Last night the Internet hiccupped as Jay-Z had his coronation at midnight by way of his Magna Carta Holy Grail. HOV’s new album, named after the charter that limited the powers of the monarch in 13th Century England, is also arguably one of the most heavily promoted albums of the 21st Century. The hip-hop world stirred as a seemingly random three-minute commercial aired during Game 5 of a very heated NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, which pitted the New School against the Old School players in a test of two different but effective basketball styles.
The commercial was quite the teaser. Featuring four of the producers of the album: Rick Rubin, Pharrell, Timbaland, and Swizz Beatz, the commercial introduced unheard beats and a partnership between Jay-Z and Samsung, in an initiative that would change RIAA Platinum Certification rules regarding digital sales. Jay-Z reportedly inked a $5 million deal with Samsung to release one million copies of Magna Carta on July 4, to fans who download the app that was only available through Google Play. With iPhone users finally feeling left out, Jay-Z built the suspense for this album with regular app content for those Samsung users. Lyrics were revealed, exclusive content regarding the making of certain tracks, until finally a picture of two Magna Cartas was released.
Jay-Z’s album will be on display at the Salisbury Cathedral, right next to one of the surviving copies of its namesake, throughout the month of July.
This may seem like a lot of ‘hooplah’ for a rapper that retired in 2003. However, HOV has proved that he has no plans to quit and he has brought a star-studded production cast with him on his way to the top. This RIAA-Platinum release may add to the decoration of one of Jay-Z’s homes, but it does something else as well.
The Magna Carta Holy Grail release almost begs a comparison to “little brother” Kanye West’s self-dubbed Yeezus release, an album that many agree did not live up to expectations. West traveled the world to work with producers like Rick Rubin and others in creating his album. In the Samsung commercial, Jay-Z dons a sweater that almost taunts “Go Home,” a Brooklyn Nets cap, and the NYC projects as the backdrop.
The Holy Grail is a lost chalice of religious importance, the vessel used by Jesus Christ to serve wine at the supper before his death and ultimate resurrection. Likewise, Magna Carta Holy Grail can symbolize the death of Yeezus, at least in the eyes and ears of hip-hop heads.
It is almost as if Big Brother decided to shake the genre back into place, rapping “Don’t forget America, this [is] how you made me” on “Picasso Baby.”
Though Kanye West has somehow become something of a hip-hop monarch, this Magna Carta resembles its namesake in that it offers a professional and elaborate rescue effort to the genre by curtailing the Chief Keefs, the 2 Chainz, and even in many ways, the Kanye West’s. On “Tom Ford” he suggests “Fix your head in my crown.”
Jay-Z is willing to share The Throne, but Magna Carta Holy Grail makes it evident that he plans to stick around. As Article 45 of the Magna Carta says: “We will appoint only men that know the law of the realm and are minded to keep it well.”
And no Kanye West feature? Shall we call you Yudaz?
I will end with an excerpt from an MTV article by James Montgomery:
To be fair, it’s been apparent for a few years now that Kanye and Jay are walking very different paths — just look at the roles each of them played on Watch The Throne — yet never have those differences been more apparent than in the lead-up to their respective albums. Yet despite all that, it’s clear that Yeezus and Magna Carta, both aim to push hip-hop to new places, be it gallery spaces or Galaxy phones … and, really, that’s what great artists always strive to do, even if they do so in wildly dissimilar ways. Who benefits? The fans. And phone owners. And, most of all, hip hop. After all, what other genre can play host to two massive, magnanimous stars, each operating at opposite ends of the same spectrum? It’s inevitable evolution, and it’s fascinating. The artist and the business man, together, even though they’re miles apart.
“Magna Carta.” Internet History Sourcebooks Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 July 2013. <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/magnacarta.asp>.