"Magna Carter... Holy Grail" is the twelfth album by Brooklyn emcee Jay-Z. The album features guest appearances from Justin Timberlake, Nas, Beyonce, Rick Ross, Frank Ocean and others as well as production by Timbaland, Pharrell, Boi-1da and others. The album was released on July 4, 2013 via Roc-A-Fella Records.
1) Holy Grail (featuring Justin Timberlake) - The album kicks off with a sung intro that features Justin Timberlake singing over some soft piano keys which slowly build up to a crazy Timbaland instrumental. The beat has a ton of energy, with rich pianos, rapid-fire hi-hats and deep bass. Jay-Z is spitting pretty well on here and rhymes about the cost of being famous:
"Now I got tattoos on my bodyThe beat switches up to be classic Timbo about halfway through Jiggas final verse. This song is really dope and I can see it being a huge radio hit seeing how Justin is all over the radio right now. Nice.
Psycho bitches in my lobby
I got haters in the paper
Photo shoots with paparazzi
Can't even take my daughter for a walk
See them by the corner store
I feel like I'm cornered off
Enough is enough
I'm calling this off "
2) Picasso Baby - The beat on this track, also produced by Timbaland, has some ill keyboards over head-nodding drums. The beat is energetic and Jay-Z rips it, spitting about everything he wants in life but on an epic scale. He isn't satisfied with a casa, he wants a castle. The beat switches up after the second verse and becomes a hard ass loop that is probably one of the best beats on the album. I believe it's an Adrian Younge sample. Regardless, this shit is fire.
3) Tom Ford - Timbaland returns with an electronic, synthesizer heavy banger that is full of his signature sound. The beat is crazy, with layers of keyboards coming in from everywhere. He has been really hit or miss with these kind of instrumentals in the past, but this is a hit. Lyrically, Jay-Z just comes ok on this track. His flow is on point but he isn't really saying much. Beyonce shows up for some ad-libs at the end of the track. Dope.
4) FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt (featuring Rick Ross) - This track begins with a nice Pimp C sample as the bass and synths slowly build up behind him. After that, the full instrumental kicks in and it doesn't disappoint. The beat, provided by Boi-1da, is dark with some crazy keyboards and booming 808s. Jay-Z and guest Rick Ross spit about their money and power and such. I'm not a huge fan of Rick Ross, but he sounds pretty good on here. Dope.
5) Oceans (featuring Frank Ocean) - According to Jay-Z, this song is all about dualities, which is immediately apparent from the chorus by Frank Ocean. He sings about celebrating while spilling some champagne into the same ocean that his ancestors were brought over from Africa in slave ships on. The beat, by Pharrell Williams, has a breezy feel to it, but is intense at the same time. Jay-Z sounds pretty dope on here, but isn't spitting anything mind blowing. Still, this is nice.
6) F.U.T.W - Timbaland is back with a spacey instrumental that has some synth chimes, subdued vocal samples between verses and deep bass. Again, Jay-Z is flowing nicely on here, but isn't saying much lyrically outside of his usual braggadocio rhymes. This is really good, but its still not one of the best songs on here so far.
7) SomewhereInAmerica - Hit-Boy comes through with a crazy piano-based instrumental that has some background horns that will probably get your head nodding a bit. The instrumental is energetic and has a nice lighthearted feel to it. Jay-Z spits about his money stacks, but a few of the lines are just terrible:
"By the way, fuck your mathBleh. I did find the references to Miley Cyrus twerking at the end funny though. Not bad.
You ain't gotta count it my nigga I can add
1 million, 2 million, 3 million, 20 million
Oh, I'm so good at math"
8) Crown - The beat on this track, courtesy of Travis Scott, Mike Dean and WondaGurl, almost has a trap feel to it, but it builds up and expands its sound to epic proportions after the first verse. The instrumental is layered with keyboards, pianos, distorted vocal samples and window-shattering 808s. Jay-Z raps about how he is hip-hop royalty and even mentions signing Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees to his Roc Nation Sports company. Gotta admit he does have a lot power in multiple industries. Anyways, this shit is pretty ill.
