Jay Z – Magna Carta…Holy Grail Album Review

With all the talk of Beyonce popping out Blue Ivy and Jay Z becoming a dad, some people may have overlooked the fact that he also made something else this year. The release of his 12th studio album, grandiosely named, Magna Carta…Holy Grail has been pinned as one of the hip-hop events of 2013. So does it live up to the hype?

One aspect of the album that is hard not to notice, right from the beginning, is Jay Z’s willingness to collaborate with an array of other megastars from the pop and hip hop music world. In fact, the album begins with the soulful voice of Justin Timberlake. The eager Jay Z fan has to wait around 1 minute and 30 seconds into the first track to hear Jay Z at all! Other tracks feature artists such as Rick Ross, Frank Ocean and, of course, Shawn Carter’s baby-mama herself, Beyoncé.

Although teaming up with famous colleagues is likely to shift records, Jay Z does seem somewhat distant at the beginning of the album.

He also namedrops iconic figures from art and music such as Picasso and Da Vinci seemingly attempting to compare himself to them. As egotistical as this may seem, I can’t help but agree that what Picasso did for art, Jay Z has done for hip hop! The lyrics in this album are far from humble, when compared to Jay’s earlier work such as the Blueprint or Black album, which dealt with more relatable topics for the average Joe, but surely he has earned that right! Plus, anyone spending so much time with Kanye West is bound to develop a more inflated ego!

The album contains many interesting verses and surprises, including samples from REM to Biggie Smalls, but one of my favourite is the use of Nirvana lyrics within the song ‘Holy Grail’ which features Justin Timberlake. This is sure to be controversial amongst die-hard Nirvana fans, but I think it is a refreshing homage to a genre of music that is usually worlds away from hip-hop.

Magna Carta…Holy Grail is by all means a good album and well worth a listen. Jay Z’s trademark flow and masterful approach to rap is still showcased throughout. However, I don’t believe that it is a truly a great album when compared to the Blueprint or Black album, which in my opinion are two of the greatest rap albums ever. My advice to people who are new to Jay Z’s music (which I doubt is very many people) would be to listen to Magna Carta…Holy Grail after his older, more influential albums. This is the best way to get an idea of where Shawn Carter came from and how he found the Holy Grail of hip-hop by his 12th album release!

Mark Haldon

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