The album that is platinum before it’s release date, the album that made the RIAA change it’s policies… I present to you Magna Carta…Holy Grail by Jay-Z.
On his twelfth studio album, after the success of Watch The Throne with Kanye West, an album boastful in every sense of the word, Jay-Z’s trajectory over the year has not forgotten where he came from, about how once he was a drug dealer in Brooklyn, and nowadays is one of the world’s most powerful and influential public figures. In MCHG, he is still surrounded by the same luxurious environment he has rapped before on albums like WTT, but this time around he contemplates what is it all for?
1. Holy Grail (Feat. Justin Timberlake)
This is the song from one of the first Samsung commercials as far as I remember, Justin’s vocals just make it better. It’s like having two stories: on one hand you have Justin singing about someone that he loves, on the other you have Jay-Z singing about being at his level of fame, not being able to do simple things, yet recognizing that he’s feeding us with it, and we love it. Hence, why he included the verse from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in the song, which fits: “I know nobody to blame, Kurt Cobain, I did it myself … And we all just entertainers, And we’re stupid and contagious, and we all just entertainers.”
2. Picasso Baby
“D.O.A” and “99 Problems“-esque drums in this particular song. Continuing the theme about fame and wealth, Jay-Z name drops as if it was nobody’s business, for all he wanted, baby Blue could be leaning in the kitchen next to a Basquiat painting. A million isn’t enough, Jay-Z is after that billion, no, better yet, make it a trillion.
3. Tom Ford
The beat in this one is sick because at one point it seems to sound like a videogame. “Tom Ford” is Jay-Z’s stance against hip-hop’s molly movement.
4. FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt (Feat. Rick Ross)
Another opulent song, with references to De Niro and Goodfellas, seems like the type of song you’d bring Rick Ross to be a part of.
5. Oceans (Feat. Frank Ocean)
One of my favorite songs from the album. A conflicting view of sorts, reflecting on Jay’s success as a black rapper, yet contemplating the fact that the same water that he drinks, the water that he rides his yacht on, is the same water that drowned his ancestors. American history, slavery, black cards, are all represented in this song. Frank Ocean’s vocals are the cherry on top.
Another metaphor. Jay-Z juxtaposes himself as Muhammad Ali, reflecting on his past but this time around is more about political and racial issues.
7. Somewhere In America
Only in America could a black man become so successful, and he is responsible for every other white girl twerking, “Cause somewhere in America/Miley Cyrus is still twerkin’”
One of the darkest tunes from the album, produced by the 16 year-old, WondaGurl, in this one Jay-Z raps about becoming over the years one of the greatest of all time, now even signing athletes to Roc Nation, everyone should fear Jay because of how far he has come, “you in the presence of a king, scratch that, you in the presence of a God.”. This song also features a verse from R.E.M’s “Losing My Religion“.
A simple question: have you ever been to heaven? If so, how do you know who gets in and who doesn’t? Who are you to judge? Jay-Z raps about how people accuse him of being part of the Illuminati, but at the same time encourages people to question everything about and around him. “They can’t believe this much skill is in the human body/He’s 6’2, how the fuck he fit in a new Bugatti?”
An interlude that finishes off with Jay-Z’s laugh. That’s all I gotta say. #mylaugh
11. Part II (On the Run) (Feat. Beyonce)
Easily “Bonnie and Clyde” part II. This time around a more jazz-y beat in the background, complemented by Beyonce.
12. Beach Is Better
“Girl why you never ready, for as long as you took you better look like Halle Berry — or Beyonce”. Another interlude, but this song should have been longer in my opinion!
13. BBC (Feat. Nas, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Swizz Beatz, Pharrell & Timbaland)
Billionaire Boys Club. Rags to riches. As everyone already knows, Jay-Z isn’t your average D-boy, he’s a billionaire.
14. Jay-Z Blue
Conflicting views on parenthood. Jay-Z compares his parents broken relationship to Biggie’s, whose father also abandoned him at an early age and knew their relationship was doomed before birth. Jay doesn’t want to repeat his father’s mistakes, but knows that he carries his blood bur has no past to look back at, yet wants to be the best father for Blue Ivy.
15. La Familia
Head of the family, Roc Nation. Facts only. Jay-Z has kept true to himself, with what it seems that are clear jabs at his enemies, Jay is ready to face whoever wants to go to war with him, most likely they won’t have the amount of money Beyonce has.
16. Nickels and Dimes
Outro. Johnny Cash and Sublime references. Jay leaves the door open for other people to succeed as he has, “The greatest form of giving is an anonymous to anonymous/So here y’all go, I promise this“. The song completes the reflective theme of the album, after all his struggles, he is still here and is willing to let other people join him, “Something ’bout the struggle so divine/This sort of love is hard to define”.
Overall, Jay-Z is kind of like a prophet, he called way back his success and is now looking for new ways to be even more successful. Magna Carta…Holy Grail is an album that is outstanding both production-wise and lyrically, delivering more of the same rags to riches story that we know about Jay-Z, just that this time around he is more conflicted about what it all means and where this will take him. As of now, he’s changing the rules of the industry, and might as well keep on doing it.
Must-Listen: Oceans, Jay-Z Blue, BBC, Holy Grail