Four years since the release of the album "The Blueprint 3" and two years since the collaborative album "Watch The Throne" with Kanye West, rapper Jay-Z is back and has not lost his touch.
The owner of 17 Grammy Awards released his 12th studio album, titled "Magna Carta... Holy Grail," on Independence Day. The album displays Jay-Z's signature wit with no hold back swag that will get listeners nodding their heads along to every song.
As a whole, the album is similar to Kanye West's recent piece, "Yeezus." That is, if Kanye were slightly less bombastic. The 43-year-old Brooklyn, New York native does not disappoint with "Magna Carta" which features a variety of special guest such as Justin Timberlake, Frank Ocean and wife Beyoncé Knowles.
Bringing in a star-studded guest list for vocals adds to Jay's signature style, only elevating the quality of the album as a whole. As many rappers tend to depend on their peers to gain popularity and make songs top lists, Jay focuses on the collaboration effort, obviously more interested in the creative element of the tunes.
"Magna Carta" also has a reflective tone and displays the rapper's vulnerability when it comes to his marriage to Beyoncé and parenting daughter Blue Ivy. While Jay-Z and Beyonce's relationship is normally kept private, it is refreshing to here him speak out on an emotional level, giving the album a more personable feel to a rather intimidating artist.
The album features a number of standout songs such as the first track entitled "Holy Grail," featuring his "Suit & Tie" cohort, Justin Timberlake. The track is bursting with Jay-Z's signature style and wit: "Now I got tattoos on my body / Psycho [expletive] in my lobby / I got haters in the paper / Photo shoots with paparazzi / Can't even take my daughter for a walk / See them by the corner store." The song details Jay-Z's love/hate relationship with wealth and fame while comparing himself to fallen celebrities such as Kurt Cobain and MC Hammer. It begins with piano music and Timberlake's falsetto, continuing with a banging beat that spotlights the Nirvana's classic, "Smells Like Teen Sprit."
The track "Oceans," featuring R&B singer Frank Ocean, is a reflective song about the past alluding to slave ships and the Ivory Coast. Ocean sings, "This water knows it all / Go ahead and spill some champagne in the water / Go ahead and watch the sun blaze / On the waves / Of the ocean" while Jay raps about his accomplishments and future goals. Jay raps, "Welcome to the Magna Carta / The best-selling author 'Decoded' / On the holiday playing 'Strange Fruit'/ If I'mma make it to a billi I can't take the same route." Ocean's smooth voice contrasts Jay's rapping, making the song a stand-out on the collection.
"Magna Carta" also features a number of samples and elements, borrowed from artists who only provided Jay with a good foundation. In addition to the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" sample, there is a sample from M.I.A.'s "Bad Girls" on the track titled "Tom Ford." Jay also uses "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M on the track "Heaven." There is also an interesting combination of Faye Dunaway's monologue from the 1981 film "Mommie Dearest" and "My Downfall" by Notorious B.I.G. Sampling popular non-rap songs broadened Jay-Z's audience by creating a way for popular genre fans to sing along.
"Magna Carta... Holy Grail" maintains Jay-Z's signature rapping style while never getting boring, which will resonate with Jay-Z fans old and new. It is witty with impressive style that fits the album's grandiose title, ellipses and all. In short, Jay-Z does Jay-Z.
The album became available Monday for retail sale.