Album Review | JAY-Z – Magna Carta… Holy Grail

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This album was released on July 4th in the year of our Lord 2013. This was the only JAY-Z album I’d ever heard before starting this marathon. I don’t really remember a lot of the songs, but I remember thinking the album as a whole was pretty fuckin’ terrible. I’m hoping I’ll be pleasantly surprised like I was with Watch the Throne, but I know that’s probably not gonna happen. I know there are some songs on this album that I really like a lot tho. I’m honestly expecting to like this more than The Blueprint 3. Every song is produced by Timbaland, except where noted.

Track 1: Holy Grail Feat. Justin Timberlake (Co-Prod. The Dream, No I.D. & JRoc)

Holy Grail

I fucking hate this song. I couldn’t go anywhere without hearing this bullshit when it first came out. Justin Timberlake did a great job with the intro, but the hook… I just can’t. It’s so fucking bad. His vocals were great. I just can’t stand the lyrics and melody tho. The cringe is just too much for me. I can’t handle it.

And, baby, it’s amazing I’m in this maze with you / I just can’t crack your code / One day you screamin’ you love me loud, the next day you’re so cold / One day you’re here, one day you’re there / One day you care; you’re so unfair.

Yuuuuck. The beat is dope af. That’s literally the only thing I like about this song tho. I wasn’t feelin’ the first verse, and the way he ended it with that interpolation of Smells Like Teen Spirit was fucking disgusting. It would’ve been bad enough if it was just Justin Timberlake singing it, but Jay was singing along and it made me wanna pour molten lava in my fucking ears. Jay’s flow on the second verse was actually really fuckin’ nice, but I didn’t like that bridge right before the hook where the production kinda switched up a little bit and his flow slowed down. I guess I can understand why this song would be appealing to a Pop audience, but I fucking hate it. The only reason I’m not gonna call this wack af is because of the stellar production. This shit is wack tho.

Track 2: Picasso Baby (Co-Prod. JRoc)

Picasso Baby

Jay recorded himself performing this song to a bunch of white people at some art gallery and tried to sell it as a performance art film. It was just a regular performance tho. It wasn’t any better than any other live performance of the song. It was hard to watch honestly. All the old white people’s reactions to the performance were dangerously cringe inducing… But that’s neither here nor there. This song isn’t as bad as the previous one. I don’t like it tho. I’m honestly not really into this beat. This is just a boring song to me. Nothing about it stands out. I don’t like the simplistic hook. The content doesn’t interest me even a little bit. He’s just rapping about how he wants a Picasso piece in his house and a wife who fucks him like a prostitute and other shit like that. The way the production switches up for the final verse was kinda cool. I’m still not crazy about the beat, but this second half is better than the original one. The final verse was actually nice. I liked that verse. I’m never listening to this shit ever again tho. The only thing I like about it is the last verse. Everything else about this track is painfully boring to me. This is mediocre.

Track 3: Tom Ford (Co-Prod. JRoc)

Tom Ford

I can’t fucking stand this song. I won’t be surprised if this ends up being my least favorite track on the album. Just like with the first track, this song was unavoidable upon it’s release as a single. I don’t even like the production. I like the percussion. That’s it. I like the percussion in the beat. Everything else about this track pisses me the motherfuck off. This hook is fucking horrible.

COMIN’ UP? COMIN’ DAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWN!!!!!!

I didn’t even notice how fucking annoying JAY-Z’s voice is until I heard this song the first time. Those spacey synths annoy the shit outta me too. I hate his flow on the second verse. Each verse is only 8 bars. I don’t see the appeal in this track at all. The bass sounds good. That’s it. That’s literally the only good thing about this track. Fuck this shit. This song is wack af.

Track 4: Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit Feat. Rick Ross (Co-Prod. Boi-1da, Vinylz & JRoc)

FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt

Okay, this is the first song on the album that I actually kinda like. The production is fantastic. Vinylz fucked this beat. I think the title of this song is really fucking stupid, but that’s not something I’d penalize it for. The hook is nothing special. Rick Ross’ verse was really bad.

