After 27 years Jay-Z has seen and done it all. He’s racked up every major award, married the queen of R&B, and made somewhere around a gazillion dollars. And the aim of his 12th studio album Magna Carta Holy Grail is to put it all into perspective. It’s not exactly a leap into the future like Yeezus or a nostalgic grip on the past like good kid, m.A.A.d city, but rather a firm assessment of the present – all of Jay-Z’s obnoxious power packed into one album. Love it or hate it Magna Carta Holy Grail is everywhere, eliciting opinions and changing the chemistry of the charts before even hitting shelves. In the end though, the album is not a lyrical triumph nor is it a groundbreaking stroke of genius. It’s Jay-Z reveling in his extravagant life, with a few humanizing moments peppered in between – a peek into the reclusive life of a rap icon, and for better or worse, a vision of the American dream.
Puzzled by the paradox of fame, Jay-Z shakes his fist at the walls of the ivory tower one moment and embraces it like a kid in the candy store the next. It must be a tough world to navigate, what with all the beautiful women, gobs of cash, and limitless resources: [LISTEN]
Every morning Jay-Z wakes up to the sound of trumpets. He eats scrambled bald eagle eggs for breakfast, wipes his mouth on the original Magna Carta, and rides his unicorn until the early evening. Excess every step of the way, and without an ounce of shame to boot: [LISTEN]
So it’s happened. Jordan is no longer the ultimate adjective for excellence. It’s Tom Ford now, which is perfect for a guy like Jay-Z who carries a satellite phone with only Ford’s number in it. Together they talk about wild parties, annoying tweets, and how everything is fake: [LISTEN]
With a nod to one of the South’s finest, Jay-Z resurrects an old Pimp C interview for the intro. He also pulls Rick Ross’s head from a trough full of pineapples to lay a hook. All this in the name of declaring his mob the rulers of mainstream rap: [LISTEN]
Not one to limit himself to the methods of mere mortals, Jay took whatever crumbs he had around him and built an empire. He’s now part of the system that once worked against him, and he hasn’t forgotten. Not that it matters either, he’d sip from their cup of resentment any day: [LISTEN]
Apparently all the glitter is making Jay a little nostalgic. Perhaps he’s trying to reconnect to his roots or maybe it’s his way of holding on to whatever soul he has left. Or maybe it’s cause he’s reached his apex, and he’s coming full circle – back to when the grind meant everything: [LISTEN]
Jay goes toe-to-toe with critics and explains how he was able to manifest his vision by simply being true to himself. He’s helped make rap a mainstream cash cow, which has given meth addicts posing as Miley Cyrus enough courage to start twerkin’ whenever a camera appears: [LISTEN]
Jay-Z is more an entrepreneur than he is an artist, a guy seemingly born with the Midas touch. And now he’s looking to jump into the cutthroat world of sports management, calling out the infamous Scott Boras. After already dipping his toes in basketball it looks like baseball is next: [LISTEN]
Jay isn’t afraid to get sacrilegious. It’s important to note, however, that he’s worshiping a different god altogether. Not the white bearded benevolent figure of lore, but the one that’s green and can buy him whatever his heart desires. Gaudy, yes, but telling of his privileged life: [LISTEN]
On some bugged out Timbaland madness, Jay drops a quick hitter of an interlude addressing his competition. Maybe he doesn’t see the need to give them any more than a fraction of his time, which makes sense seeing as how he’s constantly letting his money and fame do the talking: [LISTEN]
Of course you knew it was coming, the Bonnie and Clyde of pop are always looking for ways to one up the competition. Beyonce claims that she’ll stay by Jay’s side no matter what, but she’s fooling no one. He’s the Joe Camel of rap, and should thank his lucky stars that there’s such a thing called wealth.
In the second cryptic interlude of the album, Jay gets a wee impatient – so much so that he’s willing to drop everything, hit the beach, and call it a career. It’s a balls to the wall mentality that, yeah, could go up in flames like Pryor. In more ways than one too: [LISTEN]
What beef? Nas and Jay paw at the past with some nostalgic musings. Pharell – as trite as ever – adds a glossy touch to it, which keeps the energy light and airy. It’s a feel more in line with Jigga Man than Hova: [LISTEN]
In an attempt to placate his inner-demons, Jay-Z takes a moment to examine his role as a son and as a father. It’ll garner a sympathetic nod, but is that what it’s boiled down to? Where all a celebrity needs to do to win points is talk about normal things. Next song will be him reciting his grocery list.
Jay and Lil Wayne are at it again, barking empty threats at one another like two high school kids. It’s a pedestrian effort, and one that elicits a general groan from the savvy public who knows that beef between rappers almost always end in a spectacularly boring way: [LISTEN]
Jay opens up about the troubles of being rich. In all honesty it’s something every successful person of business needs to deal with, coming to terms with whether or not the money being doled out to family and friends is going to something productive or not. It’s another humanizing moment for Hova.
A comprehensive bookend to what Jay’s had his hands in for the past few years. He’s an aging vet, but he still has enough moxie to lead a legion of fans to the promised land. Mainstream rap at its apex: [LISTEN]