9) Heaven - Timbaland returns with a dope instrumental that almost sounds like something I would have been bobbing my head to in the 90's. The beat is banging and Jay-Z actually spits quite well on here, using a bunch of religious and 5 Percenter references to explain how ill he is.
"Arm, Leg, Leg, Arm, Head, this is God bodyThis is pretty dope, but I feel like his flow is a tad off in spots. Still, I'm feelin this track.
Knowledge, wisdom, freedom, understanding
We just want our equality
Food, clothing, shelter, help a nigga find some peace
Happiness for a gangsta, ain't no love in the streets"
10) Verses - Timbaland is killin it with the beats on this album. The instrumental on here is nuts, with a classic Timbo feel to it, but Jay-Z comes somewhat weak over it. This song is actually more of an interlude than a song since its under a minute long. This could have been fire if Jay-Z had come harder over the beat. Oh well. I do like the Tribe Called Quest reference though.
11) Part II (On the Run) (featuring Beyonce) - The beat on this track, provided by Timbaland, has some lush instrumentation and subdued synths over mid-tempo drums. Jay-Z and wife Beyonce rap/sing about their relationship and the supposed criminal elements of it. I can definitely picture this blowing up on the radio if Jay-Z decides to release it as a single. The song is just ok for me though since I feel like there are much stronger tracks on here.
12) Beach is Better - This song begins with a crazy noise that sounds like I just killed Magus in the SNES classic "Chrono Trigger" or something before the bass hits and the full instrumental begins. The beat, by Mike Will Made It, has a trap feel to it but its pretty ill. Jay-Z just spits a few mediocre bars on here though. Like "Verses", this track is more of an interlude than a full song since its under a minute long.
13) BBC (featuring Pharrell, Nas, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland) - The beat on this track, courtesy of Pharrell Williams, has a lighthearted, carefree vibe to it. The instrumental is trademark Pharrell/Neptunes and features some cheerful pianos over bouncy drums. Only Nas and Jay-Z spit verses, with the rest of the guests providing the crazy chorus. Nas sets it off lovely
"Bally shoes, Gucci sneakersThis is pretty good, but I was honestly hoping for more given the lineup.
Pharrell's a pharaoh, peep the features
Top of the world like pyramids in Giza"
14) Jay-Z Blue - Timbaland is back with another dope instrumental. The beat has a mellow guitar and cinematic strings, giving it a breezy feel. Jay-Z spits about his dedication and strive to be a good father for his daughter Blue Ivy. He is definitely flowing his ass off on the third verse. I was very surprised to hear Jay incorporate a few Biggie lines on this song....not in Jiggas own voice but in Biggies. While the sample kind of pulled me out of the track for a moment, it turned out kinda dope.
15) La Familia - Timbaland has really impressed me with his production on this album so far, and this track is no exception. The beat is ill, with a distorted guitar and some upbeat drums. Jay-Z starts off this track spitting a few barbs at Lil Wayne:
"Niggas wanna kidnap wifeyThe lyrics aren't terrible, but I'm not really feeling his flow on here in some spots. Eh, this song is just OK for me.
Good luck with that bruh
You must gonna hide your whole family
What you think we wearing black for?
Ready for that war
Ready for that war ready
You ain't ready yo, you radio
You ain't really ready"
16) Nickles & Dimes - The final track on the album is produced by Kyambo Joshua and Mike Dean and its fire. The beat is just beautiful and Jay-Z rips it. The instrumental is not overpowering and it lets Jay-Z shine a bit. Mike Dean has to be one of the most slept-on producers in the rap industry, having contributed dope music to a wide variety of rappers from Devin the Dude to Kanye West. This might be one of my favorite tracks on here. Great way to end the album.
I'm going to rate the album
3.5 / 5
because its really dope, but does have a bit of filler. Almost every beat on the album is crazy, with the best beats coming from Timbaland (who was usually hit-or-miss on Jay albums in the past). Jay-Z himself sounds pretty good for the most part, but there are a few spots where his flow seemed off to me. Lyrically he isn't really saying much, save for a couple great verses here or there. Still, the album comes together nicely despite the lack of mind blowing performances by Jigga.