Today is the 4th of July, but it’s unlikely that hip hop fans will be able to declare their independence from listening to Jay-Z‘s just-released album Magna Carta Holy Grail. From his own joints to the Justin Timberlake collaboration “Holy Grail” to the pair-up with wife Beyonce on “Part II (On The Run)” — not to mention the all-star cut “BBC,” which features JT, Bey, Nas and Pharrell — Hova’s 12th studio album proved to be a creative labor of love for the New York MC.
So what do the critics think about Jay’s latest? Does it rank up their with his best? Early reviews are slowly beginning to trickle in. We’ve gathered some below, and will add to them as the Internet continues to have its say.
:: USA Todaysays the “music was more than worth the wait,” and adds, “With platinum status guaranteed even before his album goes on sale July 9, he could have just mailed it in. But he stays on top, because he refuses to do anything less than epic.”
:: VIBE went straight to Twitter to roundup up listener reviews, including this one: “I’ve had this #MCHG thing on replay for the last 5 hours! I want my life back!”
:: Fortitude notes the following: “This album is a throwback to Jay-Z’s past in the sense that he actually discusses his rise to fame all those years ago as well as it being a throwback to the old-school Jay-Z of the early 00′s and late nineties.”
:: The New York Daily News feels Hova has evolved since entering his 40s: “Jay’s long track record of hits may have emboldened him to go deep this time. Lyrically, it seems like he’s trying to live up to a famous rap from 2003′s The Black Album, in which he admitted, ‘If skills sold, truth be told/I’d probably be lyrically Talib Kweli.’ In other words, he’d become more a conscious rapper than a blinged-out one.”
:: MTV points out the album’s staying power: “It all sounds great, but subsequent listens uncover thoughtful commentary and societal observation, lending to the album’s replay value.”
:: Metro is annoyed at Hova’s holy aspirations: “…it’s interesting to note the hypocrisy of a person who sings about the pitfalls of fame, who nevertheless orchestrated the release of his new album with the masterful PR-precision to maximise his stardom. But in the end, it’s still just a rap album by a multimillionaire who lives a lifestyle so far removed from the people who will buy it that this façade of being a beacon of free speech just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. And let’s not forget that Indiana Jones fought Nazis to get to the Holy Grail. Much tougher than releasing a rap album.”
:: Nor is the Los Angeles Times impressed: “The lyricist also juggles names: Over a 16-song album that could have been cut to a dozen, Jay namedrops Julius Caesar, Pablo Picasso, Lucky Luciano, Mark Rothko, Billie Holiday, Jean-Michel Basquiat (and his graffiti alter-ego SAMO), Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson and the Mona Lisa. He rhymes ‘Leonardo da Vinci flows’ with ‘Riccardo Tisci Givenchy clothes.’ But to what end? Other than to amaze us with his opulence, good fortune and undeniable skills, the answer is elusive. Despite its name, Magna Carta Holy Grail seems unconcerned with delving too deeply into either the democracy or the faith that the two objects symbolize.”
:: Perhaps the Telegraph delivers the most damning review: “…last month, the guerilla release of the brilliant and demented Yeezus by Jay-Z’s former protege, Kanye West, played out a revolution in mainstream hip hop. The record was so thrillingly fresh and frightening that you could smell the fear and sweat, the hunger and adrenalin. By contrast, Magna Carta… is strangely odourless and oblivious to the challenge.”