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.
This week's new sets include tunes from Wavves (our Album Of The Week), Mercury Rev and Trivium, plus releases from locals Cold Chisel and Philadelphia Grand Jury.