First Impressions of Jay-Z’s New Album, ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’

Thursday, the 43-year-old rapper released his 12th solo studio album “Magna Carta Holy Grail”. The album became available at one minute past midnight on July 4.

“Magna Carta Holy Grail” references Kurt Cobain’s suicide, discusses Jay’z love-hate relationship with celebrity and talks about the continued legacy of the slave trade. Photo Universal/Facebook

In his new album the rapper who has everything — sales, fame, cars, clothes, fine art, corporate clout and an equally famous wife, Beyoncé — has started to wonder what it’s all for.

On Jay-Z’s new CD, he questions his faith in God, curses the emptiness of most entertainment, admits his terror at the prospect of becoming a bad dad, and identifies with the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll suicide, Kurt Cobain’s.

Maintaining his monumental hubris, Jay-Z unveiled the album cover at Salisbury Cathedral in England, alongside a somewhat more historic document: one of the four extant copies of the original 800 year old Magna Carta.

The framed art-work – which depicts two black-and-white statues – will be on display until the end of the month, and the Cathedral setting will surely have his God-complex mate Kanye “Yeezus” West kicking himself he didn’t think of it first, reports the Mirror.

The Dean of Salisbury, the Very Revd June Osborne, said she was “delighted” that the rapper had arranged for the collaboration with the Cathedral and added “the ideals the Magna Carta embodies are still relevant today and with Jay-Z, through his album.”

Through a scheme with Samsung, Jay’s new music became available at one minute past midnight on July 4 to 1 million of its phone users who downloaded a special app.

Even though, many Samsung users were left without the album they were expecting, but like all LPs Magna Carta found its way onto the radio and the Internet via pirated links that were shared in the early hours after midnight on Thursday.

Actually, Jay-Z did make a pretty good Magna Carta.

In his new songs, Jay-Z boasts his usual boasts; he praises how “special” his flow is, and he compulsively lists acquisitions, destinations and celebrity pals. But the album also tell a different story: less vainglorious, more ambivalent.

The 16-track trip begins to unravel with the Justin Timberlake-assisted “Holy Grail.” Remarkably dissimilar from the groovy “Suit & Tie,” the Legends of Summer new collab doesn’t inspire dance moves as much as it does deep thought and emotion.

There are plenty of moments on Magna Carta Holy Grail that recall past Jay-Z works, and the crunching bass and metallic synth shakes here are immediately reminiscent of 1998’s So Ghetto .

The rapper quotes Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the opening track, sings a line of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” on a magnificent song called “Heaven.”

The closest thing to a pop song on “Magna Carta Holy Grail” is “Part II (On the Run).” It features Beyoncé, in creamy lead vocals and breathy harmonies, trading verses with Jay-Z about fugitives finding romance.

According to the LA Times review, the best sample on the album, by far, occurs on “Jay Z Blue,” a song that name checks Blue Ivy, the rapper’s daughter. The clip is from “Mommie Dearest,” the Joan Crawford biopic starring Faye Dunaway as the unhinged starlet. The use of two samples from the movie adds levity to an otherwise touching and insightful song about parenthood.

Tuesday, the music becomes available to all, at which point it will become a platinum seller by definition.

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