Can I get a what-what the hell am I listening to? Often heralded as one of rap’s greatest MCs, Jay-Z delivered his twelfth studio album earlier this month. Magna Carta…Holy Grail is a mediocre piece of work that falls short of greatness mostly because of disappointing wordplay. Even the album’s title is a mediocre effort. Maybe it’s just me, but was anyone else upset that Sean CARTER didn’t name this album Magna CARTER? Anyway, hip-hop is notorious for incessant boasting. Whether they’re talking about lavish vacation spots and possessions that most of us will never afford, or just speaking about their own individual greatness, MCs love to tell us how awesome they are. But HOVA is just doing it too much with this one. Most of the songs are forgettable, which is a far cry from his past works. The only track from this album that I would ever look for in a Jay-Z playlist is Nickels and Dimes. The beat and hook are awesome, and lyrically, it’s the MC’s best showing.
Magna Carter—I mean, Magna Carta—is mostly Jay-Z bragging about his luxurious lifestyle and the grandness of his checking account. Jay Z Blue and Part II (On the Run) are the only tracks that exhibit any real humanity. Rather than celebrate the birth of his new daughter, Jay Z Blue took me by surprise as HOVA discussed his fears of fatherhood. It’s a great idea but poorly executed. The beat is weak, the Biggie samples are pointless, and the mediocre lyrics don’t convey the emotion that Jay-Z is trying to show. Part II is a sequel to the smash classic ’03 Bonnie and Clyde and features Jay’s smoke show wife Beyonce. It’s pretty good but fails to produce the same greatness as its predecessor. Other celebrity features include Justin Timberlake in Holy Grail and longtime adversary Nas in BBC. Holy Grail is enjoyable, mostly because of JT’s hook and the awesome Nirvana sample. Jay’s duet with Nas, another one of hip-hop’s all-time greats, should’ve been nothing short of legendary. Instead both MCs fall flat, providing verses that would’ve made their younger selves frown.
Jay-Z is famous for walking into the booth, spitting out freestyles, and turning them into hit songs. But with Magna Carta, there’s so much repetition and pauses between lines (like in La Familia or Tom Ford) that it really sounds like the rapper has gotten lazy. It’s not that HOVA has run out of things to say; it’s more that Jay-Z has simply forgotten how best to say them.
Recommended track list: Nickels and Dimes, Holy Grail, Crown, Heaven
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