Jay-Z‘s heavily anticipated 12th album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, dropped a little less than 12 hours ago. It is not currently available for purchase at any of the “normal” outlets (think iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc.), but if you have a Samsung Galaxy and/or any profiency at using search engines, it’s there for the listening. Its 16 tracks clock in at 59 minutes and 4 seconds, which means there’s a lot to digest here. We’re not in any rush to judge the album until we’ve spent at least 24 hours with it, but here are the five tracks that stood out to us over the course of the three spins we’ve given it so far today:
“Holy Grail (feat. Justin Timberlake)”
In a strange twist, the first voice you hear on MCHG is NOT Jay-Z’s; rather, it’s that of his fellow Legend Of The Summer, Justin Timberlake. Over a somber and sparse piano beat and some of the “Yeah!”s made famous on Lana Del Rey‘s Born To Die LP, Timberlake bemoans his inability to “crack the code” of a “cold” woman in his life for the first 79 seconds of the track. At that point, the song’s beat —courtesy of The-Dream and Timbaland—kicks in, and Jay enters the scene. His verses consist mainly of him complaining about the overwhelming pressures of fame (“The bright lights are enticing/But look what it did to Tyson,” he’s got “psycho bitches in my lobby”), so much so that he references the most test case of the negative ramifications of fame from the last 25 years: Kurt Cobain. Hov twists the lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” slightly (“And we all just entertainers/And we’re stupid, and contagious), but thankfully, doesn’t sound like he’s ready to give up on the world.
This song seems poised to be the first single off the album and, as such, is weirdly downtempo, especially when compared to the lead single off Jay-Z’s last album, 2009’s The Blueprint III. Of course, that song was “Empire State Of Mind,” an anthem that Hova conciously does not try to replicate at any point on this album. Justin and Jay’s contributions to “Holy Grail” don’t entirely fit, thematically, and as such, we don’t see this song having the kind of lasting impact that “Empire” (or even “Run This Town”) had.