Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a pretty big Hov fan. Like major. Basically, I think he’s a genius.
But if I was to write this review with the most honest of opinions, I’d say Magna Carta Holy Grail is not his best work. Actually, I’d consider it a mix bag.
It starts off intriguing but I’m left waiting and unimpressed. Yes, the first track is “Holy Grail”, with Justin Timberlake, who’s great and all but for a second, I thought this was his song and not Jay’s because he literally sings for the first 3-quarters of the song. Then Jay goes off talking about art and fashion on “Picasso Baby” and “Tom Ford” and whatever the fuck with Rick Ross on “Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit.” Seriously? This is not good.
The turning point comes at “Oceans” with Frank Ocean. Finally, I’m hearing some real shit, reflective and broodingly beautiful, and Frank is as usual amazing on vocals. There’s provocative thoughts on “Heaven” and “Jay-Z Blue.” The rest of the album is alright with the exception of some less-than-a-minute throwaways like “Versus” and “Beach is Better.” I’m not sure what the point of these were.
Truthfully, the whole album feels like a first effort piece. No edits. No second thoughts. As if he just spewed his thoughts with no filter. Proven even more likely so when The Dream recently admitted that the album was done in about two weeks. With Timbaland producing most of the album, there are moments of breakthrough genius but also awkward points where Jay-Z’s buried under a monotonous chord or conflicting rhythm. Pure and true but not necessarily a showstopper like I know Jay could do. ”Oceans” is a stunner and I could see “Holy Grail” being a top summer single, although I think Jay raps too sparingly and haphazardly on that track.
With that said, I’m not sure why Jay created this album; it was sort of unexpected. Some scenarios come to mind. Indulge me:
Scenario 1: Jay-Z was at home chilling with Blue Ivy and was bored of watching too many cartoons so he decided to go make an album.
Scenario 2: Jay-Z was just chilling at his mansion with Rick Rubin, Swizz, Timbaland, Nas, etc and decided to make an album as a summer project.
Scenario 3: Samsung paid him to make an album.
Point is, I’m not sure Jay made this with the most inspired of intentions and thus, it showed.
A lot of people argued that Watch The Throne was all egomaniacal nonsense but I would like to dispute that and say the excess showed more in Jay’s latest effort. On Watch The Throne, there was a point in being over the top and egomaniacal because it was balanced with the consequences of success. It also was brilliantly produced and finished. MCHG doesn’t have that type of balance and finesse. Jay raps again and again about high art and high fashion, luxury brands, and basically, his fantasical life. We also hear a lot about Blue. Like a lot. And one could argue that he’s rapping about those things because they’re of the moment, this is his life now. You rap what you know but I know Jay could rap about a lot more.
Still, no matter what the critics and fans think about the new album, Hov wins solely because he’s Hov and the campaign surrounding the album is phenomenal:
He broke the Internet and delighted hip hop nerds with this behind-the-scenes video.
He signed a deal with Samsung to pre-release his album to the first million Galaxy users via a mobile app. Oh, it went platinum before it hit the stores. New rules, indeed.
On Monday, he did a Twitter Q&A. YOU HEAR THAT? JAY-Z ACTUALLY SPOKE TO FANS VIA TWITTER.
Yesterday, he rapped “Picasso Baby” for 6 hours straight at the Pace Gallery with fashion and art luminaries. Worlds collide and are indeed buzzing.
There’s no telling what he can or will do next. Even if this album is not his best, dude puts in WORK and you just can’t help but admire that.