Jay 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
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?
-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3