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Jay-Z - Magna Carta Holy Grail Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 5
Musicianship 5
Lyrics 5
Production 5
Creativity 5
Lasting Value 5
Reviewer Tilt 5
Final Verdict: 50%
Member Ratings
Vocals 3.14
Musicianship 3.28
Lyrics 2.94
Production 4.11
Creativity 2.92
Lasting Value 2.89
Reviewer Tilt 2.92
Average: 32%
Inside AP.net

Jay-Z - Magna Carta Holy Grail

Reviewed by: Jake Jenkins (07/11/13)
Jay-Z - Magna Carta Holy Grail
Release Date: July 9, 2013
Record Label: Roc Nation

Although the two artists and albums are completely different, it's hard not to compare and contrast Yeezus and Magna Carta Holy Grail. Jay-Z and Kanye have always had a bit of a sibling rivalry going on, as Kanye pointed out in “Big Brother,” but you can't deny that the two are pretty far apart in terms of who they are. Jay-Z is one of the biggest rapper-turned celebrities in history, and while Kanye can make that case too, Kanye has done a lot to make a sizable amount of the mainstream listening audience turn their back on him. Jay-Z, however, has always been a bit more accessible, not only in his music but as a person. He's married to Beyonce, who is also a huge, likable figure in the media. And that's where the differences of Magna Carta Holy Grail and Yeezus begin; on MCHG, Jay-Z is making music for people that already like him and, for the most part, playing it very safe. Yeezus, on the other hand, is a deliberate attempt by Kanye to make people dislike him.

Which isn't inherently a bad thing, and I don't want anyone to think I'm let down by MCHG because it isn't Yeezus. Nobody was expecting Jay-Z to release a Yeezus with this album. Sure, he did the whole “announce the album really close to the release date with no lead single” thing, but he also partnered up with Samsung to guarantee the sale of a million albums before the release date. Kanye denounced corporations on “New Slaves.” We kind of knew we weren't getting a Yeezus with this, but it's Jay-Z, and even though The Blueprint 3 was a very poor effort, it's hard not to get excited when one of the greats announces a new album.

Unfortunately for Jay, MCHG is just as big of a letdown as The Blueprint 3. Hell, it may even be more of a letdown, because with all of the commercials promoting it, all of the producers involved, and all of the guest spots here, it seems like Jay-Z had all he needed to finally put out something substantial again. But what we got is an album with top notch production, great guest spots, and an artist in the middle of it all who fails to do anything interesting with what he's given and making too many missteps along the way for the production to make up for it. Jay-Z seems more interested in name dropping some great artists and designers (there are songs here titled “Picasso Baby” and “Tom Ford”) than creating something that warrants him to be name dropped along side them.

His attempts at creating a form of high art with MCHG come across as hollow and empty. On “Holy Grail,” a song featuring Justin Timberlake, JT and Jay sing a couple of famous lines from Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but there isn't a clear purpose behind it other than the fact that they can. It comes across as shallow and insulting to Kurt Cobain. And then there are songs like “Tom Ford,” where Jay is clearly trying to recreate the magic of “N****s In Paris,” but the former isn't even half as effective as the latter. For all of his boasts of money and class, some parts of this album sound incredibly cheap in both their content and in their execution.

That's not to say there aren't some clear highlights on the album. Frank Ocean shows up on “Oceans” for the best hook on the album, and Jay-Z is able to muster up some thoughtful bars on the issue of racism, though there are plenty of snoozers tossed around here (“I'm on the ocean, I'm in heaven/Yachtin/Ocean 11”). Jay-Z also partners up with his wife Beyonce for “Part II,” a sequel to the fantastic “'03 Bonnie and Clyde,” and while Beyonce steals the show, Jay-Z actually sounds like he's rapping with a purpose.

The biggest disappointment comes in the form of “Jay-Z Blue,” a song for Jay's daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. In one of the commercials leading up to the release, Jay-Z could be seen explaining the premise of the song to Rick Rubin (who was only used as a promotional prop for the album and didn't actually contribute anything). When Jay was talking about the paranoia and fear he has of not being a good dad and the way his dad not being around affected him, you could feel the pain and emotion in his voice. On the actual song, however, Jay-Z delivers some of his stalest bars while trying to convey these emotions. It doesn't even come close to having the impact the commercial promised, and its one of the very few tracks on the album where Jay even attempts to go further than flaunting his wealth and class status.

As I said earlier, no one was expecting a Yeezus here. What we were expecting, however, was someone that we know has the chops to create great music to actually create great music. Yeah, the beats on this album are great, although another legitimate complaint is that the best beats on the album (“Beach Is Better,” “Versus”) are completely underutilized. More alarming, though, is that Jay-Z doesn't seem to know what to do to these beats to catapult them into great songs. His flows are lazy, uninspired, and flat out boring. The beats, no matter how great they may be, suffer as a result. Magna Carta Holy Grail may look and feel like a product of luxury and wealth, but on the inside, it's hollow and void of any meaning.

5/10

Additional InformationTrack Listing:
1. Holy Grail (feat. Justin Timberlake)
2. Picasso Baby
3. Tom Ford
4. FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt (Feat. Rick Ross)
5. Oceans (Feat. Frank Ocean)
6. F.U.T.W.
7. Somewhere In America
8. Crown
9. Heaven
10. Versus
11. Part II (On The Run) (Feat. Beyonce)
12. Beach Is Better
13. BBC (Feat. Nas, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, Swizz Beatz & Timbaland)
14. Jay-Z Blue
15 La Familia
16 Nickles & Dimes


 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 139.
03:19 PM on 07/11/13
#2
Ryan Gardner
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Need to spend more time with this but I pretty much agree.

