Review: MAGNA CARTA HOLY GRAIL – By Cameron Heffernan

With Jay-Z’s newest album hitting Samsung phones everywhere last Wednesday, we’ve had at least a week to gather our thoughts. This may be the greatest rap album… ever.

washingtonpost.com

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If I was asked, “what would you’re top three Jay-Z albums of all-time be?” I would’ve responded with:

1. Reasonable Doubt – you can’t match the hustle and ambition he has on his first album.

2. The Black Album – Like his first there’s an aura of relentless ambition here that is unmatched by most artists attempts at a “classic album”.

Then, when you get to number three, problems begin to arise.

Blueprint is amazing; it’s filled with more hits than anyone can imagine with Izzo (H.O.V.A), Jigga that Ni***, Girls, Girls, Girls, Hola’ Hovito, and Heart of The City (Ain’t No Love). Then there’s the Blueprint 2 with ‘03 Bonnie and Clyde, A Dream, Excuse Me Miss, and All Around The World. Then you have In My Lifetime: Vol. 1-3, which feature Hard Knock Life and Big Pimpin’.

Now, Jay has nailed the MAGNA CARTA HOLY GRAIL to our foreheads like Martin Luther before. produced by Rick Rubin, and Featuring appearances by Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, Pharrell (who’s slowly becoming the hottest thing this summer), and of course Beyonce. MCHG continues the blitzkrieg of blasphemy themed album titles, that started with Yeezus.

Jay-Z has released nothing short of a masterpiece and the obvious No. 3 on that list of GOAT Jay albums.

Much like Yeezus, MCHG is a testament to the life Hova has led, from his days of drug conglomerate too his time now, spent as a father. It’s all in retrospect, as if you’re sitting on a beach and listening Jay explain his road to riches. This daydream is most prevalent on Beach is Better, a 56 second song, where the line “I brought sand to the beach, cause my beach is better,” and “Started out at the Garby, ended up at One Oak,” accentuates his rise from crack dealer to Billionaire Boy Club, or BBC, another title, featuring Pharrell and Nas. This track features all the elements you expect from a Neptune Pharrell beat and Jay and Nas on the track is comparable to McCartney and Jagger recording a track with Jimmy Page.

Side note: If there’s anyone who’s able to challenge Jay for the crown it’s Nas. He’s been around for longer, he didn’t start with Puff Daddy and Biggie in his corner, and as a matter of fact Puff didn’t join with Nas until 1999. Every one of his albums are classic, except maybe the one with Puff on it, I Am…, and he’s never really “sold out”. As genius as every move Jay makes, he still has this white collar appeal he can’t escape – like if Scarface went into insurance and never met the bad end of a double-barrel. Nas is the forgotten GOAT, and he totally won the beef between him and Jay with ‘Ether’, and we all forget that. It’s unfortunate.

MCHG, although as a whole is evidence that Jay still has it in him to make an album and not be looking for that next “Izzo (H.O.V.A)“, the way the Blueprint 3 and Kingdom Come did. With Blueprint 3 it felt like Jay was coasting, and rightfully so. Kanye had My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Jay didn’t seem quite ready to jump into the “hipster hip-hop movement”.

This is Jay at full “hipster hip-hop movement”, from beats that sound like they were left off Yeezus – seeing that Rubin produced Yeezus, you can see that he definitely has a particular style going right now – to the old school battle beats on Versus. Songs like La Familia and Jay-Z Blue are earnest and listen like open letters to his daughter; asking for forgiveness for the sins of the father.

Then there’s the sequel to ’03 Bonnie and Clyde from Blueprint 2, Part II (On The Run) featuring, of course Beyonce. It’s fairly obvious what this song entails, if you’ve ever imagined what Jay and Beyonce do on their free time, it seems like making love to sirens in the background, is a big thing in their home. It’s a good song, but one of the weaker tracks, due to the blatant nepotism.

With the final track, Nickels and Dimes as well as the track Crown, Jay is telling anyone whom thinks they can come for the throne, is strongly mistaken – even Kanye.

Jay has easily established himself as the greatest rapper alive, and he’s currently usurping the long dead kings too. He’s outlived Tupac and Biggie, his career has spanned longer than RUN DMC, and any other hip-hop legend form the late ’70s, ’80s and the ’90s. Hell, at least he can release an album when he says he will (Dr. Dre, we’re all looking at you and whenever the hell Detox comes out.). He’s survived any and everything that has been thrown at him, he’s never really failed and he’s the reason Kanye ever had a chance to see the light of day. As I said previously, there’s really only one who can challenge him, and that’s Nas. Much like all the greats though, there’s always someone just as good, who always gets forgotten. Hakeem almost was almost lost in the Jordan craze, until Jordan retired; and when he came back, no one cared about the back-to-back NBA Champion Houston Rockets and one of the greatest centers to play. In rock music, The Beatles have always received the admiration that The Rolling Stones may deserve. So on and so forth, there’s always another great that gets left in the dust of another. This is what makes BBC, and Black Republican (off of Nas’s Hip Hop Is Dead, 2007) songs that no one can touch. It’s the ’27 Yankees, the ’86 Celtics and the ’97 Bulls all rolled into one. Its Ruth and Gehrig, Bird and McHale, Jordan and Pippen. Of course you can decide who’s who.

Jay-Z has revolutionized rap throughout his history. whether it be the exclusive deal he cut with Samsung that essentially resulted in him having almost a million albums sold automatically. Or whether it be his $200 million deal with LiveNation, he’s been on the forefront of monetary advances in the rap game as well as being the single most gifted artist in music not named, Kanye.

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