Jay-Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail (album review)

What a treat for Jigga to drop something new for the summer. I think that it’s kind of surprise how it actually release when they said it was going to. Roc Nation trying to dominate the summer huh. So let’s get into it.

Holy Grail ft. Justin Timberlake
Swaggordon: I like the intro to the song, but I have a feeling that The Dream would have been a better option for the vocals. That bass comes in with the right amount of energy. Jigga talks about the struggle dealing with success. I’m not a fan of that part when Justin’s voice is distorted, annoyed the sh#t out of me.
Satchford: Give it up for fame! everybody has a complaint or 2 about the ills of fame as Jay illustrates on verse 1 but on verse 2, he takes a step back and understands to take the good with the bad. Smart move. The Justin Timberlake part was smooth.

Picasso Baby
Swaggordon: The way he starts the verse is tough. The beat brings so much energy to the song. The whole song has a groovy feel to it like you bump this song anywhere. Those snares just hit at the right moment. When the production switches it reminds me of some old Volume 3 jams. He references how people at relentless and will take aim at anything his in life even his child.
Satchford: 3 words, Timbo The King. This is what Im talking about. My favorite beat on the album. The art-referenced wordplay will have you on wikipedia doing your homework. After all this time and money, he’s still as ambitious as ever. “I just want to live life colossal”. The beat switch sound like some ‘NYMP, the realest’. Gritty shit. (takes break to go listen to NYMP…)

Jeff Koons balloons, I just wanna blow up
Condos in my condos, I wanna row of
Christie’s with my missy, live at the MoMA
Bacons and turkey bacons, smell the aroma

Tom Ford
Swaggordon: Not really what I was expecting out a song called Tom Ford. The song is more celebratory than runway type of music. The production has a slight bounce to it. When everything slows down I think that’s moment when the song really becomes more than just another song.
Satchford: The bounce is there, but I couldnt see Jigga spitting on something like this as it sounds pretty generic, but i do like those sounds during the chorus. Decent song. Who the hell is Tom Ford?

Fuck hashtags and retweets, nigga
140 characters in these streets, nigga
Pardon my laughing, y’all only flagging on beats, nigga
Pardon my laughing, I happen to think you sweet

F#ckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt ft. Rick Ross
Swaggordon: Can you say tough?!?! That Birdman soundbite at the beginning of the song was perfect. Satch mentioned to me that this song has that Project Pat feel to it and I can’t help but to agree. The lyrics are more about boasting so I think that what makes this song is the manner in which the lyrics are sung and the energy let loose from the production.
Satchford: That Pimp C sound bite was perfectly placed if you know what i mean. The beat is hard body but the verses aren’t talking about much at all

Oceans ft. Frank Ocean
Swaggordon: I wasn’t feeling this song initially because Frank’s part just sounds out of place. Thank goodness for Jay-Z’s wordplay otherwise I would have skipped the song. I like how he compared him and Ty Ty to Pablo and Papa, I can see the similarity in that metaphor.
Satchford: you see this muthafucka?! Strong horns as if it was pulled from a plot discovering movie scene, props to Pharrell. The filtered snare pattern during the chorus – nice. The ocean theme morphs into many meanings and he seems to get the message out effortlessly. This is a well thought out track. No complaints with Frank Ocean, he does a nice chorus.

On the holiday playing “Strange Fruit”
If I’mma make it to a billi I can’t take the same route
Swoosh, that’s the sound of the border
Swoosh, and that’s the sound of a baller
Muhammad Hovi my back against the rope
The black Maybach, I’m back inside the boat

Swaggordon: This is another song that will have to grow on me. To me it lacks that powerful feel to it. That’s Malcolm X and Ali metaphor was pretty interesting, still digesting that line. The production is pretty empty to me especially during the hook.
Satchford: Behind Picasso Baby this might be my favorite beat. It goes from some church, kindergarden graduation type-feel to a gritty short loop. The voice thats at the end is perfect. The verses are strong and it comes off as sort of a pep talk to the culture for change. Just let me be great.

