Magnum Opus: 11 Thoughts On Jay-Z’s ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’

Welp. Here we are. The most-anticipated album of the year since Yeezus hit the e-streets a little after midnight on July 4th and it’s basically been all everyone in the music world has talked about ever since. While it’s too soon to pull a Rolling Stone and offer up a full-fledged review, I can offer up some quick (well, 24 hours with the album playing non-stop quick) thoughts on it.

So, let’s get to it.

1. Samsung’s Disaster – Did anyone really think this would end well? More than half a million downloads sent simultaneously to different phones across the world without the Samsung servers crashing? By the time most phones were able to actually get the album, Sharebeast links were already popping up with the full album. I bet only a fraction of the people with the app actually got the album from it, which means Samsung has hundreds of thousands of digital copies of an album they paid for for nothing.

Nope. The Internet is fine. Your hairbrained plan is broken.

2. Jay-Z Has Hit Another Rapping Stride – Jay’s rhyming has come into question ever since the lackluster Blueprint 3 as whispers were surfacing that his age was starting to show. That’s pretty much moot at this point as Jay absolutely tears through the beats on this album. He’s rejuvenated and rapping better than he has in years. And really, that’s the story of Magna Carta Holy Grail.

3. Did I Mention Fat Timbaland? – Whoo buddy. I knew Fat Timbaland would be a story and he definitely delivered some of his best beats of all time for MCHG. “Picasso Baby” (he sort of cheated here, but I’ll get to that) and “Tom Ford” are monster records and vintage Timbo. Someone get this man another reuben sandwich.

4. Jay-Z and Beyonce. The Anti-Ike And Tina Turner. – If you recall, Ike and Tina Turner had such a violent relationship that they made an action movie about it. But they made beautiful music together. Jay-Z and Beyonce have a loving relationship but their music together — especially on Jay-Z’s albums — is God-awful. That trend continues here with “Part II (On The Run)” which sees Jay adopting Juvenile’s flow from “Back That Azz Up” for no particular reason. Yes, the couple has made magic on Beyonce’s albums, but when she helps Jay out, it’s a musical domestic disturbance.

5. Pharrell The Gift And The Curse – Sigh. Pharrell is as frustrating as JR Smith from the three-point line. Pharrell has produced some of Jay’s best songs…but he’s also responsible for songs like “Change Clothes” and “Jigga That N*gga.” “F*ck All Night.” Here we see the same sort of give and take as Pharrell was masterful on “Oceans” but “BBC” is a disappointing mess. Guess you gotta take the good with the bad.

6. Frank Motherf*cking Ocean – Oceans. Sweet toddler Hey Zeus. Every Jay-Z album, no matter how good or bad, has one song that will always stand as one of his best. “Oceans” is that song. And a huge part of that is Frank Ocean crying freedom all over the hook. Another Frank Ocean album can’t come quick enough.

7. Adrian Younge Is A Star – You won’t see Adrian Younge’s name on any features. He didn’t produce any songs on the album. But his music was sampled twice — on the brilliant “Heaven” and “Picasso Baby.” In fact, “Picasso Baby” is essentially an Adrian Younge beat Timbaland put some mustard on for the last minute. If you don’t know Younge, he did the Black Dynamite soundtrack, Ghostface’s latest album and is one of the new brilliant musicians. With this look, he’s on his way to mainstream attention.

8. Beach Is Shorter – “Beach Is Better” may be the best song on the album and it’s less than a minute long. There has to be a longer version of this thing floating around the studio somewhere. Unleash the hound! I can’t get enough of this song.

9. Vulnerable Jay – One of main criticisms about Jay-Z over his career was that he was too insulated — the anti-Kanye West who never revealed much of anything about himself beyond his drug-dealing past and how much money he has. Well “Jay-Z Blue” about his daughter is Jay’s most personal song to date. He opens up about fatherhood, being scared out of his mind and marriage. As a new dad, this song is really something that I had to listen on repeat a few times.

10. Justin Timberlake, I Guess – “Holy Grail” is such a forced record that is going to be shoveled down everyone’s throats when JT and JZ have their concert together. Jay usually opens his albums strong but not this time.

11. Let’s Talk About Frank Ocean Again – SHOW ME WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS WITH YOUR SWEET, SWEET VOICE! Seriously, just listen to him.