jay Z a helping hand to elevate this album to where it is supposed to be.  The album has a few hits and misses, started off great, then gradually losing spark by the end.

 

Grab this album if you like: Jay Z, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West

 

Song to be put on your Playlist: Holy Grail, BBC, Picasso Baby, Oceans

 

3.0 out of 5

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