Remember when Jay-Z scheduled his retirement in 2003? The Black Album was slated to be his final stretch in the game but fast forward a decade and five albums later, Jay-Z continues to bask in all his glory.
Without a hit single on the radio and no promotion of any kind Jay-Z shocked the world in his very own way, to the point that the RIAA reformed their policies. Samsung purchased a million copies of his latest album, sending it to Platinum status even before its planned release.
The Brooklyn MC rewrites the rules of the game with the release of his cutting-edge solo album Magna Carta Holy Grail. The opulent album covers a myriad of content from exhibiting his treasures to interpretations on race and class. The 16 track project will take its audience on an adventure of emotions reminding us that Jay-Z is still on top of his game, perhaps the best competitor in the league.
Jay-Z received production assistance from the likes of Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, Pharell, Boi-1da, Mike Will Made It, and The-Dream among others. The diversity in production results in a comprehensive selection of sounds and melodies that are sure to leave a lasting impression. The album features guest appearances by Rick Ross, Nas, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce Knowles and Frank Ocean among others.
We all know Jay-Z is the wealthiest in the hip-hop industry and he, under no circumstances, forgets to remind his fans that he is not a businessman, but he’s a business maannnn…
(Was rapping while typing).
The boasting did not reach a dead end on this album, in fact it managed to reach new heights. Classic Jay-Z braggadocio lyrics releases in the track titled Crown.
“You in the presence of a king / Scratch that, you in the presence of a God…Uncle said I’ll never sell a million records, I sold a million records like a million times.”
Nobody lives like Jay-Z, which allows him to boast about Riccardo Tisci Givenchy clothes and Hublot watches, oh, and don’t forget the Maybach. Picasso Baby, Tom Ford, Beach is Better and BBC are all tracks that illustrate Jay-Z lounging in the finer things in life.
In “FuckWitMeYouKnowIGotIt,” Jay-Z drafts Rick Ross as the two go head first in the Boi-1da beat delivering bars on their lifestyles and even comparing themselves to the head of the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar.
“Hov keep gettin’ that dinero, got it. Even if a n**** gotta Rob it, get it? Black Jack in a casino a n**** got unlimited credit.”
Catch the double entendre? The line resembles the plot in the movie Goodfellas, the rise and fall of the Italian family.
Jay-Z doesn’t forget to elaborate on his personal life and the internal struggles he deals with on an everyday basis. On the Justin Timberlake assisted track, Jigga uses Mike Tyson as an example of how easy it is to lose it all.
“Bright lights is enticing, but look what it did to Tyson, all that money in one night. Thirty mill for one fight, but soon as all the money blows. All the pigeons take flight.”
Arguably, the most meditative track on the album is Jay Z Blue where he discloses to his fans his Achilles heel, failing as a father.
“Now I got my own daughter, taught her how to take her first steps. Cut the cord, watch her take her first breath and I’m trying and I’m lying if I said I wasn’t scared but in life and death if I ain’t here.”
Nickles and Dimes is the final track on the album where the mogul suffers from survivors guilt and questions himself on whether he gives back enough to the community,
“I gave some money to this guy, he got high as hell, now I’m part of the problem far as I could tell. Did I do it for him or do it for myself, can’t lie to myself.”
Magna Carta Holy Grail is arrogant, but also unpretentious. The reflective tone is evident in the songs that contemplate religion and charity. However, it wouldn’t be a Jay-Z album without the lavishness and confident swagger. From cruising in your car singing off key to bobbing your head while displaying the meanest of mugs, the album generates emotions that leave you with a breath of fresh air.
It’s been 17 years since his debut release, Reasonable Doubt, and it’s his longevity that easily puts his work above the rest. For him to collaborate with Blackstreet and Foxy Brown in the 90’s to Kendrick Lamar and Drake today speaks levels to his ability to evolve as an artist.
Let’s just say he’s had quite the retirement bash dating back to 2003. Giving us encore after encore, what more can he say? Jay-Z is a brand, sit back and press play.