Before I go into this review, Let me be the first to say that JayZ’s latest album should be nominated in the top 5 list for possibly one of the WORST album covers of not only hip hop but music PERIOD. I wish these guys will stop trying to go the weirdo route and just go back to illustrating fly covers to make their art more eye grabbing.
Ok whew! Got that out-of-the-way. Now on to the review: Anybody that knows me would tell you that I haven’t really rocked with JayZ’s material post Retirement. Aside from American Gangster, Jay’s direction while may have evolved to where much more of the masses are checking for him, He’s lost among many of his core and they felt that he has “dumbed down for dollars” His albums Kingdom Come, Blue Print III and Watch The Throne were prime examples of over hyped albums that sold based off his brand name instead of how great the music really was. Jay has done a tremendous job with his marketing campaign by having the mass public call him the greatest of all time or the Michael Jordan of rap all while continuing to make mediocre albums with standout cuts here and hustle. His hustle can’t be denied and with the release of Magna Holy Grail, He continues to show how brilliant he is when it comes to marketing his material.
Whereas Kanye’s record was considered a disappointment. Jay seemed to have takened a page out of Ye’s book and wanted to out do him. Whenever its a little rift going on or competition among the two are pretty unknown, Jay not only wanted to market this album by going back to the whole Black Album concept by having no singles, no videos, no serious promotion but also using phone company Samsung for Samsung company to download his album as well. It’s a first that an emcee would do this but the question is Jay’s record really good? The answer is that its better than his albums over the years. But after giving it more thoro listens, I felt it could have been a whole lot better.
JayZ hasn’t sound much better and comfortable than he does here. Over the years He’s tried his hands of trying to be more of a “artist” and less of a rapper like Kanye and its been met with often mixed results.There were also times where He comes across as a bit aged or as an old man trying to keep up with the times. The direction on this album however was set as a theme to celebrate JayZ’s greatness as a whole and to show people who despite being the age of 43 that he’s still a great rapper
With Timbaland, The Neptunes, and Swizz beats supplying a bulk of the production. There are times where Jay doesn’t really deliver much in the terms of content and allows himself to really just coast on alot of these songs. But when Jay feels a theme, a concept, and sticks with it is where he strikes the hardest and hits as a great artist. Take for instance the song Heaven where he throws darts back at conspiracy theorists and people whom try to make up theories about him being black and successful. Theres also songs like Oceans which sets off the socially theme of the track due to Frank Oceans and F.U.T.W. where it seems that Jay is going the rebellion route by criticizing America’s corrupt system with lines that stick out such as “America tried to emasculate the greats / Murder Malcolm, give Cassius the shakes and throwing a shot back at Pop Singer Miley Cyrus for calling his music pop.
Of course when you’re listening to a JayZ album, You’re gonna hear alot of boasting and tons of braggadocio mixed with a bunch of clever lines showcasing his witt and at times being thought provoking. Like I said earlier there are tons of lines like that but it seems that Jay remained on coast control throughout. Its evident on songs such as Crown, Paccasso Baby The Beach is Better, and the intro Holy Grail which is a solid intro where Justin Timberlake really over-shined. The songs are great but lyrically it seemingly Jay didn’t put as much in-depth within his lyrical prowess.
There are also filler songs here which could have been left off and they throw the vibe off. The VERY disappointing and weak collaboration featuring his new BFF Nas would go down as possibly one of the biggest disappointments in rap considering these two-track record and ability to make better songs, Theres also songs where the guest appearances kill the flow of the tracks. Ricky Rozzay doesn’t add much into the mix on Fuckwithmeyougot it nor does Beyonce on the snoozy Husband and wife track Part II.
Overall this is probably the best album JayZ has done since American Gangster and he still proves that he’s one of the best rappers of all time when he wants too. But I felt that due to the vibe of the production that Jay often coasted along depending more of on his delivery and flow instead of what he’s really coming with in terms of his content. Theres flashes of brilliance in there like every Jay album and hopefully we’ll see that like we did on The First Blueprint, The Black Album, and American Gangster.
Vic Rating: 7.5 outta 10