Lists, Pop Culture

The One Where I Write About Magna Carta Holy Grail

JayZ_MagnaCartaHolyGrail_608x608Jay just released Magna Carta Holy Grail. Or at least he released it to Samsung phone owners and the rest of us got it from them. I’d like to say its an interesting album but it isn’t. In fact, by my estimation, it is his worst album.

Yes. I said it. His worst album. That’s not to say its a terrible album. A mediocre Jay album (Vol. 3, Blueprint 3, Kingdom Come) is still going to have some straight up gems on it…though rarely does he perform any songs from those albums. It’s just wildly underwhelming from both a lyrical and a production standpoint. In fact, I feel like nobody involved in this effort put their best footz forward. MCHG is what happens when a bunch of very accomplished, very rich, very talented, bored people get together to make an album because well, that’s what accomplished, rich, talented people who make music do.

I’m very sure many people will love this album. And that’s aces. The good thing about  Jay album is that it still maintains its cultural significance of being a thing. The idea of a Jay album is possibly more important than the output at this juncture. Same thing with Yeezus, at least Yeezus took risks and you keep listening despite telling yourself there’s no reason to. Timbaland stated this in a recent interview about MCHG and I was like, “yes honey chile boo boo…” Except I totally didn’t.

Anyway, after multiple (and I do mean multiple) listenings of MCHG since Thursday, here are 10 thoughts I have about Jay and the album:

1) Jay-Z truly needs a muse. Kanye West is Jay’s muse. While I felt like Jay-Z was also bored on Watch The Throne, at least he sounded like he was having fun and enjoying the moment. Kanye is a motivator for Jay. As somebody who has done everything one can do in hiphop, Jay needs somebody hungry to put a battery in his back. Kanye is forever hungry. Kanye is a battery. Jay feeds off his energy and its evident on everything they’ve done together.

2) MCHG = Rich Bored Nword Music. Real spit, I feel like this is the album that Stringer Bell would be listening to once he achieved whatever the f*ck he was trying to achieve had he left the dope game with his economics books and samurai swords and swanky downtown apartment with modern art and clean lines. Well, you know, if he ain’t catch a bad one at the hands of Brother Mouzone and Omar. And if that’s a spoiler for you, I feel sorry for your mother. It’s music created by rich bored nwords for rich bored nwords.

3) MCHG is basically Kingdom Come 2. KC was an album that people listened to then stopped listening to altogether. Nobody that most of us know as listened to KC in at least five years. It was full of pseudo attempts at depth and social relevancy (the gawdawful “Minority Report” specifically) and faux metaphorical depth like “Beach Chair”. Though I really did like “Beach Chair” but that’s mostly because I like telling people that life is, indeed, like a beach chair. Nobody will be listening to this album in a year. Hell, I know folks who have forgotten JT released an album recently and that sh*t Ricky Martins.

4) Jay-Z only seems to make good songs with Beyonce when they are on her albums. Thus far, he’s striking out with Bey songs on his albums, and “Part II” is no exception. “Upgrade You”? F*cking rocked. “Hollywood”? Not so much.

5) Hearing Jay sound so bored and lazy lyrically is a thing of wonder. The words are there. The flow is there. But for some reason, it just sounds like he’s saying what he’s supposed to say because, what else would Jay-Z say? One knock against Jay has always been his lack of diversity of subject matter. Now generally that doesn’t matter because if you do one thing that much better than everybody else, and you keep doing it better than everybody else, on super dope production, nobody has anything to complain about. But when you lose a step lyrically – even if you’re still on your grizzly just not as grizzly as before – and the music isn’t as exciting as its been in the past or as exciting as other music out, you end up making MCHG, an effort where the most exciting part of it is the marketing campaign. Case in point, “Pop That” made French Montana sound good. Don’t read too much into that sentence.

6) The marketing campaign was brilliant. Totes. “I’m not a business man, I’m a business, man…” And I’m exciting to see these artists cut out the middle men. Timbaland alluded to this in his REVOLT interview where he lauded that this is Jay’s best album (wrong) when he mentioned that he has one album left for Interscope then he can do something similar. Take the music directly to the public without the companies. Brilliance.

“…love to see young Blacks get money…” ~Dr. Dre

7) I also like how often Jay likes to reference Jean-Michel Basquiat. Hopefully he urges some young folks to look into the man’s work for educational purposes. This brings up an interesting tangent. I was remarking earlier today that I’ve learned more about fashionable brands and high end boutiquery via hiphop than anything else. I’m not sure what this says about me. But it’s possible that it says that I drink moscato because I like it. I don’t. It’s possible that you’d assume this about me. And I’d have to understand. I don’t like moscato at all by the way. Sh*t tastes like distilled Kool-Aid. Not that I’d never heard of Basquiat before Jay and Kanye decided to make him their cause or anything. I’m cultured. I pull up to the gallery with my ceiling missing.

