In the now infamous commercial during halftime of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Shawn Carter proclaimed he was releasing an album in a couple weeks that would usher in an era of “#newrules”, in which album promotion would be no longer necessary, returning the focus of the music industry to the music. The album’s lack of promotion included no lead single and boasted hip-hop legend Rick Rubin’s sitting on a couch production, a highly original marketing campaign which hadn’t been used since Kanye West’s last outing. It doesn’t stop there though. For his game changing new album, rap/entertainment/clothing/business mogul Jay-Z formed a rap conglomerate with Samsung to give away his album for free to one million non-iPhone users, if there are that many. In addition, Jay-Z sent out a few tweets for the first time since ’88, and put on an art show.
Oh but wait, this album was supposed to focus on the music wasn’t it? Sorry, after all the non-promotion I must have forgotten. Anyway, just like half of the music world did, on the night that Magna Carta/Carter... Holy Grail became available to Samsung users (I heard that a lot of them had trouble downloading it anyway), I torrented the new Hov album excited to see what God, the Father (Yeezus being the son of course) was going to bless us with. It was pretty nice for the first 3 seconds of the album with that awesome sounding beat from the commercial, but shit goes downhill after that with one of the most grating singing performances I’ve heard in recent memory, especially from a singer in which I personally find talented. But as Magna Carta... Holy Grail is an album of “#newrules”, it only makes sense to have one of the most popular figures of the 21st century on the first track of your album. After the 20 minute long JT ballad, Hov comes in and get his Hov on, name dropping his daughter, (“Fuck that shit y’all talking about” – Blue Ivy Carter) MC Hammer, Mike Tyson, Michael Jackson, and this guy named “Augh” (sp?) about 300 times. I mean c’mon, at least explain who this “Augh” guy is if you’re gonna say his name after every line.
Okay, okay not EVERYTHING is laughable about this album. The following track, “Picasso Baby”, is probably my favorite lyrical performance from Hov on the album, and the beat is pretty great. Most of the production on Magna Carta is pretty great actually. After all, the man himself said, “Don’t be good, be great”. Unfortunately, Mr. Carter didn’t follow his own advice in regards to the rapping on this album. It’s a sad day when the worst part of a Jay-Z album is Jay-Z. While none of the rapping is downright awful, none of it is great either. Hov coasts along from track to track like he was on a cruise to Cuba with Beyonce. Speaking of Beyonce, the “cliché” love song she’s featured in is actually pretty good, as is the token Frank Ocean song (“I hope my black skin don’t dirt this white tuxedo”), though Jay-Z has practically nothing to do with the quality of either song.
While there are some passable songs on here with some reasonable depth to them (“Heaven”, “Nickels and Dimes”), none of them are enough to overshadow the trainwreck that is “BBC”. No, not a track about the stereotype of black men, although with the fake gaudiness of the beat and materialistic lyrics, it just might be. The track features a random mix of kicking and screaming from the likes of Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, and a Nas verse that comes and goes faster than Trinidad James’ career. The track is rather symptomatic of the album itself in its mesh of talented artists into a melting pot of mediocrity, missed opportunities, and failed expectations.
I could go on and on about the mediocrity of Jay-Z’s rhymes, or I could talk about Rick Ross’ attempt at spitting the worst verse of the year, but I won’t waste your time with all of that just like you shouldn’t waste your time with this album.
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