Jay-Z is a man who wears many hats. He is a partial owner of an NBA team, owner of Roc-A-Fella Records and husband to Beyoncé. However, the two roles that have made him the successful man he is today are those of producer and rapper.
Jay-Z has been in the rap game since 1996 when he released “Reasonable Doubt,” and he has been a key player in hip-hop and pop culture ever since. Using his expertise in business and marketing, as well as his music skills, he has made waves in the industry once again with the release of “Magna Carta… Holy Grail.”
Controversy sparked with the release of Jay-Z’s latest record because it was released on July 4 for free to the first 1 million users of a smartphone app that was only available to owners of a Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note II. Because of those 1 million digital downloads, the album was certified platinum before it even hit store shelves on July 9. Even without counting those downloads, “Magna Carta… Holy Grail” sold 528,000 copies in the first week, surpassing Kanye West’s “Yeezus” by more than 200,000 copies.
Musically, the record is a great continuation of Jay-Z’s work from “The Great Gatsby” soundtrack and his studio work on “Watch the Throne” with Kanye West. This new album offers an introspective view into the mind and life of the new father and his many different ventures and personal interests. The album opener, “Holy Grail,” begins with a beautiful hook delivered by Justin Timberlake that sums up the feeling of the entirety of the record within a simple chorus. Other high profile collaborations on the record include Rick Ross, Frank Ocean, former rival Nas and his wife Beyoncé.
Another interesting aspect of the record is Jay-Z’s usage of borrowed lyrics from popular 1990s artists R.E.M. and Nirvana. “Holy Grail” features part of the refrain from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, and “Heaven” features portions of the refrain from “Losing My Religion.” The use of these lyrics adds an almost cryptic, chilling vibe to the songs.
The record does a spectacular job of flowing from track to track. Every track is interesting and offers a new or unique element to the record. Beats and production work are high quality and provide the proper grooviness to the album. Some of the introductions to the tracks seem a little weird at first, but once the meat of the song comes in, everything comes together.
My favorite tracks on the album are “Holy Grail,” “Tom Ford” and “BBC.” These three tracks are incredible and will help give the record the radio presence it needs to stay relevant longer. Songs like these are what will make “Magna Carta… Holy Grail” the outright winner over “Born Sinner” by J. Cole and “Yeezus” by Kanye West this summer. Cole and West are great, but Jay-Z wins this round by a long shot. It’s not just the quality of the record, although it is incredible. Jay-Z changed the game and the rules of the game by releasing it the way he did. His marketing and entrepreneurial genius will always put him on top.
When it comes to quality of the record, Jay-Z goes above and beyond. He matched what I believe West did with “Yeezus,” and so this record receives 4.5 stars out of 5. If I could rate marketing quality, the record is a solid 5.
Joseph Wenberg is a junior in journalism and mass communications. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.