I've never been a huge Jay-Z fan aside from the hits...what's the best album to start with? The Black Album?
03:22 PM on 07/11/13
#3
Jake Jenkins
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Need to spend more time with this but I pretty much agree.

I've never been a huge Jay-Z fan aside from the hits...what's the best album to start with? The Black Album?
reasonable doubt, the blueprint, and the black album are the three you MUST listen to. id go in the order i listed them. all three are three of my favorite hip-hop albums of all time and the black album was one of the first in the genre i heard.
03:36 PM on 07/11/13
#4
Ryan Gardner
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reasonable doubt, the blueprint, and the black album are the three you MUST listen to. id go in the order i listed them. all three are three of my favorite hip-hop albums of all time and the black album was one of the first in the genre i heard.
Sounds good
03:53 PM on 07/11/13
#5
vivatoto56
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Review could have done without those first two paragraphs but otherwise very well written.
03:59 PM on 07/11/13
#6
Jake Jenkins
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Review could have done without those first two paragraphs but otherwise very well written.
yeahhhhh i probably could have gone a different route but ive been told a few times by people that i dont like this album because its not yeezus and i felt it necessary to drive the point home WHY this is disappointing and that it doesnt have to do with me wanting another yeezus. probably a little indulgent for a review but, what are you gonna do haha, i had fun writing it
04:09 PM on 07/11/13
#7
vivatoto56
Nice Try, The Devil
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yeahhhhh i probably could have gone a different route but ive been told a few times by people that i dont like this album because its yeezus and i felt it necessary to drive the point home WHY this is disappointing and that it doesnt have to do with me wanting another yeezus. probably a little indulgent for a review but, what are you gonna do haha, i had fun writing it
Yeah, it still works and gives the review some context and they're 2 really good paragraphs. Not a big complaint.
01:13 AM on 07/12/13
#8
Kelly Doherty
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Wonderful review, I completely agree with everything you've said. I wasn't a fan of Yeezus, but this record is ridiculously boring.
06:01 AM on 07/12/13
#9
Craig Manning
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Good review, and I think the introductory parts about Yeezus are completely justified. One artist is pushing the envelope and innovating while the other is comfortable stagnating in the same old territory. One thing I would add to the comparison, though, has to do with length. Kanye has learned to make a concise and consistent album, and I think part of the reason Yeezus succeeds is that it's this lean, relentless burst of abrasive aggression. Even MBDTF, which is nothing if not epic and sprawling, feels a lot more condensed than Kanye's older album because he learned to ditch the skits and the interludes (mostly) and the filler and make something that you actually want to experience in one sitting.

This album, on the other hand, just keeps fucking going. It's one thing that the songs aren't that good to begin with. I could have done with an album of disposable Jay-Z lyrics if every song had a great beat and a killer guest spot (which several of them do), but the in between tracks where it's just him are where this album really falters. I looked down somewhere around "Heaven" thinking, "shit, this thing has gotta be almost over," but there were still seven more songs.
06:12 AM on 07/12/13
Ryan Dennehy
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Sounds about right.
06:14 AM on 07/12/13
Quijiba
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Good review, and I think the introductory parts about Yeezus are completely justified. One artist is pushing the envelope and innovating while the other is comfortable stagnating in the same old territory. One thing I would add to the comparison, though, has to do with length. Kanye has learned to make a concise and consistent album, and I think part of the reason Yeezus succeeds is that it's this lean, relentless burst of abrasive aggression. Even MBDTF, which is nothing if not epic and sprawling, feels a lot more condensed than Kanye's older album because he learned to ditch the skits and the interludes (mostly) and the filler and make something that you actually want to experience in one sitting.

This album, on the other hand, just keeps fucking going. It's one thing that the songs aren't that good to begin with. I could have done with an album of disposable Jay-Z lyrics if every song had a great beat and a killer guest spot (which several of them do), but the in between tracks where it's just him are where this album really falters. I looked down somewhere around "Heaven" thinking, "shit, this thing has gotta be almost over," but there were still seven more songs.
agreed. I can't get through the whole thing in one sitting, there just isn't enough quality material to make me want to
06:14 AM on 07/12/13
Jeff_Ryan
easy come and easy go, whatever
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twerk miley
06:29 AM on 07/12/13
Jake Jenkins
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Wonderful review, I completely agree with everything you've said. I wasn't a fan of Yeezus, but this record is ridiculously boring.
thank you!

Good review, and I think the introductory parts about Yeezus are completely justified. One artist is pushing the envelope and innovating while the other is comfortable stagnating in the same old territory. One thing I would add to the comparison, though, has to do with length. Kanye has learned to make a concise and consistent album, and I think part of the reason Yeezus succeeds is that it's this lean, relentless burst of abrasive aggression. Even MBDTF, which is nothing if not epic and sprawling, feels a lot more condensed than Kanye's older album because he learned to ditch the skits and the interludes (mostly) and the filler and make something that you actually want to experience in one sitting.

This album, on the other hand, just keeps fucking going. It's one thing that the songs aren't that good to begin with. I could have done with an album of disposable Jay-Z lyrics if every song had a great beat and a killer guest spot (which several of them do), but the in between tracks where it's just him are where this album really falters. I looked down somewhere around "Heaven" thinking, "shit, this thing has gotta be almost over," but there were still seven more songs.

yeah, the length of this thing is what made me dread going back for repeated listens to hammer out this review....i had the same problem with the new wale album. halfway through im begging for it to end only to realize i've still got 7-8 songs to go
06:31 AM on 07/12/13
Dustin Harkins
Go support Kony 2012 some more
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Biggest disappointment since ... well, I guess the other Roc Nation album that just came out.
06:32 AM on 07/12/13
Thursdaysox
Sleep Well
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this album makes me appreciate yeezus even more. holy grail is legit though, too bad jay couldnt churn out 15 more
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