All Of The Beats On Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, Ranked From Best To Worst

Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail dropped exactly one week ago today, but unless you: A) Had a Samsung Galaxy or B) Pirated the album, you weren’t able to hear it until it officially was released on Tuesday. Reactions to the album have been pretty mixed, but one thing is certain: Whatever you think of the lyrical/thematic content, Hova had a world-class lineup of producers —including multiplatinum hitmakers like Timbaland, Pharrell Williams, The-Dream, and Hit-Boy— cranking out beats for him to lay down verses over. So, which of these producers were responsible for the LP’s most memorable beats? Let’s break it down.

Before we get started, a bit about our methodology: Three members of the VH1 Tuner team—myself, Felicia Daniels and Emily Exton—each filled out a ballot ranking the beats on the album’s 16 tracks from best to worst. It’s worth noting that we completely ignored the lyrical content of any given song, which includes any verses that guest artists like Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, and Justin Timberlake and made to the album; our focus was purely on the production of the tracks. The ballots were then collected, tabulated, debated, and cemented in stone. Here are the results, from worst to best!!


16. “La Familia” (produced by J-Roc & Timbaland) – There’s a reason that this track was buried in the fifteenth spot of the tracklist.

15. “Beach Is Better” (produced by Mike Will Made It) – Even Jay-Z got tired of this beat; he capped this song off at 56 seconds.

14. “Versus” (produced by Timbaland) – This Timbo interlude shows a smidge of promise at its outset, but it fails to develop in any sort of meaningful way over the song’s 52 seconds.

13. “F*ckwithmeyouknowigotit” (produced by Boi-1da, Timbaland & Vinylz) – There’s a haunting feel to this very minimalistic number, but it appears that Boi-1da saves his best beats for Drake.

12. “Picasso Baby” (produced by Adrian Younge, J-Roc & Timbaland) – This track is built around a sample of Adrian Younge’s downright funky song “Sirens,” which first appeared on his 2011 joint, Something About April. That song is hot fire, but neither J-Roc nor Timbaland did much to spice it up. The track, which Jay-Z performed for 6 hours straight yesterday, switches gears around the 2:30 mark; sadly, the guitar riff sounds like something Jay discarded while working on “99 Problems” with Rick Rubin.

11. “Crown” (produced by Mike Dean & WondaGurl) – This song captured the fancy of bloggers everywhere because it was developed by the 16-year-old female wunderkind WondaGurl. We applaud her for scoring such an impressive credit at such a young age, but truth be told, we feel like her best beatmaking days are ahead of her.


10. “Oceans” (produced by Pharrell Williams & Timbaland)“Oceans” is definitely one of the five best songs on the album, but not because of its beat. There’s another Pharrell and Timbaland co-production on this album that we’re over the moon for, but not this one…

9. “Part II (On The Run)” (produced by J-Roc & Timbaland) – Snooooooooooooooooze.
8. “Heaven” (produced by J-Roc, The-Dream & Timbaland) – Now we’re starting to get to the good stuff! “Heaven,” much like “Picasso Baby,” is built around an engaging Adrian Younge sample. (It’s pretty clear that his LP Something About April is in heavy rotation at the Timbaland household.) This time around, though, J-Roc, The-Dream and Timbaland add a few stylistic flairs —spoken word sections, additional percussion— to an intriguing section of “Reverie,” elevating it as a whole.

7. “Jay Z Blue” (produced by J-Roc & Timbaland) – Things really get interesting right off the bat here with an out-of-left-field Faye Dunaway sample from the 1981 camp classic, Mommie Dearest (“NO! WIRE! HANGERS!”). When you add Jay trading words with the late Notorious B.I.G. in the song’s second verse, you have the makings of a really memorable track.

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