Magna Carta... Holy Grail

Magna Carta... Holy Grail

Released in 2013, Magna Carta... Holy Grail finds Jay in the throes of middle-aged success: He’s a parent now (a life he details on “JAY Z Blue”), and has opened his portfolio to the worlds of art and high fashion (as evidenced on “Picasso Baby” and “Tom Ford”). At times, the spatter of makes and models on Magna Carta... Holy Grail is so dense, it sounds like he’s reading a barcode (“BBC”). But you also sense him riding the thrill of being a Black man in conventionally white spaces—not just the boardroom, but the auction house, the Hamptons. And while this is an album that celebrates the lush life, Jay’s got too much soul to forget where he came from. The history that once stopped with Biggie and the Marcy Projects now leads back to slave ships (“Oceans”) and to the diamonds that once symbolized his wealth—but that now symbolize the African soil from which they were stolen (“Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit”). Still, Magna Carta is ultimately a high-end product about a high-end existence. It’s an album in which luxury cars warp into timeless sculptures, and the beats—gleaming, mechanistic, and borderline avant-garde—have the worked precision of watch brands most people don’t even know exist. Can you relate to JAY-Z’s life on Magna Carta... Holy Grail? Probably not—but he shows you how to celebrate it.

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