Magna Carta Holy Grail

Album Review of Magna Carta Holy Grail by Jay-Z.

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Magna Carta Holy Grail

Jay-Z

Magna Carta Holy Grail by Jay-Z

Release Date: Jul 4, 2013
Record label: Roc-A-Fella
Genre(s): Rap

56 Music Critic Score
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Magna Carta Holy Grail - Average, Based on 27 Critics

HipHopDX - 80
Based on rating 4.0/5
80

Jay-Z finds himself in a strange place artistically in 2013. The signs were there in 2007, when Jay reverted to coke rap on the excellent American Gangster. While doing so was a response to lukewarm reception to 2006’s comeback album Kingdom Come, Jay more reverted to the same territory on 2009’s The Blueprint 3 and 2011’s Watch the Throne. Though Kanye West’s presence on the latter allowed Jay a bit of latitude to work some social commentary, Throne was hardly a departure from the Jay-Z we’ve seen for much the past decade.

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Exclaim - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

It's hard, or pretty damn near impossible, to discuss Jay-Z's 12th studio album without mentioning the unprecedented deal brokered between the superstar MC and Samsung to distribute it. While the bemusing incongruity of Jay-Z instructing Miley Cyrus to twerk has dominated early reactions to the Hit Boy-helmed "Somewhereinamerica," the song is also notable for its numerous references to the smartphone deal. In Jay-Z's world, as he's often proven in the past, the tension between art and commerce isn't one to problematize or balance; in his mind, it represents a logical and necessary synthesis.

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Paste Magazine - 66
Based on rating 6.6/10
66

It’s not that people hate the super-rich; it’s that they don’t like the isolation that being super-rich signifies. One rap catchphrase of the moment is “no new friends.” Complacency is the new 30. As my colleague Al Shipley pointed out on Twitter, Jay loves to haze new producers, squeezing under a minute of current MVP Mike Will Made It in for “Beach Is Better” without letting him trademark-tag the intro with his name.

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The Observer (UK) - 60
Based on rating 3/5
60

On the first four listens it's the varied production – the sinuous work of Timbaland, in the main – that really elevates Magna Carta Holy Grail beyond the usual Jay-Z document. But tune into Jay on the surprisingly vexed topics of fatherhood (Jay-Z Blue, with its unlikely sample of Mommie Dearest) and charitable giving (Nickels and Dimes, with its even more unlikely sample of Gonjasufi) and suddenly the concerns of this Magna Carta feel a lot less old hat. .

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New Musical Express (NME) - 60
Based on rating 3/5
60

One-upmanship has been part of hip-hop since the first mic got passed to the second hand, but this, surely, is a golden age. Kanye West set the bar high when he named ‘Yeezus’ and, just to show he really didn’t give a fuck, stuck it out in a blank CD case. How do you go about topping that? Oh, I don’t know, thinks Jay-Z, how about an album title referring to the 13th century document that enshrined in law the individual’s right to freedom from despots, multiplied by the cup that collected Jesus’ blood as he was speared on the cross? Packaged in a sleeve apparently created in five minutes by someone with only a rudimentary knowledge of MS Paint? That ought to do it.

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AllMusic - 60
Based on rating 6/10
60

Like few other album openers, "Holy Grail" encapsulates what follows it and reflects a particular point in an artist's career. It's a vigorous if not particularly moving track, principally produced by Timbaland and J-Roc, which expresses bewilderment and conflicting emotions about rising from poverty to opulence. The first of a few early-'90s references is made -- the chorus of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is quoted -- and Jay-Z is as triumphant and as troubled as ever.

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PopMatters - 60
Based on rating 6/10
60

If Jay-Z likes to think of himself as hip-hop’s Michael Jordan—and he does—then Magna Carta… Holy Grail is Hov’s decision to join the Washington Wizards. The set is everything Mike’s return to the hard court was in 2001: Heavy on gimmicks, low on consequence and just good enough to pass as a reasonable effort from a guy who can’t do much at this point to tarnish his legacy. Odd, for someone who has spent so long perfecting a craft he once proclaimed chose him (and not vice versa) on 2003’s The Black Album.

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Rolling Stone - 60
Based on rating 3/5
60

Jay-Z is richer than God, and probably about as famous. He headlines the hugest rock festivals, parties with Warren Buffett and, thanks to an unprecedented business maneuver, his 12th solo album went platinum before it even came out. What could he possibly have to complain about? Plenty, it turns out.

