Monday, November 11, 2013

BEHOLD! The ‘Magna Carta’!

Jay-Z strikes me as a man with a strong work ethic and what seems to be a strong acumen. I say these things because there are so many earmarks of it.

40/40 Club.

Brooklyn Nets.

Roc Nation.

Even his latest album gives you the sense that he has his eye on the ball. At first I saw the collaboration between Samsung and Jay-Z as a ploy of some sort by an artist hoping to stay relevant. When I had a moment to really examine it, I saw it for what it was. Through his deal with Samsung Jay-Z got an endorsement AND whet the populace’s appetite for what has been proving to be one of Jay-Z’s most epic albums.

Hell, even the title rings of something legendary.

Magna Carta…Holy Grail.

Here Jay-Z has put together sixteen amazing tracks that play well off of each other. No, put together isn’t a strong enough word. CRAFTED. As many of us have seen on the commercials Jay-Z worked with absolute monsters in the game for the production for this one. This includes legend Rick Rubin, Pharrell, Swizz Beatz, and Timbaland. The features are strong as well, ranging from Beyonce to Frank Ocean.

Let’s jump in.

Holy Grail” continues the domination that Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake have been working at this year. The song begins with a sad but melodic piano balanced by Timberlake’s. Once the beat drops the song is brought back to hip-hop with Jay-Z’s eloquent delivery. To me the track plays like a high class version of partner in crime Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”. Either that or it is a complimentary piece. Whichever it is, it is an excellent starting track.

Tom Ford” is braggadocio done as only Jay can do it. Over a synth heavy beat Jay-Z gives us his opulence and lyricism in such a way that it isn’t as cloying as most rappers or as annoying. The references to Twitter and the drug du jour Molly are quite poetic, all things considered. An unaccredited feature from his wife Beyonce is present. Her voice plays counterpoint to the rhymes.

FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt” (yes, that’s all one word) is my second favorite for a few reasons. The first would be the words of the late Pimp C disseminating some of that knowledge he was known for as the introduction. Next would be production because this song makes your entire body groove. Rick Ross’s appearance on this track also contributes. It feels nice to see his voice alongside a legend in the game. It’s a fun track that the album needs.

 “Somewhere In America” is just pure wordplay. Horns and piano are the basis of this one. There are so many great punch lines on this one. A few favorites include references to Bun B, Frank Sinatra, and Instagram. The line that makes me laugh is rather different in the current climate of entertainment: See I’m still putting work in/ Because somewhere in America/Miley Cyrus is still twerking.

My favorite track? Prepare to be surprised.

Part II (On The Run)”. It features Beyonce, an artist I have been rather low on as of late. But this track and her vocals on it have brought me back. The hook alone is amazing. The track feels like a sequel to “’03 Bonnie And Clyde” or, like with “Holy Grail”, a complimentary piece. Smooth productions and casual drums put you in a zone as you listen to it. Jay-Z tells the story well as Beyonce punctuates the storytelling perfectly.

Also check out: “Picasso Baby”, “Beach Is Better”, and “Crown”.

For those who don’t know, the Holy Grail is the cup that is said to have been the cup used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch Jesus’ blood. Some would say that titling your album is sacrilegious. To me the work speaks for itself. It is a mark of excellence by the comparison.

And this album IS excellence.

written by Lucius Black for Royalty Magazine

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