Music review: Jay-Z 'Magna Carta Holy Grail'

Published: July 12, 2013
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Jay-Z ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail' (Roc Nation)

If he has not reached it already, Jay-Z will probably surpass $1 billion net worth in his lifetime, and it's on his mind: “If I'mma make it to a billi, I can't take the same route,” he raps on “Oceans” from his 12th studio album, “Magna Carta Holy Grail.” This is a successful and gifted man with a beautiful house and a beautiful wife, but there is hardly any “How did I get here?” soul searching, no exploration of the possibilities beyond what can be bought.

An existential exploration of having the world truly become your oyster could resonate as strongly as the anthems of bad streets and good fortune that punctuated his ascendant years, but “Magna Carta Holy Grail” is as shallow as a Fendi pochette.

Without a clear demonstration of thoughts beyond trivia and acquisition, Jay-Z winds up blowing out pristine but hollow tracks like “Picasso,” which reduces fine art to name brands.

His legendary gift for rhyme composition even feels out of whack on “Oceans,” which skims some weightier territory (the BP spill, the slave trade and “Strange Fruit”) but puts him above it all, dropping puns on a yacht, surrounded by an azure paradise.

Speaking of puns, Frank Ocean pops in on the hook of “Oceans,” but guests distract rather than enhance on “Magna Carta Holy Grail.” Beyonce totally upstages her husband amid the stately piano and bass drops of “Part II (On the Run)” — this Bonnie and Clyde ballad doesn't land because Jay-Z is too busy with the sweet life, “chucking deuces, chugging D'usse,” to get his hands dirty.



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