8) I feel sorry for Ice Cube. If Ice Cube had released two more solid albums into the mid 90s, he’d definitely be in the conversation for GOAT. But he released shit like War & Peace. And now nobody remembers that for a solid 4 years Ice Cube was the scariest ninja alive AND the best rapper period. Socially conscious. Angry. Mobilizing. A brilliant wordsmith and storyteller and able to put together great albums. Oh, what does this have to do with Jay? Well luckily, Jay waited until he was almost 20 years into the music game to start making forgettable albums. Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius.

“…you’re a white guy and you make tacos like a Mexican…”

I just wanted to write that line.

9) The fact that Rick Ross sounds more believably convinced of his own excesses on “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt” is not lost on me. He also sounds better on the song than Jay. This bothers me. I’m not sure what to do with this information but there’s a really good chance that I’ll just sit down with a crumpet, dip it in a delicious jam or jelly and scratch my pinky toe with salmon. Don’t judge me. It’s possible.

10) It might really be time for Jay to hang up the gloves. I mean, hell, it WAS time after The Black Album. But at this point, rapping is just one of the many things we know Jay does. He seems more popular for his mere existence and other endeavors. He’s possibly the only other rapper aside from Kanye who can maintain complete hip-hop relevance without releasing another album. That is how you know you’ve made it.

Those are my thoughts on MCHG and Jay right now. And because you care and its important, here’s my ranking of Jay’s studio albums (non-collab joints):

1. Reasonable Doubt

2. The Blueprint

3. The Black Album

4. American Gangster

5. Volume 2

6. Volume 1

7. Blueprint 3

8. Dynasty (does this count? I think we consider this a Jay album)

9. Volume 3

10. Kingdom Come

11. Blueprint 2

12. MCHG

So, have you heard MCHG? Thoughts? Should artists continue to art sh*t if its totally clear that they’re not nearly as invested as they used to be (this could be me calling the kettle black, btw)? How would you rank Jay’s discography?

Welcome back.


Filed Under:
Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future.

  • Frankly

    ….the dynasty at 8? hmmm… I know it was more commercial…but stilllllll…maybee its because i became “hiphop concious” when it came out.

    “Pop That” made French Montana sound good. Don’t read too much into that sentence”

    I really think folks are tone death. No you kno what its not that. People hear his voice, and because its a good voice, they expect good shit to come from it. And its like they’re waiting and still waiting for the verses to come. Like he’s gone kill it without putting a pen to pad. Soon folks will figure out all he has is a bunch of grunts,, unh’s and recycled ass lyrics. But i think didfy might give him the boot before.

  • Todd

    Not even. It’s amazing that he’s cool with Mos Def, yet hasn’t went along with that formula. He’s managed to get heavy rotation without pulling a cooning act. The thing is I’m not sure Talib Kweli would *like* heavy radio rotation. He comes off as one of those too-cool-for-school cats.

  • Guest

    I think most rappers know they won’t be interesting unless they keep with current trends. Soulja Boy, to his credit, carved out a nice little rachet niche for himself back in like 2005 or so. Everyone might not have liked it but he found success with it. Recently he’s been floundering around trying to latch himself on to the most recent phase of sh*tty cadence rapping a la Chief Keef and Lil Wayne. If it’s what is trendy now, most microwave rappers want to cash in. Jay-Z doesn’t need to do that but he could if he wanted to because he’ll pretty much have always have this unspoken “Veteran Pass” that affords him the opportunity to “not be so serious”.

  • Perverted Alchemist

    The problem I have with Jay is that he follows trends and acts as if he sets them. What the hell?!

  • panamajackson

    I agree with this. Jay’s lane has never been innovation. It’s just being better and more interesting as a rapper at that braggadocious shit than everybody else. And he’s been better than everybody else for a long time.

  • Perverted Alchemist

    Too many long ass songs, though- way too many, LOL!

  • Perverted Alchemist

    “I’m struggling to think of 10 best concept albums in hip-hop.”

    I’ll help you with this one:

    De La Soul – De La Soul Is Dead
    The Roots – Undun
    Lupe Fiasco – The Cool
    Public Enemy – Fear Of A Black Planet
    Nas – Untitled
    Ice Cube – Death Certificate
    Boogie Down Productions – Sex And Violence
    Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
    Prince Paul – A Prince Among Thieves
    Sticky Fingaz – Black Trash: The Autobiography Of Kirk Jones

  • Bunni

    Man listen, so long as JT works with only Timbo and Pharrell, I’m good. Justified and Future Sex are both excellent in my opinion, so I couldnt place one above the other…I just dont think JT would ever flourish with any other producers….

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