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PopMatters - 60
Based on rating 6/10
60

Magna Carta… Holy Grail isn’t going to stop being divisive any time soon. That much I think we can say with certainty. Opinions on just about every moment on this record appear up for grabs, in part thanks to a engagingly distracting marketing plan involving Samsung and #newrules. One of the #newrules #TeamHov seemed to overlook in this increasingly bizarre release strategy is that, by cutting a majority of one’s rabid fanbase out of the zeitgeist moment, you invite a torrenting typhoon.

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RapReviews.com - 60
Based on rating 6/10
60

Jay-Z :: Magna Carta... Holy GrailSamsung/Roc NationAuthor: Grant JonesGive me a CD any day. Smart phones and digital downloads are brilliant and incredibly convenient, but it took me hours to get this Jay-Z app working on my Samsung Galaxy phone. For those of you sleeping under a Roc, Jay has partnered with Samsung to offer his latest album FREE to the first million consumers that manage to download a certain app.

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Consequence of Sound - 58
Based on rating C+
58

What was Jay-Z thinking the first time he heard ?I Am a God?? I?m interested to know not just because Kanye West is Shawn Carter?s one true protégée, but also because Jay-hova, of course, was supposed to be the original god MC. Even though he does refer to it more than once here as ?the magnum opus,? no one expected Magna Carta Holy Grail (MCHG) to turn out comparable to Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint, or The Black Album, beyond the fact that it?s a Jay-Z album. It definitely didn?t wind up on the same sonic level as Yeezus, an album that puts MCHG to shame in terms of grandiosity and experimentation.

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Pitchfork - 58
Based on rating 5.8/10
58

Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne was introduced by Frank Ocean parsing the respective qualities of gods and kings. Two years later, both rappers have new solo albums that expound on the distinction. Kanye infamously proclaimed “I Am a God” on Yeezus; you could either gape in awe or call it heresy, but you couldn’t doubt his conviction. And just as the brutal and blasphemous Yeezus is true to its title, Magna Carta…Holy Grail offers a jumbled juxtaposition of the regal and divine-- hear Jay-Z gasp “You in the presence of a king/ Scratch that, you in the presence of a god” on “Crown”.

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Entertainment Weekly - 51
Based on rating C
51

Set in a dilapidated Veterans Administration hospital, Article 99 may be the first medical melodrama that isn’t about dedicated physicians performing life-saving acts of valor. It’s about dedicated physicians not performing life- saving acts of valor: Their hands are tied by the crisis in veterans’ health care — the calamitous lack of funding, the red tape, the increasingly prevalent policy of refusing to cover conditions (such as heart problems) that aren’t directly related to military service. To function as doctors, the movie’s heroes have to become outlaws in their own hospital.

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Entertainment Weekly - 51
Based on rating C
51

Set in a dilapidated Veterans Administration hospital, Article 99 may be the first medical melodrama that isn’t about dedicated physicians performing life-saving acts of valor. It’s about dedicated physicians not performing life- saving acts of valor: Their hands are tied by the crisis in veterans’ health care — the calamitous lack of funding, the red tape, the increasingly prevalent policy of refusing to cover conditions (such as heart problems) that aren’t directly related to military service. To function as doctors, the movie’s heroes have to become outlaws in their own hospital.

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Drowned In Sound - 40
Based on rating 4/10
40

As I type, the story of this album has already passed into folklore. As much a production of corporate whoredom, as of Timbaland and his catalogue of beats, Magna Carta… Holy Grail marks a turning point. Not only for hip hop's hitherto unchallenged monarch, but for the genre itself. Saying that the deal with Samsung was yet another cynical nail in the crumbling coffin of hip-hop would be too obvious.

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Tiny Mix Tapes - 40
Based on rating 2/5
40

Being the esteemed businessman/business… man that he is, you’d think Jay-Z would have mastered the art of the sales pitch — especially when he’s taken such great lengths to convince us that his latest album is the stuff of legend. A brief recap: the famous rapper announced the July 4 release of Magna Carta… Holy Grail during Game 5 of the 2013 NBA Finals, in an unusually long, unashamedly self-congratulatory commercial. Samsung bought a million copies of the album, at around $5 apiece, to release on the holiday via an exclusive Smartphone app (sorry, Apple dorks).

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NOW Magazine - 40
Based on rating 2/5
40

Given the hype and icky Samsung pre-release, expecting greatness from Jay-Z's 12th album is reasonable. But instead of the cohesive mastery of Reasonable Doubt, the godly flow of Vol 2... Hard Knock Life or the insta-classics of The Blueprint, we get eclectic but undaring tracks by too many producers in Jay-Z's much-rapped-about kitchen. The glut of competing elements never quite gels on opener Holy Grail, and by the third time Justin Timberlake's drawn-out hook comes in, the song's been going on way too long.

