#12 Album Of The Year: Jay Z- Magna Carta…Holy Grail

Posted: December 27, 2013 by ericbernsen in Album Reviews, Music
Tags: , , , , ,

There were a ton of huge hip-hop releases in 2013, but Jay Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail took the social media world by storm as he released the album early and for free to Samsung users who downloaded the appropriate app. And musically, the project is somewhat of a return to form for Jay in terms of solo albums as I thought Blueprint 3 was subpar for the most part. We saw Jay Z and Kanye West work their magic on Watch The Throne, and Jay Z continues to ride that momentum with Magna Carta…Holy Grail.

At this stage of his career, we go into a Jay Z album fully expecting Hova’s classic rags-to-riches rhymes, anointing himself as a well-rounded hustler in a flow that is certified as legendary. While we do get plenty of this on the project, it is pleasant surprise that there are tracks on here such as “Oceans”, “Heaven” and “Jay Z Blue” that deal with the wider ranged themes of Black America’s contrasting history, the questioning of religion, and fear of fatherhood. The album does not have many rap features on it, and that is for the best because whether Jay Z is in boasting or self-reflecting mode, he still has plenty to say.

Production-wise, we continue to see the resurgence of Timbaland in 2013 after he re-entered the spotlight with Justin Timberlake in their The 20/20 Experience albums. Jay Z and Timbaland have had a strong working relationship for many years, but there is no hiding the fact that Timbaland had been in a rut recently. But he has his hands all over this project, and it paid off as Jay Z’s luxury raps fit perfectly over the Timbo-crafted “Picasso Baby”/”Tom Ford” production. And we can’t go further without mentioning the JT-assisted radio smash that is “Holy Grail,” which set the album off to quite a start. Nevertheless, the other producers on the album also deserve credit as relative newcomers Hit-Boy and Travis Scott contributed greatly, bringing their respective signature sounds to the table. And for me personally, I felt Boi-1da came with the hardest beat on the album on “FuckWithWithMeYouKnowIGotIt,” as the bass-heavy track showcases the curious yet undeniable chemistry between Jay Z and Rick Ross.

Even though Magna Carta…Holy Grail has a lot of positives to it, there are certainly some missteps on here that took the album out of my top 10. First off, Jay Z and Beyonce might make a good couple, but their collaboration “Part II (On The Run )” seems forced and is nowhere the caliber of their previous work together. Another disappointment on here is the star-studded “BBC” that has Jay Z on the same track as Nas, Pharrell, and Justin Timberlake. While the song is upbeat and has some appeal to it, it was frustrating to me that such a talented group of people couldn’t create something more meaningful.

Nevertheless, it is amazing that this is Jay Z’s 12th studio album and he is still as relevant as he was 15 years ago. While the music he is creating now is nowhere near as timeless as classics like Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint, Magna Carta….Holy Grail is an album that can be appreciated for more than the genius marketing behind it.

Listen to Magna Carta…Holy Grail and let us know what you think of the album/ranking!


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