First things first. The man is now to be known as Jay Z, no longer Jay – Z (hyphen be gone!). Apparently it is the details that are important, or it could be read as a statement from a man so egotistical that he feels how his name is written is important enough to announce to the world. It is with this self awareness of self and courting of the media that Magna Carta Holy Grail arrives and from opening track ‘Holy Grail’ seems to announce itself as a condemnation (of sorts) of the celebrity life with all its trappings. Throughout the whole album Jay raps like an egotistical monster, Fuck it I want a billion/ Leonardo Da Vinci Floors constantly referencing being bigger, badder and better than he is now, calling it an addiction from which there is seemingly no escape. Naming songs after designers (‘Tom Ford’) and with royal references (‘Crown’) only serves to further blow an already inflated ego to astrological proportions. He drops brand names like they are going out of fashion and makes celebrity references as he was endorsed by them. Then again this is Jay Zʼs world. He is surrounded by the glitterati, the elite of Hollywood, supreme athletes and the hottest musicians. Add to that the fact that he is married to superstar Beyonce who lends her vocals to track ‘Part || (On The Run)’. Missy Elliott and Frank Ocean all feature on the album too as does Justin Timberlake. He even manages to mention daughter Blue Ivy.
It is an album which could only come from man at the top of his game, a man who has built such an empire that he can now boast freely about it. But it seems there is discontent in his tone and he is tired of that lifestyle. It is because of that empire that he has so assiduously built, that the music suffers. It now seems like he produces music due to obligation rather than passion. There are no immediate stand-out tracks on MCHG, no tracks that set the world on fire. It is certainly not a poor album, the production is slick (as you would expect from Timbaland) but there is really nothing new here, nothing that pushes the boundaries. Sean Carter seems to have gotten too comfortable running an empire that now there doesnʼt seem to be anything of any worth to rap about. Sure he raps about the celebrity lifestyle but he courts it so much it is hard to feel any sort of empathy for him. When he rapped about dealing drugs in the street there was a weight of emotion and truth that came through the song hooking the listener. There is at least some of that same sentiment towards the end of the album when he shares his concerns about fatherhood, but it is too little too late. As an album it is far more whimsical and flimsy than his other outings, then again on a commentary about the celebrity lifestyle maybe that is the point? Jay Z die hards will love it but in attracting new fans I think he will fail. I guess heʼs got to fail at something.