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musicOMH.com - 40
Based on rating 2
40

The bad taste Watch The Throne left in many listeners’ mouths was not so much a function of the mediocrity of the content itself, but instead of the awful timing of the album. Almost the anti-Occupy Wall St, Watch The Throne was a borderline morally irresponsible, braggadocious display of wealth during economic depression. And one from two of hip-hop’s biggest and most talented stars who were trying to sell rather than trying to provoke intelligently.

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Slant Magazine - 40
Based on rating 2.0/5
40

Jay-Z last truly great effort, The Black Album, was a retirement-announcing showcase that was perhaps too effective, signaling an end to the then-regnant MC's peak period. As for his post-faux-retirement period, it's significant that the strongest of the bunch hasn't been one of his self-congratulatory blowout spectacles, but the relatively unassuming American Gangster, an off-the-cuff project apparently motivated by the artist's kinship with the Ridley Scott movie of the same name. Flush with genuine inspiration, it stands out above Jay's higher-profile releases, which qualify as either shiftless and embarrassing (the fiasco-ish comeback Kingdom Come, undoubtedly his worst recording to date) or morbidly fascinating (the wildly uneven Blueprint 3, one of the clearest instances of a midlife crisis committed to tape.

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XXL
Their review was positive

As much as Kanye West might’ve wanted Yeezus to be the cultural high water mark of the summer, even he can’t compete with the sheer magnitude that accompanies every Jay-Z release. And while Yeezus garnered plenty of headlines for its marketing rollout, only Jay could game the system to the point that the RIAA changed their policies, sending his twelfth album to Platinum status even before it was released on Samsung phones on the Fourth of July. #NewRules indeed.

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Los Angeles Times
Their review was positive

It's possible to pare down the gist of "Magna Carta Holy Grail," the 12th solo studio album from New York rapper/businessman/new dad Jay-Z, to three simple words uttered in a track called "Tom Ford." "I'm so special," declares the rapper, 43, and anyone who stayed up late Wednesday night to hear the record, issued first through a computer app available only to owners of a particular brand of smartphone, isn't in a position to argue. He's the man who can sell a million records with a minion's flip of a switch. This is a modal window.

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The Line of Best Fit
Their review was generally favourable

Jay-Z has spent entirely too much time with Kanye West lately. Thing is, Jay-Z called himself god way before Kanye West did. In fact, when he proclaimed himself a deity, Kanye was just an up-and-coming beatmaker who – fittingly enough – produced the very song on which Jay made that very declaration. Yet when Jay asserts half way through Magna Carta Holy Grail, that “You in the presence of a king / Scratch that, you in the presence of a god,” it comes off as disingenuous as well as incredibly awkward.

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Pretty Much Amazing
Their review was generally favourable

opinion byDREW MALMUTH “Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.” While it is becoming less defensible to criticize musicians for embracing commercialism, criticism is due when one of the best purveyors of hip-hop comes to embody commercialism more so than he does music. The way Jay-Z released Magna Carta... Holy Grail – by teaming with Samsung, selling a million copies before the album was even released, and releasing it via a specialized app – is troubling not because it was heavily commercialized, it's because the marketing process turned out to be more thoroughly thought out than the majority of the album's lyrics.

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DIY Magazine
Their review was only somewhat favourable

The PR campaign for Jay-Z’s twelfth album, ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’, was steeped in contradiction. Projecting his album art next to the 798-year-old document the album was named partially after, Jay-Z tangentially legitimised his greatness by an appeal to traditional authority. In the same breath, he relied on the modern authority of Samsung to ensure that his album would go platinum by default.

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The New York Times
Their review was only somewhat favourable

The mood swings are wide and sudden on “Magna Carta ... Holy Grail,” the 12th solo studio album by Jay-Z. This rapper who has everything — sales, fame, cars, clothes, fine art, corporate clout and an equally famous wife, Beyoncé — has started to wonder what it’s all for. “Magna Carta ...

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The Quietus
Their review was highly critical

If Jay-Z didn't want his new album to be compared to Kanye West's, then he should have picked a less attention-seeking release date. The grandly titled Magna Carta… Holy Grail suffers from the comparison, but would have felt stale and unlovable regardless of when it hit shelves. In fact, it arrives first as a Samsung app that wants access to your phone calls, and the commercial tie-in means this thing was set to go platinum before anyone heard a note.

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Fact Magazine (UK)
Their review was negative

Jay-Z’s released a fair amount of average material in his time. For every Reasonable Doubt in his catalogue there’s a Kingdom Come, and generally speaking this is something that Jay-Z fans are fine with. He releases too regularly to smack it out the park every time, but he’s so easy to listen to and so natural at making hits that even the weaker records are enjoyable, even if it’s just on the basis of a couple of bangers.

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