Magna Carta Holy Grail
To state the obvious, Magna Carta Holy Grail is no Yeezus. Though it may be a masterpiece of sorts in its own right, with too-close-for-comfort release dates, familiar discussions of race and success, and references to Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit”, it’s as if Jay warranted these comparisons. Looking for a bit of friendly competition? Tough loss, Hov. It’s hard to pinpoint where exactly he went wrong, for an all-star lineup of features and production names should arguably add up to an unforgettable twelfth studio album. But where the build of pulse racing production gets cut before it has the chance to explode (“Beach is Better”), and fusions of faint beats, lulling flow and incoherent synth lines on the album’s latter half (“La Familia”) test your attention span, Jay-Z’s product suddenly doesn’t equal the sum of its parts. He frustrates with gasp-inducing one-liners that show flashes of his capabilities, only to cause doubt with cringe worthy quips, like: “My past ain’t pretty, my lady is/ My Mercedes is”
Borrowing lyrics from Nirvana (“Holy Grail”), A Tribe Called Quest (“Versus”) and R.E.M. (“Heaven”) only comes off as weak fillers for writers block in an album that may have been premature, and immediate pop culture allusions that heavily influence tracks like “Somewhere In America” don’t exactly make for a record of lasting presence. Miley hasn’t been twerking for that long, right? For all its pitfalls, Jay still manages to find highs that command attention and live up to the widespread hype Magna Carta promised. He contrasts black oppression and slavery with his own gaudy success on the grandiose “Oceans”, and boasts his greatness over light piano trills and coos that will have you bowing down on “F.U.T.W.”. And for all the big names on M.C.H.G., the culmination of collabs comes together in “BBC”, the high-energy snapshot of a celebrity-filled Carter soiree. If you were expecting his July 4th album release to bring fireworks, you may find Jay-Z played it safe with sparklers, though God be damned if it doesn’t still burn.
Listen: “Oceans”, “Tom Ford”, “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt” || Watch: “Holy Grail (ft. Justin Timberlake)”