Jay-Z – “Magna Carta… Holy Grail”
“I’m not a businessman/ I’m a business, man.” – Jay- Z
Jay-Z is the perfect blend of Biggie and Diddy. He makes great music and even bigger business deals. Sadly, from a musical standpoint the biggest thing that will be remembered from Magna Carta… Holy Grail is the partnership with Samsung that boosted this album and altered RIAA sales numbers. He changed the business of music with MCHG, not music.
The last time we heard Jay challenged was on Watch the Throne with Kanye West. Their duel album pushed each other to make the defining statement on luxury rap. Unfortunately, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and Nas couldn’t do the same.
“Holy Grail” kicks off the album and heavily features Justin Timberlake. It’s not just a coincidence that they are embarking on a huge stadium tour together this summer. This is the first single to receive radio play. The short Nirvana sample is alright but nothing daring. Timberlake’s vocals seem out-of-place with Jay’s verses.
The album follows with some material that feels like Watch The Throne b-sides. “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt” is the only track in the next five with real merit. It guests Rick Ross who is in full Teflon Don form. The synth driven steal drum beat attracts the listener and adds a solid layer to the song.
The next song of merit is “Crown”. It’s the best song on the album. Jay-Z is sharp while taking shots at baseball super agent Scott Boras. Sports management is Jay’s next major conquest. His client roster boasts athletes any agent would kill to have. “Crown” works because he has something to say about something new. A message is something that is lacking on MCHG.
Jay-Z’s other half Beyonce, joins him on “Part II (On The Run)”. This song seems built for radio with their star power and her ability to nail a hook. It doesn’t stand out but it will fit in on Top-40 stations.
“Jay Z Blue” is a dissection and reworking of Biggie lyrics. It’s fun to see something reinterpreted but is void of grabbing the listener. Most of these songs needed someone in the room to push, change, and challenge the people in it.
The Black Album days are far gone as Jay-Z has interred his Rolling Stones phase of his career. He sells out arenas and boosts a huge catalog. This album isn’t even like The Blueprint 3 which was made for the radio. BP3 was built on radio singles topped with his love letter to New York City in “Empire State of Mind”. MCHG seems to be made to back his upcoming tour and push forth a business deal with Samsung.