Teacher teacher, I’m trying to unteach ya
All the shit they taught y’all, they got you all in the bleachers

Somewhere in America
Swaggordon: Thank you that this production has some keys and the baseline helps to blend everything. “when I was talking insta-gram the last thing you want was your picture snapped” lmao. Only Jigga could provide witty lines like that and then go on to talk about Miley Cyrus twerking.
Satchford: I like the keys over the horns. The line about the neighbor/sinatra blasting was nice. Ungh. Songs like this sound like light work for him, 1 take. Nothing spectacular but a good quick track.

Knock knock I’m at your neighbor house
Straight cash I bought ya neighbor out
You should come to the housewarming
Come and see what your new neighbor ’bout
Yellow Lambo in the driveway
A buck thirty-five, I’m on the highway
Frank Sinatra on my Sonos
Loud as fuck, I did it my way

Swaggordon: That intro is so wicked I gotta listen to that sampluer. I’m not 100% sure if this song has an overall theme to it. That line at the end of song regarding Nasty Nas was very interesting. It threw me for a loop. I think this is the only song on the album that used a hook and bridge to end the track, nice!
Satchford: With such a powerful intro, it was let down when the beat drop. Its average. The sounds used makes this feel like an extended version of I Am A God – the synths, the screams, the distorting drums, the tempo, the Jamaican intro. I do like how they filtered the intro in the background and the moaning during the breakdown. (Sidenote: You remember Ja Rule had a song with the same sample back when people thought he wasnt hard anymore after all those pop singles. I can’t lie – i liked it). As far as lyrics, Jay-Z is purely flexing. I really like the chorus though.

Swaggordon: Another tough track. The production is so heavy. The sample is on point to match the theme of the song. He used so many metaphors to compare some of material things in his life to religious symbols. The use of the sample to create a bridge was genius. It’s a song that makes you question your purpose in life.
Satchford: I’m loving the way the sample (R.E.M.) is intertwined with the overall subject matter. This might go down as a classic song from him, already is in my book. The wordplay. Take note to the cleverness:

I confess, God in the flesh
Live among the serpents
Turn arenas into churches
I’m like Michael, recycle, these are not 16’s
These are verses from the Bible
Tell that preacher he’s a preacher
I’m a motherfucking prophet, smoke a tree of knowledge
Drink from a gold chalice, you gotta love it
I arrive at the pearly gates, I had luggage
Meaning I had baggage
Niggas asking me questions, I don’t answer to these busters
Only God could judge us, motherfuckers, uh

Swaggordon: A filler perhaps. I do like the A tribe called Quest reference used. Besides that I would skip this track.
Satchford: Popping more shit, no competition…1 quick verse. Im feeling the beat.

Part II (On The Run) ft. Beyonce
Swaggordon: Hats off to Beyonce for how she started the song. It was definitely a mood setter. It does feel like a continuation from Bonnie & Clyde but it’s more intimate, now it has a lot of more weight behind it. I still can’t believe that Tim and J-Roc produced this joint. It’s so smooth but at the same time it has the vibe to it that makes you bob your head along with the flow of the melody.
This sounds like it started out as a Beyonce solo track and then Jay heard it and threw some verses on it. I could be wrong but hey, its just my thoughts. Nonetheless, I like the track and the message. This is some real love they talking about, goodness. It is just an overall great record and with a great message.

Deeper then words, beyond right
Die for your love, beyond life
Sweet as a Jesus piece, beyond ice
Blind me baby with your neon lights
Ray Bans on, police in sight
Oh, what a beautiful death
Let’s both wear white
If you go to heaven and they bring me to hell
Just sneak out and meet me, bring a box of L’s
She fell in love with the bad guy, the bad guy
What you doing with them rap guys, them rap guys
They ain’t see potential in me girl, but you see it
If it’s me and you against the world, then so be it

Beach is Better
Swaggordon: I think that Jay-Z goes in on this track, well for the short moment that it was he did. I totally agree with the title and the metaphor behind it.
Satchford: This remind me of Twista’s Kill Us All beat. Another quick 1 verse. Nice beat, nice verse.

