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 411mania » Music » Album Reviews

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Jay-Z - Magna Carta Holy Grail Review
Posted by Bill Wannop on 07.09.2013



Jay-Z Jay-Z continues to find ways to make money and innovate in the ever changing music industry. In an unheralded move, Jigga teamed with Samsung in where they pre-purchased 1 million copies of the new album, and would be giving it to the first 1 million users who downloaded the app on their Samsung phone. The album would be released to Samsung users 3 days before it would be released nationally for purchase.

The big question becomes after over 20 years in the music industry and with his attention split between his many business ventures, would Jay-Z be able to focus or give his music the attention it needs in order to create another classic? Or did Jay-Z manage to follow in the fable of the Holy Grail, and create an album that is mostly fable and little substance?

Track listing
1. "Holy Grail" (featuring Justin Timberlake) produced by Timbaland
2. "Picasso Baby" produced by Timbaland
3. "Tom Ford" produced by Timbaland
4. "FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt" (featuring Rick Ross) produced by Boi 1da
5. "Oceans" (featuring Frank Ocean) produced by Pharrell
6. "F.U.T.W." produced by Timbaland
7. "Somewhere in America" produced by Hit Boy
8. "Crown" produced by Travis Scott
9. "Heaven" produced by Timbaland
10. "Versus" produced by Timbaland
11. "Part II (On the Run)" (featuring Beyoncé) produced by Timbaland
12. "Beach Is Better" produced by Mike Will Made It
13. "BBC" produced by Pharrell
14. "Jay Z Blue" produced by Timbaland
15. "La Familia" produced by Timbaland
16. "Nickels and Dimes" produced by Kyambo Joshua

Jay-Z bring the album to life right from the opening track, with the Justin Timberlake assisted “Holy Grail” which opens with Timberlake belting his pipes against a mellow piano beat. Then the beat picks up as Jay-Z spits his verses. The track is better than “Suit & Tie” and is a great way to open the album. Going through the album, one of the main things that stand out is the production.



Looking at the album credits you can see that Jay-Z had the majority of the album produced by Timbaland, however, this does not sound like typical Timbaland production as Timbo really put his heart and soul into this project, producing some of his best beats in years. The main thing that stands out is the fact that these tracks do not sound like Timbaland tracks. Timbaland, like the majority of super producers, has somewhat of a signature sound. However for this album, he seems to have strayed from his comfort zone and created tracks that complement Jay-Z and his vision for each song. A prime example of this is on “Picasso Baby”, where the beat changes mid song to match Jay-Z’s change in rhyme structure and subject matter.

Another great track on the album is “Heaven”, which is more a throwback track, with a hard base line that hits you right in the face, as Jay rides the beat perfectly. It is one of the most thought provoking tracks on the album, as Jay goes through the fact that you can experience both heaven and hell on earth, through your daily life. The track really shines and really reminds everyone what a great emcee Jay-Z really is.

“Oceans” is another track that really shines on the album. The track has assistance on the hook from Frank Ocean, and features production from Pharrell. Jay-Z goes through various topics which are all connected by water. It is a great track and much credit has to be given to Pharrell, to again coming with some of his best production in recent years.

The above tracks are some of the best on the album, the rest of the album settles in on good but not great. “Part II (On the Run)” which features Beyonce is a good track, but does not live up to their previous collabs. “BBC” which features Nas, has more typical Pharrell sounding production and while all the artists on the track seem like they are having fun, the track never really seems to get off the ground. “Jay-Z Blue” focusses on Jay-Z being a father and the responsibilities that come with raising a daughter. The more notable part of the track, features some Notorious BIG samples that Jay blends in with his lyrics, which is somewhat fun. Lastly, “La Familia” is apparently a diss track aimed toward Lil Wayne, however, the track is not that great, despite having decent production, Jay-Z just seems to be coasting through the track, not really putting much thought into the lyrics.

All in all, the entire album is another good effort from Jay-Z. While there are no real huge breakout singles, along the lines of “Empire State of Mind” there is enough great content here to leave Jay-Z fans satisfied. While Jay is known for his lyrics, on this album the production somewhat dethrones the lyrics of Jay-Z. While the production is top notch, at times Jay is not able to follow up with his lyrics, leaving the album just on the cusp of greatness

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The 411: All in all, the entire album is another good effort from Jay-Z. While there are no real huge breakout singles, along the lines of “Empire State of Mind” there is enough great content here to leave Jay-Z fans satisfied. While Jay is known for his lyrics, on this album the production somewhat dethrones the lyrics of Jay-Z. While the production is top notch, at times Jay is not able to follow up with his lyrics, leaving the album just on the cusp of greatness
411 Elite Award
Final Score:  8.5   [ Very Good ]  legend





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