Reeboks on; I just do it, nigga.

Ross… “Just Do It” is Nike’s tagline, you fucking idiot… Smh… So, this song’s off to a pretty rough start. I actually don’t know if I’ll end up liking this song. The only thing I remember about it is the stellar production to be honest. Jay’s verse just ended… Meh… It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t really that bad either. The song’s over. Wow. This is a lot worse than I remember it being. Honestly, this entire album is worse than I remember it being. This is a bad song. I was gonna go easy on it and just say it was decent, but… It’s really not. The beat isn’t good enough to save this track. This shit is wack.

Track 5: Oceans Feat. Frank Ocean (Co-Prod. Pharrell Williams)

Oceans

Alright, here we go. I love this song. Frank Ocean sang his fucking ass off on this shit. His hook is amazing. The beat is dope af too. Jay’s kinda rapping about some dumb shit that I don’t care about it, but there’s an extra layer to it that makes it a bit more interesting. He’s bragging about being on a nice ass boat in the middle of the sea, and comparing it to how his ancestors were brought to America on slave ships on the same oceans that he’s chillin’ on. The first verse was cool. Same goes for the second verse. Honestly, Frank Ocean made this song worth listening to. It would still be a decent track if he wasn’t here. He stole the show tho. I probably wouldn’t return to this if he wasn’t featured. Anyway, I really fuck with this song. It’s dope af.

Track 6: F.U.T.W. (Co-Prod. JRoc)

F.U.T.W.

Oh fucking shit. I forgot about this song. This beat is dope af. The first verse was fine I guess. Man… This album fucking sucks. Lmao. He really just half assed this entire project and wasted all these good beats. Smh. That’s so unfortunate. This is definitely one of the better songs so far. It’s just not good tho. It’s an okay song. The only thing that stands out is the production. Timbaland put his ASS in this beat. I’m never listening to this again. Are there any better rappers who freestyled over this shit? I need to hear someone kill this beat. Anyway, this is a decent track, but nah.

Track 7: Somewhereinamerica (Prod. Hit-Boy, Mike Dean & Hey DJ Camper)

SomwhereInAmerica

This beat is dope af. I love that fuckin’ piano melody. This is probably my favorite beat on the whole album. The entire song is just one verse. I always thought it was an okay song. Just like with the previous track, the only thing that really stands out is the production. The verse itself…

By the way, fuck your mag / You ain’t gotta count it, my nigga, I can add / 1 million, 2 million, 3 million, 20 million / Oh, I’m so good at math!

Ugh… The entire verse isn’t as lame as that line, but it’s still not really good. I kinda like this song. Mostly for the production. The verse isn’t bad enough to ruin this track tho. This song really isn’t very good, but I’m not gonna delete it. The production is just too good. This is dope. I mean, it’s not really that dope. It’s a little dope tho…

Track 8: Crown (Prod. Travis Scott & Mike Dean)

Crown

This is another song that I actually like. Again, the production is phenomenal. The first verse was dope. Jay was pretty much just suckin’ his own dick on this track, but I think he did a pretty good job with it.

Niggas always try to knock a nigga down / Knock me to my knees about a million times / Uncle said I’ll never sell a million records / I sold a million records like a million times.

I kinda wish he didn’t rhyme “a million times” with itself, but I guess that kinda shit was to be expected from Jay at this point in his career. I liked his flow on this shit. I liked the uncredited hook from Travis Scott too. Lmao. I never really noticed this, but JAY-Z pretty much just called himself God in the second verse.

Bitch asked if I was God; fuck I’m ‘posed to say? “No?”

That’s pretty funny. It’s kind of ironic since Kanye got so much backlash for calling himself a god. Jay didn’t call himself a god tho. He insinuated that he actually IS God. The song just ended. Yeah, I fuck with this track. It’s not that great lyrically, but I really like the production, and Jay’s flow was cool. This is dope.

