“Magna Carta Holy Grail” review: Jay-Z’s money flows, not inspirationBy Matt Miller | July 8th, 2013 | 2 comments
“Magna Carta … Holy Grail” is a Jay-Z album brought to you by Tom Ford, Reebok, Cadillac and Roc Nation all through the vessel of Samsung Galaxy. Hip-hop has always been about brand awareness as a way of asserting wealth, power, trendiness, but as Jay-Z partnered with Samsung Galaxy to release his latest album, it’s become something more akin to a commercial spot in the Super Bowl.
On his 12th studio album, Jay-Z brings new meaning to the lyrics that tipped the shift of his career: “I’m not a businessman / I’m a business, man.” From the 2005 remix of Kanye West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” that line signified his return from music retirement as a CEO.
Now, eight years later, he’s Jay-Z the hip-hop mogul still trying to tell his rags to riches story through a slew of guest spots and producers with hopes of turning a profit. Take the first track on the album, “Holy Grail,” for example, where the use of a Justin Timberlake chorus, and the rights to Nirvana lyrics seem like smart business expenses in order to sell albums. Falling in love with the hook seems as silly as falling in love with a jingle for an advertisement.
Really, you can’t expect much to inspire a man like Jay-Z, and the only thing to do that to any effect is his daughter Blu Ivy. Given his own upbringing, Jay-Z questions his ability as a father, and raising a child in the public spotlight on “Jay Z Blue (Daddy Dearest).” It’s the only true emotion you’ll find on “Magna Carta.” But his other inspirations — becoming a billionaire, his corporation — hardly serve as relatable, or even compelling material.
Even musically, the wealth of producers on the album seems to have led to a clutter of tastes and sonic themes. On “BBC,” the number of guest spots and chaotic production feels like a crowd of people screaming in a room at one time.
By now we get it, Jay-Z, you have everything, and thanks to a star-studded cast on your track list, Samsung Galaxy and some smart business decisions, you have another million album sales to your name. If only it offered a better customer experience.