BBC ft. Nas, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Pharrell, Swizz Beatz, & Beyonce
Swaggordon: WTF is this? Pharrell why bro? I’m glad this song is short. The reason I would skip this song is because it sounds so random and too happy man. Smdh
Satchford: The track is soft as cotton but its catchy and my head is moving, its just a feel good vibe. The verses hardened it a bit. This one needs a video with Esco and Hov. Can’t forget the classics, respect to Jigga starting out with that classic Mason. Only 2 verses, it’s shorter than expected. I was expecting a beat breakdown or something at the end, back and forth verse with Jay and Nas but nothing. Thats alright, I’m content with what I received.

Jay-Z Blue
Swaggordon: That soundbite of Faye Dunaway was an interesting choice. You can hear in the lyrics that Jay is battling himself internally about the responsibility of raising a daughter. He shares his concerns about not being their for his child. I like when the pace of the beat changes and his flow gets very sharp. His flow road the rhythm of the claps perfectly for a moment.
Satchford: Whoever recommended putting those Biggie sound bites in there was a genius. How Jay pulled inspiration from those few bars from My Downfall was impressive. He has the same concerns and visions for his kid, just want to do it right. Verse 3 is where this track climaxes. Before the guitar comes in, there’s an underlying sample – crazy.

Father never taught me how to be a father, treat a mother
I don’t wanna have to just repeat another leave another
Baby with no daddy want no mama drama
I just wanna take her back to a time when everything was calmer
Out in Paris on a terrace watching the Eiffel Tower
And a Ferris wheel yet and still, nothing could prepare us
For the beauty that you be Blue be
Looking in your eyes is like a mirror, have to face my fears

La Familia
Swaggordon: Head of the family, I like that hook. Doesn’t it seem like Emory is always coming home? This that type of song that you can ride out to. The productions provides a nice melody for you to get your shoulders bouncing to. I’m not really feeling how he played around with the words ready and radio. Not sure where that soundbite came from, I’m sure some information about it will surface soon enough though.
Satchford: That first flow gets stale about a minute in so I’m glad he switched it up a bit during the track. The beat is the bright spot for me, I’m just bouncing to it. Its lush. The bassheads will like this one in the car. At the end, “head…of the…fami-ly!” will be stuck in your head. Nice jam.

Nickels and Dimes
Swaggordon: I like how the Gonjasufi sample was used to start the song. “I cut myself today to see if I still bleed” whoa it can’t be that surreal. Jay-Z still has more of himself to share with the audience which sort of surprises me. He struggles with the fact that some see him as maybe selfish or something like that. I like that line “the greatest form of giving is anonymous to anonymous“, witty.
Satchford: The beat has growing on me, it sounds like a sample of those wind chimes on your grandma’s front porch. Its an interesting look into his conscious and the guilt he has when it comes to charity, but he’s “just trying to find common ground”. I like this one, well thought out. “Just for clarity, my presence is charity, my flow is a gift – philanthripist”

Swaggordon: For a follow up to the Blueprint 3 I think that this album showcases how Jay-Z still has that fire in him. It’s a lyrical album that contains a central theme throughout it. He shares his personal struggles and combats the images that some people have of him. The productions were all in all well managed. Kudos to Timbo the King for most of them. There were a couple of moments that I felt like some songs were just fillers. I would have to say that this is another must own Jay-Z LP but would have been an even greater EP. I think what makes it such an excellent album right now is the shock factor once that wears off it might have to be revisited. For now I recommend a swift download and sync to the pod.
Top 3 Fav Songs: Picasso Baby, F#ckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt, Part II (On The Run)
Satchford: I enjoyed the album, the subject matter mostly – he’s trying to push the envelope even more and using his power in a good way it seems. #newrules, ok i get it. Glad to see Timbo back in the fold, his touch is all over this album which is good. No its not the best Jay album but its damn good just off the verses alone. The name brand references got stale pretty quick and its not as polished as the last album, but overall, i like it.
Top 3 Fav Songs: Heaven, F.U.T.W., Picasso Baby

The Samples:

2 thoughts on “Jay-Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail (album review)

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