#8 – JAY Z- ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’
For the past two days you can be forgiven for thinking the only music I listened to this year was that of the girls from Disney but you can breathe a sigh of relief as the my eighth favourite album of the year comes courtesy someone who isn’t a girl or from Disney! Quite the opposite in fact with Jay Z’s ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ taking eighth place on my list.
What came as a surprise to many music fans, HOV decided to spring this album upon us with very little warning and intially made it available digitally via the Magna Carta app on Samsung devices and then released physically four days later on 8th of July.
The only idea of what we could expect from the album was from a short youtube video showing Jay Z in the studio with some of the best producers in the game. Pharrell, Timbaland, Swizz Beats, Mike Will Made It and The Dream were all featured on this album and it was clear from the get go that this would be a producer’s album first and foremost.
I didn’t have much of an issue about this because Jay Z isn’t the rapper I go to if I want introspective, thought provoking content so an album that would be production over content was what I expected and to be honest is what we got even if the album’s title suggested we would get something of substance.
And that is pretty much what I loved about this album; the production. There is only so many times I can listen to Jay Z’s retelling of his rags to riches story and how rich is now is and how we are not and how he is married to Beyonce and how we are not etc. The topics get tired pretty fast on this album but its the bombastic beats of ‘Tom Ford’ and ‘Picasso Baby’ that drew me in instantly and still have a hold on me in months later.
In an era of music where EDM just won’t seem to die and leave me alone I am always welcoming of any production that isn’t Calvin Harris/ David Guetta affiliated or featuring Flo Rida or Pitbull. And what this album showed was that Hip Hop is still capable of producing some of the best beats that don’t get repetitive after the third or fourth listen.
That is not to say the album’s only strong point is the production as there are some pretty great vocal performances on this album with Justin Timberlake giving his best vocal performance since his featured hook on T’I’s ‘Dead And Gone’ on the albums biggest single ‘Holy Grail’. Along with Timberlake, Beyonce featured heavily on this album providing ad-libs on ‘Tom Ford’/ ‘BBC’ and colaborated with her husband on ‘Part2 (On The Run)’ which acted as the sequel to their duet from 2003, ‘Bonnie & Clyde 03’. And it’s interesting to listen to the latter song now after Hurricane Beyonce came along and dropped her surprise 5th album on the unwitting public because you can really tell that Magna Carta helped shape the style and sound of Beyonce’s album. I mean who knew that back in the summer we were listening to the blue print of what would become Beyonce’s best body of work?
I said this when I reviewed the album alongside Yeezus and Born Sinner, Jay Z was always going to find it difficult to emulate the brilliance of ‘Watch The Throne’ without Kanye by his side. And this album showed that Jay Z still needs the help of some genius producers by his side to make his music appeal across the borders of HipHop and into more Pop watered territories.
Is that a bad thing? I wouldn’t say so. I mean what is Justin Timberlake without Timbaland? I would of liked this album to showcase a different side to Jay Z who now has a daughter and that was briefly seen on tracks ”Blue’ and ‘La Familia’ but like I said earlier, this was always going to be a producer’s album and if HOV wants to re tell his rag to riches story for years and years to come than he’ll do that.
One of the strongest albums of 2013 based purely on production only let down by the lyrical content discussing the same old topics we have grown used to hearing from Mr Carter.