It’s perhaps too easy to compare Magna Carta… Holy Grail to Yeezus. Beyond the two men being the pillars of modern hip-hop (and these records being their first solo work since Watch the Throne), Jay Z practically demands comparison when he describes himself as a god or mentions listening to “Strange Fruit” (prominently sampled on Kanye’s latest).
Comparing the two albums doesn’t do Mr Carter any favours. Whether or not you like Yeezus, it’s hard to deny that it feels vital, with personality and purpose. Magna Carta… Holy Grail has neither. This is a product, another business venture from a man with everything, born of contentment rather than passion.
The album isn’t terrible, but it’s utterly forgettable. At his best, Jay Z is a force of nature, an earthshaking icon. His best album – the often-imitated, never-matched The Blueprint – was almost bereft of guest stars. Here, the best tracks leave Jay Z as a guest star on his own album, whether he’s supporting Frank Ocean on “Oceans,” Justin Timberlake on “Holy Grail” or Rick Ross on “FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt.”
As part of an Android promotion, Samsung invested a lot of money into this album; it’s a shame that Jay Z wasn’t equally invested.