You couldn't expect Hov to rap about moving crack and scheming to make it big in Brooklyn. Since 1996's Reasonable Doubt, Jay-Z's work has seen a paramount stylistic change, and his most recent LP, the much-hyped Magna Carta Holy Grail, is no exception. MCHG is a noted departure from even his '09 Blueprint III, and with a bevy of big collaborations and a platinum certification before it was even available on shelves, the album had lofty expectations.
Naturally, it couldn't meet all of them.
There are plenty of standout moments on Magna Carta, and chances are you were satisfied enough while giving it a first rotation during your Fourth of July barbecue. With a little time to settle, however, there are some definite flaws on the record that we're a little bummed out by.
1. The bloopy, bleepy production of "Tom Ford" and "Beach is Better"
If there's one thing Jigga doesn't have to do, it's sell out. The dude couldn't make any more money if he tried.
However, there's something very sellout-ish about some of the production on MCHG. "Tom Ford" and "Beach is Better" both feature EDM elements that frankly shouldn't be anywhere near a Jay-Z song. The braggadocious lyrics are there on both tracks, but it's marginally awkward to watch a 43-year-old try to keep up with electronic beats.
Not much harm done, as it's only two songs on a 16-track album. Jay even mentions that he "don't pop molly" on "Tom Ford."
2. Everything that happened on "BBC"
Damn. The original list of collaborators on this song sounded too dope to be true, but "BBC" falls short of its massive expectations. The "D boy, drug dealer look" hook gets annoying, while the materialistic name-drops (Jay begins his verse by rattling his jewelry for you to hear) are far from the trend-setting that was possible with this lineup.
Nas's verse doesn't even stand out. We heard that Beyonce and Justin Timerlake would be featured, but their contributions are hard to hear, as are Pharrell's. Three songs on MCHG eclipse five minutes, yet "BBC" is just more than three. This could have been so much better, despite Jay's dexterous verse.
3. The skimpy subject matter
If you're buying an album from a rapper that demands to make it platinum before it's even released (#NewRules), chances are you're not expecting the deepest record of the year. Still, MCHG is so opulent and boastful that it becomes quite frustrating.
Jay evokes religious imagery with his album title. His celebrity entitles him to a world of different experiences, including encounters with the president of the United States. He's seen everything there possibly is to see, from the business world to the hip-hop community. These lyrics could have gone a little deeper than claims that Hov spends six figures a day by the beach or rocks every expensive tuxedo imaginable.
At the end of the day, Magna Carta Holy Grail is sonically pleasing and artistically engaging. But Jay could so easily rap about something a little more meaningful most of the time. The Frank Ocean-assisted "Oceans" is a start.