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CD review: Jay-Z’s ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’


Magna Carta Holy Grail (Universal)

I want to love Magna Carta Holy Grail, Jay-Z’s 12th studio album, following the grandiose Kanye West-collaboration album Watch the Throne from 2011. But it’s hard to listen without thinking West’s influence rubbed off on Jay, and not the other way around. The hubris, the oversimplified instrumentals, the guys-I’m-still-hip! references — specifically, the phrase “major fail” on the album’s closing track, “Nickels and Dimes,” and the reference to Miley Cyrus’ alleged twerking abilites on “Somewhereinamerica.” Too often, it feels like Jay can’t decide whether he wants to be the money-bathing corporate entrepreneur who sometimes raps or the hungry young gun trying to create a cheap single with chants and keywords, as evidenced by the irrelevant and nonsensical “I don’t pop Molly/I rock Tom Ford” from “Tom Ford” (to say nothing of its Nintendo trap beat).

The old HOVA shows up once in a while. “F.U.T.W.” shows the lyrically jackhammering 20th-century Jay-Z, a beacon of light in a sonic quagmire. But it’s not enough to save the record. I’ll listen to this for the same reason I’ll listen to Waka Flocka Flame — I’m drunk.