By @SpeedontheBeat

...sigh. Let's see who gets pissed off with this one. I swear that's not my intention. Never has been.

In 2013, after the hip-hop-meets-F. Scott Fitzgerald abomination known as The Great Gatsby released (seriously, the Andre Royo-manned G was just about a better rendition of the book--and that's saying something), Jay Z (the en dash was removed by Carter himself around this time) announced he signed a monumental deal with Samsung. What this meant was this: Samsung would end up buying about 1,000,000 copies of his new album Magna Carta... Holy Grail in order to gain first dibs on the album's release on July 4, 2013. When the album dropped, it was met with mixed reviews. So, as usual, when there's doubt about a project, that's when I come in to answer the now-infamous question: was it really that bad?

In a word, yes.

Now, it wasn't exactly bad for Jay Z not really being a person your average listener could relate to. Jay's been on that level for years. I mean, hell, not many people can relate to "balling so hard [that] motherfuckers wanna fine [them]." Not too many people have full access to Basquiat paintings in their house (that are the originals). And not too many people have been former dope boys who've ascended to be astute businessmen (for the most part). So, that's not my main gripe with the album. But, plain and simple, MCHG's sound is excess personified times 1000. It's an album that people not only cannot relate to, they're borderline insulted by the fact that the album plays more like he's rubbing his wealth in the average listener's face.

It's supposed to play like this classic work of art, this grandiose celebration of wealth and not having to struggle and whatnot. That's indicated by the sculptures on the cover and the majestic nature of the intro track "Holy Grail." But, most of that luster, that appeal, it's knocked off when Jay starts rapping. It's a celebration of wealth, but it's almost to the point of "my God, Hov. Will you stop your gloating? We get it!" It's like listening to a more lyrical version of those Shiny Suit Raps we had back in the day. Tons and tons of you-can't-afford-this namedropping replaces lyrics of substance. And when Jay talks about the "rags" part of his story, it's damn near unbelievable at this point. It comes off more like that kid who's trying to be thugged out when you know good and damn well that he's from the "nice part of town" and any semblance of hustle he's had to do was eons ago.

Jay Z, when it comes to technical ability, still has it. But, he's lost one in terms of his ability to string songs and lyrics together without becoming a walking billboard. And it's not even an issue of "niggas want my old shit, buy my old album." Again, Jay hasn't been on his "old album" tip in years (and the quality of some of his more-recent albums has shown this). It's an issue of a once-great wordsmith reducing it down to "look at how much extravagant shit I've got! Look at it! Oh, you're not looking? Well, lemme get in your face, brashly and boldly, and force feed it to you." In his progression, he runs the risk of completely becoming an artist who's borderline unlistenable due to ad nauseum extravagant mentions over actual substance in his lyrics.


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