North Texas Daily

Review: “Magna Carta Holy Grail”

Review: “Magna Carta Holy Grail”

Review: “Magna Carta Holy Grail”
July 08
14:51 2013

Michael Felder / Staff Writer

2.75 stars out of 5

You know who Jay-Z is.

You know he was born Shawn Carter on Dec. 4 in Brooklyn, New York. You know that he weighed 10 pounds, 8 ounces because you heard his mother say it on “The Black Album.” You know he’s one of the most famed and successful rappers since the creation of hip-hop, and that he also owns the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, a nightclub, a clothing line, a record label and now a sports agency.

You know that he and his wife, R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles-Carter practically run the hip-hop world, that they’re music’s first ever billionaire couple and that he’s been effectively writing the book on rap since his debut in 1996.

If there’s anyone on Earth who should be able to effortlessly stunt on you and flaunt the size of his bank account with the receipts to prove it, it’s Shawn Carter. But “Magna Carta Holy Grail” does this over and over until it’s unbearable. And sometimes, it doesn’t even sound fresh the first time.

You wouldn’t expect a rapper of Jay-Z’s fame to borrow other artists’ flows, but “Magna Carta” wears influences on its sleeve. From the sample matching tribute to A Tribe Called Quest on “Versus” to a more blatant swagger-jacking of 2 Chainz’ rhymes on “Beach Is Better,” the album often sounds more like a product of today’s hip-hop instead of a bold new direction.

Sampling and derivative rhymes are a constant and historic staple of the hip-hop genre, but Jay-Z shouldn’t have to stoop to this level to maintain relevancy in the game. He’s always been the one other rappers borrow lines from. Not only does clutching the tactics and flow of today’s top 40 hip-hop artists make him look desperate, it also shows his age more than any of his lyrics could.

The silver lining on this album comes with the help of hip-hop producer and multi-instrumentalist Timbaland, who takes credit for more than half the production. His beats go quite the distance on the ears, with banging bass and samples from M.I.A., R.E.M., Nirvana, and even the film “Mommy Dearest.”

According to Carter, this album was themed around the mirage of fame and navigating through life’s successes while maintaining individualism and morals. The story of a man who overcame his past as a drug dealer to achieve fame and fortune is a compelling one, but the execution of this idea isn’t quite the deep, intellectual exploration of his success or the effect of fame upon his personality you might expect. Instead, it reads like a billionaire who won’t let you forget the fact that right now, he’s living his life and he writes his own rules.

The bulk of the lyrics on the whole album can be boiled down to one single idea: While we all focus on Jay-Z’s personal life, his rumored affiliations with Satanic groups and the “Illuminati,” and his infant, he’s somewhere else doing something that we could only dream of doing, which may or may not include an expensive car and a beach. It’s this very idea of wealthy illusions that carves out the true nature of “Magna Carta Holy Grail.”

You might think this formula would provide positive results. After all, that’s the foundation of Jay-Z’s previous outing with Kanye West, “Watch the Throne.” In a world where luxury is thrust upon broke kids from Chicago and Brooklyn, that album is a reasonable outcome: its cover literally drips with gold. But without Kanye’s eclectic insanity and risk-taking musicianship in tow to counteract Jay-Z’s go-to straight man routine, “Magna Carta Holy Grail” is less a deserved spinoff and more of a lyrical chore. It’s all floss, no fun.

The next to worst thing about “Magna Carta Holy Grail” is that it sounds unfinished. Justin Timberlake’s contribution to the title track, “Holy Grail,” stretches the very first song to a very boring five minutes. Jay-Z’s fame shouldn’t compensate for lower-quality music, and real fans should know he’s capable of much more. Still, a bad album from Jay-Z is still surprisingly enjoyable music.

But the most frustrating fact about the creation of this album is that no matter what we as listeners think about it, Mr. Carter already won. His partnership with Samsung to release music exclusively through the company’s phones creates an entire new avenue for artists and companies to collaborate in ways that didn’t exist just a few years ago. It’s already gone platinum without selling a single copy. He gave it away, and Watch the Throne 2” has already been announced for next summer.

Consider the roads paved. Go home. You lose.

About Author



Related Articles


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

The Roundup

<script id="mcjs">!function(c,h,i,m,p){m=c.createElement(h),p=c.getElementsByTagName(h)[0],m.async=1,m.src=i,p.parentNode.insertBefore(m,p)}(document,"script","");</script>

Search Bar

Sidebar Thumbnails Ad

Sidebar Bottom Block Ad

Flytedesk Ad