So Jay-Z got a crew of all-stars including Timbaland, Rick Rubin, and Cookie Monster in the studio and tried to craft an timeless album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, that rolled out a week early to those with a certain Korean cell phone running Android. I have a brain-damaged iPhone 3G but the album leaked and found its way onto some Russian file-trading sites and into my Serato crates last Friday. Verdict?
Hova does not not disappoint on this, and lots of these songs will go off in the club, but he didn’t take any risks. I’m not a huge Jay-Z fan, though I listened to Hard Knock Vol 2. daily during 8th grade basketball practice. Money wudn’t a thang. I stopped caring around the time Big Pimpin came out but really dug Rock La Famila. Side note – whatever happened to Memphis Bleek???? Never got into The Blueprint(s), ignored the beef with Nas, but really liked The Black Album, especially “Lucifer.”
We’re in a totally different rap world than the one where Jay-Z came up in the late 90s. Back then mainstream rappers were about ballin, hustlin, pimpin, and being buisnessmen and killas. Slick, cold, ruthless are adjectives that come to mind. Now we have weirdos like Danny Brown and Chance The Rapper, everyone poppin molly, 2 Chainz on everything, and collaborations between rappers and electronic artists a la ASAP x Skrillex. Jay-Z does not really fit into the weirder side, see for example his interview with Nardwar, compared to Lil B’s or Waka Flocka. Jay-Z appears stiff and out of place, but he’s also a smart businessman and hired the right people to make this album relevant. I think Jay-Z sums up his place amongst current rappers with this line:
“I don’t pop Molly I rock Tom Ford.”
Jay-Z doesn’t have time to get thizzed out. He’s the rich uncle at this point, almost like Uncle Phil on Fresh Prince. He’s too busy making business deals to fuck around, and for this album he assembled some A-level producers and made an amalgamation of what’s cool right now, especially “trap” beats. But this is the Bavarian cream Maybach version; it’s almost surgically clean. Does that mean it’s an instant classic? Not necessarily but it’s strong.
Jay-Z – Tom Ford
I can’t help but compare this to the Kanye album, as Jay-Z and The Roc birthed Yay’s stardom and these albums came out within weeks of eachother. Not to mention Rick Rubin had a big hand in producing both LPs. Well, Yeezus is certainly the more cutting-edge, next-level album. Without a doubt. Jay-Z isn’t doing anything new here per se, he’s just doing Jay-Z really well with excellent hip hop beats whereas Kanye came with some crazy New Slaves/Black Skinhead acid house industrial ish.
For the club? The Jay-Z album wins for sure. There’s not much on Yeezus that would work on the floor. It’s almost apocalyptic at points. There’s plenty of peak time fodder on Magna Carta, some warm up tracks warm up, even some R&B. It’s much more accessible.
For the future? Definitely Yeezus. See, Jay-Z didn’t really take any risks with this album, but it’s still good, and the best I’ve heard from Jay-Z since the Black Album. I give Magna Carta Holy Grail a solid 8 and Yeezus a 9.5. This is my favorite song from the album, and the bassline sounds so much like “Triumph” by Wu-Tang. Love the chorus, almost sounds like Donovan.
Jay-Z – Heaven