Track 9: Heaven (Co-Prod. JRoc)

Heaven

This is the first song on this album that I don’t remember at all. Actually that’s not true. I didn’t remember F.U.T.W. until I heard it again just now. This song is starting now. I like this uncredited hook from Justin Timberlake. I’m not feelin’ this beat tho. The first verse from Jay was fine. Ugh… This is boring. I just listened to the whole song. It has two of the better verses from Jay on this album, but I just really don’t like this beat at all honestly. This isn’t good enough sonically for me to want to return to it. It’s not really bad tho. I’m just never gonna listen to it again.

Track 10: Versus (Co-Prod. Swizz Beatz)

Versus

I don’t remember this track at all. Probably because it’s less than a minute long. It’s starting now. The beat is alright. I guess. It just ended. Nah. I’m not feelin’ this one. I really didn’t like a single thing about this track. It’s just 8 bars. He’s pretty much just saying “I’m better than you.” It’s not good tho. His flow is lazy as hell. He somehow made a 52 second track feel like it was too long. This shit is wack to me.

Track 11: Part II (On the Run) Feat. Beyoncé (Co-Prod. JRoc)

Part II - On the Run

I actually love this song. I usually dislike love songs, and I’ve never liked any of Jay & Beyoncé’s previous collaborations. I think this song is fuckin’ great tho. First of all, the production is fucking incredible. I think I like this beat even more than that of Somewhereinamerica. Pianos are my greatest weakness. In fact, that Piano Tribute to Frank Ocean is actually my album of the year so far. It’s my favorite instrument. My favorite kind of song is an MC rapping over piano with no percussion. Timbaland & JRoc fucked this beat. This may end up being my favorite song on the album. Beyoncé sang her motherfuckin’ ass off on this shit. I honestly like her contribution to this song more than that of Jay. She killed this shit. I liked Jay’s verses on this shit too tho. It kinda seemed like he was getting off topic at first, but he brought it full circle when he made it clear that all the gangsta shit that he was into kinda turned Beyoncé into a badass bitch. I really don’t have any problems with this track. I love it. This shit is dope af to me.

Track 12: Beach Is Better (Prod. Mike WiLL Made It & Marz)

Beach Is Better

This is another short interlude track. It’s only 56 seconds. This beat is alright. It’s not really very memorable to be honest. It sounds like almost every other Mike WiLL beat I’ve ever heard. It’s definitely different from the other beats on this album tho. I just listened to the whole song. His flow was dope, but aside from that nothing about this track really stands out to me. It’s pretty similar to Versus lyrically. He’s just saying he’s better than everyone else. This track ends really abruptly. I don’t know. I’m not really feelin’ this shit, but it’s not a bad song. I’m just never gonna listen to it ever again.

Track 13: BBC (Prod. Pharrell Williams)

BBC

This song has uncredited features from Nas, Beyoncé, Pharrell, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake & Swizz Beatz. Nas is the only feature to get an actual verse tho. The rest of them all just kinda harmonize on the hook. The beat is dope. I actually like this hook. This really isn’t my kinda song, but I’ve always liked it for some reason. It’s just a really fun track. It just sounds like a celebration. The content doesn’t appeal to me—they’re just bragging about their wealth—but I really like this sonically. Nas’ verse was nothing special. This is probably the first time I’ve ever preferred Jay on a song. His flow was really fuckin’ dope. This song is dope to me. It’s definitely not one of my favorites, and I’m honestly not sure how often I’ll be returning to it, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.

Track 14: JAY-Z Blue (Co-Prod. JRoc & Justin Timberlake)

JAY-Z Blue

That movie sample at the beginning of this track has always been really irritating to me for some reason. I’m not really sure why. Anyway, this album got off to a really rough start, but it seems to be improving. This beat is dope af. This song is dedicated to Jay’s daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. I actually like this. I wouldn’t expect to like a song with this kinda content, but I like it a lot for some reason.

Now I’m staring at her praying that things don’t get ugly / And I’m stuck in that old cycle like wife leaves hubby / Fuck joint custody; I need a joint right now / Just the thought alone fucks with me.

