There seems to be a developing theme unfolding as of late for popular mainstream Hip-Hop artists in releasing albums that not only speak of excessive grandeur, but which also compare themselves to historical figures, and even allude to themselves as some kind of “deity” or “modern prophet” of the times. Some music critics may call this phase as delusional or just taking it to the extremes when finding source material to rap about. Whatever the reaction might be for artists like Jay-Z going into this creative and artistic direction, this move gives them a bigger template for them to express themselves. Likewise, it gains for them the growing attention of Hip-Hop fans to watch out for and listen even more to their latest albums.
Jay-Z’s ‘Magna Carta… Holy Grail’ won’t be about the same old topics about women, money, and the luxuries of his life that he often boasted about in his previous studio-releases. Eclectic and eccentric this album may be, it still has Jay-Z proving he is still one of the best rappers around today with his lyrical proficiency. He is even sharper and more quick-witted than he has been in some time.
The self-proclaimed “J-Hova” doesn’t only rap about what he now has in life but more interestingly, how hard it had been for him to get to this point. He has been open about that before in his previous efforts but nothing in this scale. The way this album was heavily promoted is turning out to be justifiable because as I was listening to the tracks, it is as if Jay-Z has taken his “game” to a whole new level. In my opinion, it is because he knows the hype has to match the actual content of ‘Magna Carta… Holy Grail’ and so far, it really has. When Jay-Z made available online for free the lyrics of his tracks from ‘Magna Carta… Holy Grail’ like “Holy Grail” and “Heaven”, it was really meant to feed the hype surrounding the album. After all, we must remember that Jay-Z is also a businessman!
People forget that there was a time Jay-Z wasn’t considered and recognized as the most familiar rapper that he is today. Because now even non-listeners of Hip-Hop know who Jay-Z is…the husband of Beyonce…thus, increasing his popularity even more from being ranked as a capable and charismatic MC to now being the Hip-Hop mogul that he has become. Everything that Jay-Z seemingly wanted to accomplish early on, he has already. I mean, what else is there for Jay-Z left to prove? The competition is already thin, and a bulk of his contemporaries when he started out have either returned to the indie scene or have dropped out of the radar altogether.
The only rapper that Jay-Z has really consistently kept ties with from those days is Kanye West. And Kanye West was a late addition to Roc-A-Fella records when Kanye West was “promoted” from producer to record label artist. Most obvious of their continuing working relationship aside from guesting on each other’s albums is their collaborative album that Jay-Z and Kanye West released together in 2009 called ‘Watch The Throne.’
Now, back to ‘Magna Carta… Holy Grail’. As I was listening to choice tracks from the album like “Holy Grail”, the impression I got is that Jay-Z acknowledges and admits that indeed he has gone a long way and has vicariously learned life lessons through other iconic figures. An example of those lessons learned was when he was rapping about Mike Tyson earning $30 million in a fight to now having practically nothing and how people have turned their backs on the retired boxer. That right there shows his own rare vulnerability to the reality that one can lose everything in a flash and that overnight, life can change for the worse. There lies his growing concern of not letting the same downfall happen to him. Because worldwide fame is something that Jay-Z has had for more than a decade already and of course he wants to maintain that and not lose it.
The range of subject matters in ‘Magna Carta… Holy Grail’ have broadened significantly as there are more references to his personal life than there were in his previous efforts. There are two most notable personal insights Jay-Z shares which have struck me. These are the long lasting effects of his father leaving him at a young age and the present challenges he has of trying to maintain a private life with his wife Beyonce outside the glare of the media spotlight.
While Jay-Z hasn’t totally opened the book on his personal life, in ‘Magna Carta… Holy Grail’ you will get sneak peeks into it if you listen attentively. They are quick but detailed as he raps about them and they are just enough to whet the curiosity of the listeners to even want to purchase the hard copy of this album.
Jay-Z’s 12th studio-release ‘Magna Carta… Holy Grail’ has already been praised by some music critics as the rapper’s greatest work to date. It has become his “magnum opus”, so to speak, and it is an album that has really brought out the a-game of Jay-Z again.
Jay-Z spared no expense here as he has enlisted practically all of the current top-of-the-line Hip-Hop producers to work with him (i.e., Timbaland, Pharrel Williams, Swiss Beatz, The-Dream, among others) and has numerous guest spots for some of the hottest artists of today (Justin Timberlake, Frank Ocean, Rick Ross, etc). The retail sale of ‘Magna Carta… Holy Grail’ is available since July 7, 2013.