Jay-Z announced the title and release date of his 12th solo album — Magna Carta Holy Grail — during Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night because he was looking for maximum exposure. Judging from the album title and his tweets about the "new rules" being set around hip-hop album releases, Hov needed this message to be televised.
As part of his promotion deal, Samsung agreed to buy 1 million copies of the albums that some fans would eventually receive for free, and that alone is a milestone achievement. "If 1 Million records gets SOLD and billboard doesnt report it, did it happen? Ha," Jay tweeted on Monday morning, adding the hasghtags #newrules and #magnacartaholygrail.
But don't assume that he's only referring to his project in terms of these "new rules." His protégés J. Cole and Kanye West, plus Wale (who is signed to Roc Nation management) are included in this initiative to rewrite the rules. "Kanye West 'lead single' projected on buildings worldwide #newrules #magnacartaholygrail," he wrote, referring to 'Ye's anti-rollout plan for Yeezus, before shouting out J. Cole's innovative preview plan for Born Sinner. "J Cole app for listening session. Don't talk just listen..#newrules."
If the title of Hov's album seems very grand, even compared to Kanye West's Yeezus, a little history refresher helps to put things in perspective.
The Magna Carta was a document forced upon England's King John in 1215 as barons attempted to curb his wayward rule. Though the document eventually required revisions and alterations in order to be effective, its fundamental purpose was to give some power back to the people. The document later served as a guideline for the Founding Fathers as they drafted the U.S. Constitution and outlined the rights of the individual.
Though Hov isn't making these "new rules" into official law, it's clear that he will play a role in ushering a new era for the hip-hop album release process. He and Kanye West have approached their album rollout plans very differently, but the underlying point is the ability to rewrite the rules that already existed. In this case, those rules would apply to the major labels and the restrictions they usually impose on artists.
Kanye West openly dismissed radio promotion for Yeezus — recalling the days when the label would control his album release — and relied heavily on live performances and his projections of "New Slaves" to get anticipation boiling, while J. Cole, not content with the preview sessions for Sideline Story, invited fans and media to throw on headphones and stream Born Sinner via LSNR so they could really soak in the content.
Jay-Z clearly didn't take the low-key approach to his album release, but he did set a new bar when he debuted a three-minute commercial for Holy Grail during half-time, grabbing some premium TV real estate and also announcing that 1 million copies of the album have already been sold.
The term Holy Grail has become laden with religious imagery, often referring to the chalice that Jesus used at the Last Supper, but the word "grail" itself is defined as "an object or goal that is sought after for its great significance." Fused into one album title: Magna Carter Holy Grail, it seems that Hov is out to help rewrite the rules of the music industry, with his own album serving as a key part of that blueprint.