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Ok, so be now you have probably heard a lot about how much of mess “Magna Carta Holy Grail” is, however this things are not as straightforward as that. On the one hand Jay’s lyrical content leaves a lot to be desired, his celebrated of fame and its rich leaving a bad taste in the mouth. On the other hand, the musical backing on the album is top notch and features some of Timbaland’s finest beats for about a decade.

The problems begin with the opener ‘Holy Grail’ on which Justin Timberlake bleats like a 14 year old about how he’s been dumped, things improve when Jay enters for his first verse but the tracks over long and Timberlake’s repeated presence grates more with each chorus. Things go up a notch musically on ‘Picasso Baby’ with a deep bass guitar swaggering over a swinging beat and sharp piano but Jay’s seemingly disrespectful lyrics (“No, I want a wife that fuck me like a prostitute”) and his demands for more when he has everything anyone could dream of left me cold. I have always felt Jay-Z was a great storyteller that could paint pictures in your mind but this Jay-Z is completely absent from “Magna Carta Holy Grail”. Another things that’s absent is any sense that Jay-Z has ever felt guilty about his wealth, his lifestyle or what he expresses lyrical, whereas his regular collaborator Kanye West expressed his feel of conflict brilliant just last month on the similarly Biblical titled “Yeezus”.

‘Tom Ford’ finds Jay pushing Timbaland to revisit his heyday for making innovative minimal yet liquid electronic beats and Jay flows over it like Timbaland’s own solo career writing for the likes of Katy Perry had never happened. ‘Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit’ features a good beat from Timbaland and good verse from Jay but features the hugely overrated Rick Ross who spoils the track. “Oceans” finds Jay-Z and Frank Ocean trending water as the quality continues its dip. ‘F.U.T.W.’ finds Jay backed by a gentle trumpet loop and Prefuse 73 style beat and proclaiming he feels like Cassius Clay and Frank Sinatra (for the umpteenth time). ‘SomewhereinAmerica’ plays things straight on the musical front but Hova embarrasses himself with the “Cause somewhere in America, Miley Cyrus is still twerkin’” and Instagram references.

‘Part II (On the Run)’ seems like a pointless retread of ‘Bonnie & Clyde’, ‘BBC’ wastes a handful of great guests most of them relegated to adlibbing in the background and a couple of poor verse thrown to pad out the 3 minute track. Jay would have been better doubling the track time or halving the guest list. ‘Jay-Z Blue’ finds him complaining about being a father, which annoys almost as much as all the over the top celebrations of wealth and demanding more. The album bows out on ‘Nickels and Dimes’ which expertly utilises a large sample from the Gonjasufi track of the same name.

“Magna Carta Holy Grail” tell us two things 1) Jay-Z is a rich 44 year-old rap millionaire who feels the need to constantly inform his fans (and anyone else that’ll listen) of his wealth and power 2) That Timbaland can still produce some great beats when pushed to do so. I would not recommend the album lyrically but you there’s some high quality instrumentals buried under them.

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