By Riley Morrison ’16
Jay-Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail
4 out of 10
Despite its relentless advertising campaign and great featured artists, rapper Jay-Z’s 12th studio album “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” released July 8, is largely disappointing.
“Jay often sounds like he’s trying to convince himself that he should still be excited about making music,” wrote Simon Vozick-Levinson of Rolling Stone. “What’s disappointing is, he doesn’t always seem to be winning that argument.”
The album starts off strong with Justin Timberlake’s swinging, minute long hooks and Jay-Z’s usual rhymes about fame and wealth on the song “Holy Grail.”
After its first catchy single, the album goes downhill with “Picasso Baby,” “Tom Ford” and a certain expletive laden song featuring Rick Ross.
This last track is one of the most inferior songs on the album and if one expects the worst from Rick Ross, he doesn’t disappoint.
Ross’s dull repeating chorus has little impact on the listener and Jay’s single, half-hearted verse doesn’t hold a candle to the brilliant and clever lines on his earlier albums.
A few tracks that stand out in the rest of the album include “Oceans,” featuring R&B singer Frank Ocean, “BBC,” featuring a host of other artists including Jay-Z’s wife Beyonce and old school rapper Naz, and “Jay-Z Blue,” in which he seriously discusses fatherhood—both his absent father and his hesitations about becoming one.
“Father never taught me how to be a father, treat a mother, I don’t wanna have to just repeat another leave another,” he raps. “Baby with no daddy want no mama drama, I just wanna take her back to a time when everything was calmer.”
“Magna Carta Holy Grail” was released early for Samsung users in a promotional offer. Four days later, when the physical album came out, it immediately debuted No. 1 on Billboard 200 selling 528,000 copies in the first week.
“25 years and 12 albums in, Jay is totally a legacy artist,” wrote Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly. “My big problem with legacy artists is that they are given too much leeway in the media when they trot out new projects.”
Though a few songs and lyrics shine through with Jay-Z’s classic talent, most of “Magna Carta” is disheartening and will be looked back on with distaste by fans for years to come.