Yeezy made waves with his electronic God complex. J.Cole put his best foot forward continuing his quest to shed the little brother tag. Mac Miller took one small step towards garnering the respect he so desperately craves. Wale and Jon Connor dropped solid projects. Even confused little Joey Badass, who thinks he lives in a 90’s time warp, released a quality product for the masses. It’s safe to say hip hop’s pulse is stronger than ever, from the majors to the mixtape circuit.
So what’s an OG to do? You could film a series of infomercials for your new record, surrounded by icons in the game. You could drop those commercials during the NBA finals, to a completely dialed in and targeted demographic. You could sell a million copies to Samsung and go platinum before releasing the damn thing. You could hype an album that has no singles and get social media name dropping like it’s ’96 all over again. Problem is, it’s 2013, and times are changing. Even for the Jigga Man.
Magna Carta Holy Grail is Jay’s 12th studio album. Released exclusively to Samsung users via an exclusive app, critics were quick to bash the record claiming it’s an “over-hyped mess” that, “doesn’t hold a candle to Yeezus”. Whether you’re a Jay-Z fan or not, surely you’ve got an opinion. The interesting thing about Magna Carta is the tone of the record. It’s an undeniable reflection of wealth and success.
From the start, you’re on a ride with a Don. Not a rookie. Not an artist four records deep into a budding career, You’re on board with a boss, and that grizzled sophistication doesn’t always translate to tape. He can’t escape the fame, the money, the cars or the clothes, so rather than whine, he opens his arms to embrace what life has brought him…with more references to high priced art than a Sotheby’s auction.
I understand why Rick Rubin was sleeping on the couch during the Samsung commercials. There’s nothing entirely new about Magna Carta. “Tom Ford” and “F.U.T.W.” could be outtakes from ’99’s Volume 3, channeling an energy that resurfaced on “DOA” a few years back. The playful vibe of “BBC” and “Part II” are snapshots of an artist who is comfortable in his skin, whether surrounded by flashing lights or changing diapers.
“Picasso Baby” and “Crown” prove even at half speed, Jay is head and shoulders above his competition. But that’s the problem. Much of Magna Carta feels like a walk-through, a dress rehearsal. By the time he’s really spitting on “Jay Z Blue”, channeling his kinship with his daughter and Chris Wallace, you might have already lost interest.
Paintings. Paint jobs. Babies. Pretty wives. Fancy clothes. Just the life and times of Shawn Carter. Magna Carta Holy Grail certainly ain’t his first rodeo. The real question is, should it be his last?