Actually, I guess it’s not that strange that I like this song. It’s nice to hear a song with less shallow content. The way he incorporated Biggie’s vocals on the second verse kinda fucked me up. I wasn’t expecting that shit at all. It was cool tho. This is a really good song. The second verse focuses more on his relationship with Beyoncé, and the third verse is more about his relationship with his father. He killed the last verse. This is one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s dope af.

Track 15: La Familia (Co-Prod. JRoc)

La Familia

Oh fucking shit. This beat is dope af. I’m not feelin’ the hook. This first verse is pretty terrible so far too honestly. His flow is wack. It improves for the last few bars tho. Man… This is really fuckin’ bad. This is definitely one of the wackest songs on the album. It’s not as bad as Tom Ford, but it’s close.

My brothers is my brother like my brother is.

…I… What? What the fuck is that even supposed to mean? What the fuck was he thinking when he said that shit? Smh… This… This is fucking terrible. Honestly, this is almost as bad as Tom Ford. The only reason it’s slightly better is because of the production. This shit is still wack af tho.

Track 16: Nickels & Dimes (Prod. Hip Hop & Mike Dean)

Nickels & Dimes.jpg

This is another song that I actually like quite a bit. The beat is dope af, and I love the Gonjasufi sample too. Jay was actually rapping really well on this track. Shit… I might actually have more trouble choosing a favorite track than I had originally anticipated. I forgot how good this song is. I haven’t heard it in a really long time.

Johnny Cash; I’m a real G / I cut myself today to see if I still bleed / Success is so sublime / Gotta do that time to time so I don’t lose my mind.

Y’all already know I’m into lyrics about depression and self harm, especially coming from someone like Jay who’s normally participating in dick measuring contests. I can’t wait to finally hear 4:44. I don’t know why more people don’t talk about this song. This hasn’t really been that good of an album, but this is an obvious standout track in my opinion. This is the kinda shit I’ve always wanted from Jay, and I’m hoping to hear more of it on the next album.

Sometimes I feel survivor’s guilt / 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.

He killed this shit. I don’t have any problems with it. I really think this is my favorite track on the album. The more I listen to it, the more I like it. This shit is dope af.

Final Thoughts:

This album is not good. It’s definitely one of Jay’s worst projects, but I still think it’s better than Kingdom Come & The Blueprint 3. The production was pretty great for the most part, but Jay just sounded really lazy and uninspired on the majority of these songs. As I stated earlier, the beginning of this album was really shitty, but it definitely got a little better after the first four tracks. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I was seriously worried when this shit first started. If there were more songs like JAY-Z Blue, Nickels & Dimes, and Oceans, this would probably be one of his best records. Almost every track felt like filler tho. Even some of the tracks I liked such as Crown & BBC just felt like half assed B-Sides that should’ve been left on the cutting room floor. I’m glad I finally gave this album another listen because I really like some of these tracks, but goddamn. I hope he never makes another album like this ever again. I think it’s worth listening to if you’re a fan, but this is one of the worst possible starting points if you’re trying to get into JAY-Z. I should know since this was the first album I’d ever heard from him. This is not a good album. It’s mediocre.

Favorite Song: Part II

Least Favorite Song: Tom Ford

Verdict:

C-

50-59

Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album

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3 comments

  1. This was about the time I kinda stopped listening to 95% of modern Hip Hop. I skipped this project for the most part until 2014.

    But I do remember the hubub about Jay trying to make this whole album a “piece of art” and him working with Sprint to create an app for the promotional lead in prior to it’s release. I never used it so I can’t say too much about it.

    And about Jay calling himself a God, he had recently joined The 5 Percent Nation, due to Jay Electronica’s insistence. (Jay was even sporting the 5%ers medallion during this time).

    This album like a lot in Jay’s discography really has too much filler, I did like Picasso Baby and a couple other joints, but found it more boring than anything else (perhaps EVEN MORE boring than BP2). I’ll give this project a 6.0/10.

    Good job Nick.

    Liked by 1 person

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