Jay-Z once paralleled his artistic plight against those of some of hip-hop’s enlightened minds like Talib Kweli and Common.
In an often-quoted lyric from his 2003 supposed retirement LP, The Black Album, Hov suggests in “Moment of Clarity” that if he wasn’t such a commercial draw, he’d pack even more meaning, insight and raw skill into his lyrics: “If skills sold, truth be told, I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli/ Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense,” he admitted in song.
It’s ironic now that as Hov is set to release his 12th solo album via a surely lucrative partnership with Samsung, he seems to be embarking on the road he wished for back then. A single hasn’t been released for Jay’s upcoming Magna Carta Holy Grail, but the Brooklyn-born rap king has released lyric sheets for three of the album’s tracks — and all of the cuts bypass the party for a deeper dive.
On “Holy Grail,” Hov partners with Justin Timberlake to explore the push and pull of celebrity in an all-seeing society, and on “Heaven,” the rapper questions religion and shoots down persistent rumors that he is part of a secret society.
On Wednesday (June 26), Jay released the lyrics to another track via the Magna Carta phone app. “Oceans” appropriately features singer/songwriter Frank Ocean, and on the song, the “Big Pimpin'” MC ponders the transatlantic slave trade using the ocean off the Ivory Coast as his inspiration. “This water mixed my blood/ This water tells my story/ This water knows it all,” reads a portion of the lyric sheet that Frank Ocean will presumably sing.
For his verses, Jigga marvels at how far he’s come, using history books as his gauge. He isn’t a big fan of Christopher Columbus or George Washington, but he loves the Notorious B.I.G. “I’m anti Santa Maria/ Only Christopher we acknowledge/ Is Wallace/ I don’t even like Washingtons in my pocket,” he spits on the album, scheduled to be released to Samsung users July 4.
Hov goes on to remind us of his lavish black-card spending habits and that he triumphantly picks cotton from the most lavish shops, but material possessions aren’t the only thing that drives him. On the song’s final verse, Jay stands amazed at his political influence and his efforts to get Barack Obama reelected, and ultimately be a part of history. “Can’t believe they got a n—a to vote/ Democrat/ Nope … In trouble water I had to learn to float,” the lyrics say.
Release of the “Oceans” lyrics comes on the same day that the New York Post reports that the multiplatinum rap star is planning a Times Square concert for July 8, pending approval from the mayor’s office.
With so many questions surrounding the album and its release, there is no telling what the message will be on the rest of Magna Carta Holy Grail, but if the revealed lyrics are any indication, Jay may finally be taking the step he’s been longing for.