By the time the Samsung MCHG app counter hit zero at midnight on Wednesday and July 3 turned into July 4, disappointed fanatics hit Twitter crying foul with a exciting rollout that didn’t work as advertised. Many Samsung users were left without the album they were expecting, but like all LPs Magna Carta found its way onto the radio and the Internet via pirated links that were shared n the early hours after midnight on Thursday.
The 16-track trip begins to unravel with the Justin Timberlake-assisted “Holy Grail.” Remarkably dissimilar from the groovy “Suit & Tie,” the Legends of Summer new collab doesn’t inspire dance moves as much as it does deep thought and emotion. “You take the clothes off my back and I let you,” Timberlake wails before he ponders: “And I still don’t why I love you so much.”
With his verses Jay mulls over the pitfalls of his fame atop somber piano keys and a steady drum knock. That’s not to suggest that Holy Grail is an over-intellectual affair. There is a ton of dual meaning packed behind each Jigga rap, but it works just as well with a surface listen. “Picasso Baby” starts off with nods to the MOMA, the Met and the Louvre, but two-and-a-half minutes into the Timbaland-produced gem, the tempo switches and so does Hov’s subject matter. “I never stuck my c–k in a Fox’s box/ But damn if I ain’t open Pandora’s box,” he raps with grit, denying seedy Internet rumors that he once had an affair with Brooklyn rapper Foxy Brown.
“F–withmeyouknowigotit” pairs Jay with Rick Ross, as the two trade mob talk over a sparse trap-style beat, then Hov and Beyoncé resume their “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” roles on “Part II (On the Run).” On it Mrs. Carter sings of forbidden love. “I don’t care if we’re on the run, baby as long as I’m next to you/ And if loving you is a crime, tell me why do I bring out the best in you,” she hums in a breathy tone.
“Jay Z Blue,” while sincere, isn’t the same sentimental ode that Hov recorded just days after his daughter’s birth in 2012. Where “Glory” was bright-eyed and optimistic, this new dedication to the rapper’s daughter is filled with the fear and doubt that comes with being a dad who was scarred by his own father He not only clips soundbites from the wicked 1981 film “Mommie Dearest” Jay also deploys a sampling of the Notorious B.I.G’s eerie 1997 album cut “My Downfall,” giving the song an enjoyable underground feel.
Even when the The Blueprint MC ponders the generational effects of slavery with Frank Ocean on “Oceans,” he doesn’t hide his street ties, instead the God MC simply mixes his message with his vintage rap bounce. “Somewhereinamerica” celebrates new rules, new money and “new blacks, with new stacks” as Jay wags his tongue at hip-hop’s influence on the world at large. “Twerk, Miley, Miley, twerk,” he chants while laughing at the growing popularity of the rap dance.
It all sounds great, but subsequent listens uncover thoughtful commentary and societal observation, lending to the album’s replay value.
During it’s two-week build up, innovative rollout and clever ad campaign Magna Carta Holy Grail promised something new and inventive to one million Galaxy smartphone users, though it is unclear to what degree it actually delivered. No matter the case, what the album actually contains is the same old recipe which has made Jay-Z so brilliant beginning with his 1996 debut Reasonable Doubt.
If Magna Carta proves anything it’s that no matter how futuristic your music distribution methods becomes, banging beats and choice rhymes will always remain timeless.