| 3 years ago||
Despite the fact that the Magna Carta was written to limit a king’s powers, Jay-Z and his already-platinum Magna Carta Holy Grail is set to further the kingdom that is Rocafella Records and Hov’s unquestionable position on the throne of hip-hop. With a clever marketing trail thanks to a partnership with Samsung, Jay-Z has effectively a.sserted his dominance in the music industry with the only thing left in question being the quality of the 16-track, 59 minute LP. Continuing the ridiculous digital buzz that Yeezus caused just the other week, these are my knee-jerk reactions to the other most anticipated rap album of 2013.
Keep in mind that this brush-over track-by-track is done after listening to each track just twice.
Holy Grail: Justin Timberlake is given over a minute to croon us into a slow-building drop of clashing peripheral industrial noise and a fairly subtle beat. Jay-Z’s rhymes drive this track but the Nirvana-inspired, Timberlake-sung hook really falls flat. I was really expecting a more exciting introduction, but at least Hov pisses off MC Hammer again. 6/10
Picasso Baby: Hov is not saying much here, using the flow heard on most of Watch the Throne as well as the same standard of showy lyrics. The beat is much better than his performance, though the track improves dramatically 2:30 in, with music recalling his output all the way back on Volume 3. 7/10
Tom Ford: Bound to be one hipster DJ’s will play the hell out of. This bouncy beat has a hand-clapping hook and a serious party-minded flow. Jay is having fun here and it pays off. He needs to make this a single. 7/10
fu*kWithMeYouKnowIGotIt: On paper, this is the worst entry on the album for the simple fact it features Rick Ross, and he takes up the majority of the song with a one-sentence hook and a trashy verse. Fortunately, this beat is tough and Jay-Z picks things up with an excellent verse. It sounds like Mike Will Made It handled production here. 7/10
Oceans: Frank Ocean is given a much more significant role here than he was given on Yeezus and he does his appearance justice over a very dramatic, low-key beat. Jay-Z rips things up here; the album has officially picked up! 10/10
F.U.T.W: “fu*k up this world,” Jay-Z lazily mumbles on the hook, but there’s no slacking in his verses. Whoever produced this deserves a raise. 9/10
Somewhere in America: I dare you not to smile when you hear this beat or these lyrics. “Somewhere in America, Miley is still twerking,” Jay is half clowning around here but spitting with sincere seriousness. 9/10
Crown: A muffled reggae sample reiterating royalty turns into an 808-heavy, southern-infused monster of synths and bouncy bass. Hov switches his flow all throughout, always matching the beat and stretching out his bars. 8/10
Heaven: Finally bringing some church-inspired soul to MCHG, the sample fits in well with the sub-par, key-driven beat. R.E.M is referenced here and their hit ‘Losing My Religion’ is quoted in a far less criminal way than Nirvana was on the opener. Jay-Z gives a fine performance here, but the grating beat lets him down thanks to an ill-advised organ sound. 6.5/10
Versus: Another very interesting production, the vintage sound really impresses before the track cuts off at 0:52. Jay is yet again reminding us that no rapper can touch him. This should have been longer, with Heaven’s duration cut instead. 8/10
Part II (On the Run): Hov’s wifey pops up by dismissing “cliché” ideas of love before a shuffling beat proves to be louder than Hov himself. Beyonce is given a significant role here and is welcome as she actually outshines her husband. 7.5/10
Beach is Better: Another short song, cutting off at just under a minute with a dark aggressive bounce to ensure we are left screaming "WE WANT MORE” when the track abruptly ends. 9/10
BBC: Easily the most eye-catching track on paper. Nas, Timbaland, Beyonce, Swizz Beatz, and Pharrel are all here in small doses. Nas thankfully gives us a verse over a very ‘Change Clothes’-esque production. Jay-Z brings the referencing again as he borrows a flow from Mase to start off his top-notch verse. Beyonce, Swizz Beatz, and Pharrel are barely noticeable here, but Timbaland thankfully doesn’t overplay his hook-singing duties. 8/10
Jay-Z Blue (Daddy Dearest): Biggie is sampled here in a very satisfying fashion over a Spanish guitar and a mutli-layered beat. The soundscape here is beautiful and Jay-Z is showing a relatively modest personality as he talks to his daughter. 9/10
La Familia: Not much wrong with the beat here, it is Hov’s inconsistent performance that holds this track back from being worse than it could have been. 5/10
Nickels & Dimes: There is just right here, no wrong. The sample isn’t overstated, letting Jay-Z twist the artsy beat up with the most adaptive flow in the business and closing MCHG on a very high note. 10/10
Jay-Z isn’t all bravado on his 12th studio LP, and he is always clever with the way he weaves in and out of the carefully-layered production; the first tastes of Magna Carta Holy Grail are worrying, but things get there eventually.
Knee-Jerk Review Score: 8.5 out of 10