Jay-Z came out of nowhere and released a brand new album that may change the way artists release their music from now on. Jay took an innovative approach and signed on with Samsung to release Magna Carta Holy Grail (MCHG) exclusively on Galaxy phones days before the rest of the world gets the album. It is 2013, so the album was online hours after it was released on the app, but it didn’t leak before it was released on the app. That hasn’t happened in Hip Hop since Jay and Yeezy’s Watch The Throne. Releasing the album through the app wasn’t the only innovative approach took in releasing his new album. He released lyrics and breakdowns of tracks before they were released too. In this day and age, we don’t get that until after the track has been released. Sometimes, we don’t get breakdowns until artists go on rap genius and breakdown their lyrics with them. This is something that I would definitely like to see become a trend in Hip Hop and music as a whole.
The production on the new album is really incredible. We already knew that Jay was going to deliver with the lyricism, but the production elevated this album to a whole other level. Anyone that was keeping up with the promo videos would know that Timbaland, Swizz Beatz and Pharrell were going to have their hands on the production. There were some up and coming producers handling production on the album as well. Boi-1da, Mike Will Made It, Hit-Boy and others provided Hov with some stellar production. My favorite instrumental on the album has to be Hit-Boy’s production on “Somewhere In America.” The song has a jazzy feel and will definitely be one of the songs that will be remembered by many due to Jay’s “Somewhere in America, Miley Cyrus is still twerkin” line.
Jay not only has great production on the new album, but he has some pretty good features as well. Justin Timberlake continues his big year by being the first voice you hear on MCHG’s “Holy Grail.” It is completely different from their previous collaboration, but it is still great to listen to. Hopefully we get another collaboration from these two on JT’s new album, dropping later this year. The Rick Ross-assisted “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt” features a Pimp C sample as soon as the song begins. There are many UGK mentions on the album, but that sample is the most memorable. Frank Ocean, who was also featured on Yeezus, delivers a strong chorus on the Pharrell-produced track “Oceans.” This is the type of feature I was expecting Ocean to have on Yeezus, but maybe we will get that when they release Watch The Throne 2. The only rapper other than Rick Ross on MCHG is Nas on the Pharrell-produced “BBC.” The track has that classic Pharrell sound to it and Nas doesn’t disappoint. This should be a crowd favorite when performed live along with the Timbaland-produced “Tom Ford.”
Although Hit-Boy has my favorite instrumental on the album, Timbaland gets the MVP award for producers for the entire album. His attempted comeback with Missy Elliot didn’t really work out, but tracks like “Tom Ford,” “Picasso Baby” and “F.U.T.W.” along with his production on Justin Timberlake’s recently released album will definitely introduce him to a new generation of fans. A new Jay-Z album wouldn’t be right without a track featuring Beyonce. Beyonce is featured on “Tom Ford” and “BBC,” but the most notable feature is “Part II (On The Run).” The track is a follow up to their 2003 hit single, “03 Bonnie & Clyde;” it’s pretty crazy that the song is already ten years old. Jay also has a song dedicated to his daughter Blue Ivy towards the end of the album where Hov raps about his fear of things not working out between him and Beyonce and it affecting his daughter.
The only possible negatives about this new album are the tracks “Versus” and “Beach is Better.” It isn’t that the songs aren’t good, its just me being greedy and wanting them to be full songs. If they were full songs, they would definitely be two of my favorite songs on the new album. But, overall, Jay-Z delivered one of the best albums of the year even with all of the June releases. It will be interesting to see who picks up the Grammy come next February.
Buy: MCHG on iTunes here.
Key Tracks: “Tom Ford,” “Holy Grail,” “Somewhere In America,” “Oceans,” “BBC,” “F.U.T.W.”