Even the Greats Don’t Always Hit Home Runs
Rapper. Record producer. Entrepreneur. Husband. Father. Those are just a few hats that Jay-Z wears when he’s not sporting a Yankee’s cap. Over the last 18 years, Mr. Carter has taken the rap game by storm. His debut album Reasonable Doubt was just evidence that this was an artist that was bound for greatness. Twelve albums later on his latest release Magna Carta Holy Grail Jay-Z is back to show that although he’s now in his early 40s it’s still business as usual. Forever the innovator, this latest opus was available for download 3 days prior to it’s official release. Although many users ran into technical difficulties receiving the album, the most disturbing part was the permissions the app wanted in the first place. They say “there is no such thing as bad publicity” so, knowing Jay-Z, he’ll surely find a good way to spin it.
Magna Carta starts off with the track “Holy Grail” featuring Justin Timberlake. JT begins the track with his classic pop sound over a subtle piano. Jay-Z enters with a thudding bass line sounding like the Jay-Z we’ve all come to love. The back and forth of the two artist is what gives this a great dynamic. It is a rarity that the opening track tends to be the best song on the album but in this case it’s hard to top. This song has also gained a lot of attention for the fact that Jay-Z and Justin chose to reinterpret a snippet of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the bridge. “And we’re all just entertainers / and we’re stupid and contagious.” though to some this may seem blasphemous to the ideology Kurt may have held, in the context of “Holy Grail” it isn’t as bad as one would imagine.
“Picasso Baby” is the next song and unfortunately it is the beginning of a run of tracks that simply do not live up to the expectations of a Jay-Z album. Of the 16 tracks that make up this album, there are only a handful that actually shine. Most of the songs sound like Hova just phoned it in with the only exceptions being “Jay-Z Blue” and “Nickels and Dimes,” but most likely, neither one of those would make the cut on a “Best Of” CD.
Jay-Z has proven time and time again that he has the talent to make an album that is perfect from beginning to end. His discography is filled with Number 1 records and hit singles that will forever be a part of music history so maybe it’s just inevitable that one effort has to be mediocre. Some albums have to grow on you and maybe this is one of those occasions– but that might just wishful thinking.