Pop Culture

Why I Can’t Really Get Into Magna Carta…Holy Grail

***The Champ’s latest at EBONY explains why Jay-Z’s new album has left him underwhelmed***

“With a household net worth of a billion dollars, MCHG is the first solo album where Jay-Z is actually the person he’s always rapped about being. When he raps “Basquiat in my kitchen corner/Go ahead lean on that shit Blue, you own it” and “Surrounded by Warhols/my whole team ball” on “Picasso Baby”, these aren’t colorful fabrications from a kid showing how far his imagination can stretch or even the truth-bending claims of a moderately successful rapper insecure he’s not bourgie enough. This is a man who can actually afford Basquiat bath mats and Warhol toilet paper.

From a technical standpoint, this is actually one of Jay-Z’s better albums. His subject matter and production is as complex and diverse as it’s ever been, and his flow hasn’t lost any of its signature effortlessness. Aside from his perfunctory forgettable track with his wife, nothing on MCHG is skip-worthy.

Yet, if I had to rank favorite Jay-Z albumsMCHG would finish last. As stated earlier, Jay-Z’s main draw has always been how good he was at convincing you he’s as rich as he currently is. But now, when the person finally matches up with the persona, the persona ceases to be as compelling, and the music ceases to resonate. The level of cognitive dissonance needed to be a serious rap fan is no longer necessary when listening to an album made by a person who no longer has any need for hyperbole. After at least a dozen listens, there’s no doubt Jay-Z is the only rapper who could have made MCHG. Unfortunately, there’s also no doubt that MCHG is the only album this Jay-Z—a maven salesman with nothing left to sell—can make. It’s not elevator music as much as it’s music made by (and for) people with elevators in their homes.”

Read more at EBONY

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Sahel

    Nuclear Bombs dropped by Champ

  • disqus_4HhNohm6ve

    It’s funny because, if you believe Forbes, Jay’s been able to afford this lifestyle for many albums. You just believe it now? Is “real life” rap only enjoyable when it’s someone broke rapping about the projects?

    Either way, you can’t let an artist’s persona – or real life – dictate the art or how you enjoy it. I know marketing works and the persona – whether it’s a rock and roll crazy chick like Rihanna or drug dealer turned rich rapper like Rick Ross – is part of the package, but we’re old enough to know better. I don’t “look up” to Jay-Z the way I did LL Cool J, though I like their music the same. I don’t aspire to be Jay-Z as an adult the way I did LL Cool J as a kid. The artists personas shouldn’t be dictating our music choices like they did as youngins. If the music is good it’s good. That’s why I’m glad fans didn’t just abandon Rick Ross when his CO past was revealed. That man has made some of the best music in the past few years and we all know every drug line is complete BS. Music is imagination. Now if you’re saying Jay has gotten lazy and doesn’t have the same drive or fire in his music because he’s attained it all, that’s one thing. But if you’re saying you don’t get to fantasize about his life or enjoy him being a poser the way you used to because you know it’s real, that’s crazy.

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