Fans accustomed to rapper Jay-Z’s ego know exactly what to expect when picking up his new album.
He has become a mogul in the rap industry by touting how great he is in almost every song he creates. There is no exception in Tuesday’s release of “Magna Carta Holy Grail.”
On the track “Oceans,” in which he collaborates with Frank Ocean, Jay-Z claims that the new album is his magnum opus.
However, after listening to the redundant, often disjointed lyrics over jumbled beats, it’s hard to believe this album deserves that title over his 2009 release of “Blueprint 3,” which produced five songs that topped Billboard charts.
Though he collaborates with many stars like Justin Timberlake, Pharrell Williams, BeyoncÃ©, Frank Ocean and Rick Ross, it seems like he failed to include the missing ingredient of his recent albums’ successes – Kanye West – an absence surely due to the recent release of West’s “Yeezus,” which has received critical acclaim.
Though the album is primarily a redundant version of previous albums in which he boasts about his wealth, fame and success, this album takes a prominent peek into his views on a new venture – fatherhood.
Fans should be prepared to hear a more bipolar version of Jay-Z. His daughter, Blue, is mentioned in several tracks, including “Jay-Z Blue,” in which he confusedly and frightfully talks about the struggles of being a new father while inserting sound bites from the horror film, “Mommie Dearest.” He even goes as far as borrowing a line from Notorious B.I.G.’s “My Downfall,” referring to himself as “Daddy Dearest.”
Fans who were not one of the million Samsung Galaxy users able to download a free, advanced copy on Thursday should stick to buying the songs separately rather than spending $13.99 on a full album that is undoubtedly a muddled mess.
Arguably the best song on the album, “Holy Grail” begins with Justin Timberlake gracefully belting out a Bruno Mars-esque song before dropping into Jay-Z inarticulately rapping about the burdens of being a celebrity. In a familiar move, he takes easy shots again at the failures of Mike Tyson and MC Hammer. In what is sure to offend to many Nirvana fans, Courtney Love allowed one of the most corporate artists in modern music, Jay-Z, to use the chorus of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” written by one of the most outspoken anti-corporation artists in music history, Kurt Cobain. The move is the second best thing about the song after Timberlake’s accompaniments. Though the verses are faltering, the collaboration with Timberlake and flow of the beats are sure to place this song on the charts.
Set to a beat surely inspired by an ice cream truck jingle, F.U.T.W. could have mass radio appeal if it were not due to the fact that the chorus repeatedly calls to “f— up the world.” In the midst of the bipolar theme Jay-Z displays throughout the album, he goes from the misplaced lyric, “I just want a shot to show my genius/standing on the top hold my penis,” to a lyric that is reminiscent of how he became famous in the first place: “America tried to emasculate the greats/Murder Malcolm, gave Cassius the shakes.” Though fans will probably never hear the song on the radio, it is a great download perfect for any night drive with the windows down.
The song begins with the muffled sounds of the late Pimp C and flows into the lyrical stylings of Rick Ross, who spits the N-word so many times that even Paula Deen would blush. The beat of the song is the best on the album, and the pair – though not eloquently – bounce lyrics off each other with ease.
Prepare to get seasick with this nautical tribute to cocaine trafficking and America’s history with racism. Though Frank Ocean’s vocal element is noteworthy, Jay-Z blows it with his disarrayed, unrelated lyrics. Looking up the lyrics for clarity is a bust. Jay-Z tackling racism in America has potential to be great, yet he fails immensely by jumping back and forth between the two unrelated topics.
After the birth of his daughter Blue Ivy, Jay-Z released the song “Glory,” which he had written for her. It was filled with celebratory, hopeful, heart-warming and confessional lyrics such as, “Last time the miscarriage was so tragic/We was afraid you’d disappear, but nah, baby, you magic.” However, the newest tribute to little Blue shows a more frazzled, pessimistic outlook of parenthood from the artist. The song begins with the disturbing line from the horror film “Mommie Dearest,” “I work and work ’till I’m half-dead, and I hear people saying, ‘She’s getting old,’ and what do I get? A daughter who cares as much about the beautiful dresses I give her as she cares about me!” The song comes across just as creepily, and the music is as chaotic as the lyrics.
When “BBC” begins, listeners may think they accidentally pressed play on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” Williams’ touch is all over this track and may make listeners wonder if he is out of new ideas. This song is sure to get major radio play, but it lacks originality and flow.