Magna Carta Holy Grail

For those that don’t know, MCHG was promoted quite differently than your typical new release—its promotion was virutally non-existent, via word-of-mouth and an Android app. In addition to releasing lyrics and production videos in the days leading up to the album’s release, Samsung owners also had the chance to download the songs a week ahead of the general public. There were a couple hiccups along the way, and the novel use of technology was not well-received by all (see The Washington Post calling it “a data collection exercise disguised as a smartphone app” and The New York Times calling it “deeply dishonest”). All that aside, the album is solid, and perhaps best summed up by Jeff Rosenthal’s Billboard article:

“…we’re living in a world where Yeezus has risen, and it feels like Jay’s dipping a toe rather than fully diving in. When Kanye is heaving bombs from across the court, you can’t clap so loud when Jay lobs lay-ups.That’s not to say it’s not good—it is—sometimes you just want to see some sweat.”

Personally, I agree. I don’t think MCHG is as good as Kanye’s Yeezus, but it is good to hear some fresh Jay-Z nonetheless.

The thing I like about Jay-Z’s style of rap is how challenging it is to get all of the popular culture references in his lyrics. With most others’ lyrics it’s fairly easy to understand what’s being referred to, but Jay-Z has a way of spinning words where it’s not so obvious. That, to me, always makes him a bit more interesting.

My favorite song on the album is “Somewhereinamerica”. It’s short and sweet, with a head-nodding beat and tight lyrics like “Might crash your Internet and I ain’t even into that/When I was talking Instagram, last thing you wanted was your picture snapped.” Jay also refers to how the album pre-sold a million copies (which won’t be recognized by the Official Charts Company) and Miley Cyrus twerkin’ (which Jay-Z has commented on a number of times before)—bunch of hot drama touched on in this one.

To me, the marketing effort behind this album was the most interesting part. The risks Jay-Z took with Magna Carta Holy Grail were not so much musically as they were production-wise. But overall, the album consistently features nice beats and lyrics and cameos, one track after another, and it’s definitely worth checking out.

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