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Jay Z
- Magna Carta… Holy Grail

Magna Carta... rightly stands as some of his finest work.

Cam Findlay

Jul 18th 2013 | Label: Universal
Well, it's quite obviously “epic statement on the industry/self-importance through music” season right now. There's Yeezus, of course, and now Magna Carta... Holy Grail. Both Kanye and Jay have become larger than themselves now; whatever they release certainly will have some overarching association with music in general. So, then, Hov has had to break through that visage, and has. Magna Carta... rightly stands as some of his finest work.

I'll try to avoid too many associations with Yeezus – suffice to say that where Kanye has delved into whacked-territory, Jay is happy working in the dank New York alleys you know him from; thick, heady beats back-to-back with bursting orchestral arrangements frame his verses. Picasso Baby is as self-indulgent as you would expect it to be, but still thrills; Ocean throws Frank Ocean's soulful croon against Hov's street-level rhymes; Versus is classic G-Funk writ neon and huge. There's even a '90s throwback with the R&B groover Part II (0n The Run), where he counterparts with Beyonce herself. Somewhereinamerica is a highlight: an epic album-splitter that addresses the American dream as well as Hov can.

Jay-Z was never going to escape the fact that the brand is bigger than the man, but that hasn't stopped him. Instead, Magna Carta... Holy Grail is a strange dichotomy between the usual “bitches'n'hoes” braggadocio and some weird, post-modern view of where music is going (his current “art” mindset notwithstanding). But it just works. It's as good as The Blueprint or The Black Album – maybe even better – while being current and, it has to be said, entirely emblematic of the often-bizarre entanglement between media and personality we see with artists like Jay-Z.

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