Review of Magna Carta Holy Grail
Brooklyn rapper Jay Z is certainly a Hip Hop heavyweight. The rapper is a leader in his field that has broke barriers,including being the first rapper to headline Glastonbury. He is also a multi-millionaire and has set up a family with former Destiny’s Child star Beyoncé. All that paints Jay Z in a magnificent light and the music critics can’t get enough off him. The millions of records sold also back-up his position at the top of the Hip Hop throne. However, if you dig deep enough and stay away from mainstream media sources, then there are the beginnings of murmurs of turning from many Hip Hop fans. Some questioning his lyrical ability, others saying he has gone too commercial and getting to big for his very expensive boots. So is ‘Magna Carta Holy Grial’ the album to cement his place at the top of hip hop, or is it the step to get the doubters voices louder?
First off the commercial argument has always been there. Yes Jay Z, like Dr Dre is nowadays is a commercial machine. So get over that one straightaway. Well that would be fine, but Jay Z even sold out his album launch to Samsung. An estimated 1m Samsung users received the album free of charge via an app. The deal netted Jay Z an estimated $5m. Now that is a sell-out, particularly as none of those downloads will count towards chart position. OK, this is meant to be an album review so we will park the commercial debate.
So what about the album itself? The title adds weight to the conspiracy theorists of the world. In his track ‘Heaven’ he raps about the illuminate a strong, tight and secret group that are the real rulers of the world. This is one of those tracks that have a provocative message, but you can’t help but feel it is done to get social word of mouth out there.
So whilst there is a strong undertone of getting the message out there and driving lyrics to get people talking, there is also the small matter of a pretty strong album with some great collaborations. Obviously the title track ‘Holy Grail’ featuring Justin Timberlake reviewed on Music Eyz earlier this week is a great example of Jay Z providing a slightly softer edge. The track has strong Justin Timberlake influences but by the same token has some pretty edgy raps from the man himself.
Other collaborations include the obvious one with wife Beyoncé and perhaps the pick ‘Oceans‘ by man of the moment Frank Ocean. Frank Ocean delivers a beautiful vocal over the strong Hip Hop backing track, which takes in some controversial and potentially stirring views. The personal highlight of this track for me is the long winding rap that is the best example of Jay Z and his lyrical ability. His rap takes in some status symbol moments such as his swigging of champagne, greed in the shape of the BP oil spill and references to slavery. The rap on ‘Oceans’ is powerful, with real political meaning and intention.
The production on the album is first class. As usual Timbaland delivers some brilliant music. The production is varied and elevates ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ beyond some of his early material as a musical listen. With this in mind it probably extends Jay Z‘s reach to am even wider audience.
For those that want the harder stuff, listen to tracks such as ‘BBC‘ (Billionaire Boys Club not British Broadcasting Corporation) and ‘Nickels and Dimes‘ which actually covers some of the charitable giving Jay Z does. The collaboration with Nas, whilst not the strongest offer from either rapper, is also a good proper Hip Hop track.
Although this review may not come across as over the top positive, that is perhaps deliberate, as you will have the opportunity to read a million reviews on how great the album is and outlining that Jay Z is a Hip Hop lord. In my view the album is very good. I would question if it contains the same proportion of tracks genuine hardcore Hip Hop fans would love. However, the album feels more mainstream than perhaps some of his others and in the interest of giving some balance to the reviews you will read, we thought it wise to focus on some less positive areas.
If you are a Jay Z fan, you will no doubt love this. If you are a casual listener of Hip Hop you will undoubtedly love this. If you are a Hip Hop fan, I think you will find highlights on the album, but you may not feel it from first to last track. There is enough quality on the album though for me to hand on heart suggest you do go and buy the album.