Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail, his latest album, is dividing music and hip-hop critics. While some feel the boastful bravado of the rapper is fresh and fun, others find his over-the-top references to wealth and fame empty and leaving much to be desired. The album was released Wednesday for Samsung Galaxy users, but will be officially released July 9 for everyone else.
The 16-track album features a slew of collaborations, including Justin Timberlake, Rick Ross, Nas, Frank Ocean, and Beyonce. There are also loads of big-name producers like Timbaland, Pharrell, Swizz Beats, and Boi-1da. Although the album was only released to the 1 million Samsung Galaxy users who downloaded Jay-Z's app- many users reportedly faced difficulties, though- critics couldn't wait to weigh in.
"The breadth of his subject matter- which also touches on family, loyalty, spirituality and fame- is matched by his lyrical acuity," Steve Jones wrote for USA Today. "His perspective is that of someone who has achieved much but hasn't lost sight of what brought him to this point."
Some critics gave the album positive reviews. Jim Farber of The New York Daily News noted Jigga's "fun, witty boasts with some introspection" while Rob Markman of MTV highlighted the "thoughtful commentary and societal observation." Still other critics were far less kind, expecting more from someone who calls himself "the god MC."
"Jay-Z's lyrics, however, ping-pong between great to serviceable, clever to unforgiveable," Jeff Rosenthal wrote for Billboard. As he and others pointed out, there's a vibe of "too cool-dad" with some of the references- a particular one to Miley Cyrus on "Somewhereinamerica" had some critics cringing- along with the mid-life issues of "Jay-Z Blue" and "La Familia."
Alex Macpherson of The Guardian seemed very disappointed with the album, writing that Hova is "the sensible dad trying to keep up with Kanye's loose-cannon son," and that MCHG is "one of Jay-Z's most unremarkable albums."
"Jay-Z devotes his attention to justifying his wealthy for what feels like the thousandth time of this album," Macpherson continued. "It's one of the reasons it's starting to drag: whereas Kanye West's Yeezus was certainly flawed, it was a statement of intent that kept me interested in West … But there's little on Magna Carta that I haven't heard from Jay-Z before."
"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," agreed Randall Roberts of The Los Angeles Times. "For Jay-Z, this object … is nothing but a fancy cup, one notable only because it's the Most Awesome Cup in the World, and only he can drink from it."
The deluge of negative reviews about the album hasn't seem to dissuade Jay-Z fans, who seem intent on both defending the hip-hop icon and purchasing the album once it becomes available.