After causing an unprecedented buzz a few weeks ago with a marketing campaign that was as indelible as it was game-changing, Jay-Z’s latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, dropped late Wednesday night in a huge way. Remember that one bit about a million Samsung users getting early access to the album via Android app? Well, that same million strong contingent caused a few technical difficulties within the app and it’s downloading capabilities last night. The result was a large number of frustrated Samsung faithful left unable to catch their first listen of the album long after the initial early release. Count me as one of those Samsung users who didn’t quite get the behind-the-velvet-rope treatment when it came to the exclusivity of hearing the album before everyone else. But I guess that could just be attributed to how monumental Jay-Z’s marketing tactics for MCHG was in terms of effective and instant results. Hours later, I finally was able to download the album and had a few quick observations from a first listen.
First off, the whole experience of having the Magna Carta Holy Grail album at your fingertips at any time (because let’s face it, our smartphones have become extensions of ourselves nowadays) via the app provides an air of convenience and uncommonness that Jay-Z nails in his attempt flip the music industry on its head. As for the music itself, the high expectations that were brought on by the viral marketing campaign, laundry list of who’s-who in music producers and collaborators, and the usual confidence everyone seems to have in Jay delivering on every release, were for the most part, lived up to. Sonically, the 16-track body of work is a striking journey through a variety of tempos and musical layers that capture the regal essence of Jay-Z’s status of being top dog in the game. Although having contributions from the likes of Pharrell, Timbaland, Hit-Boy, Swizz Beats, and Mike WiLL Made It does pretty much ensure that Jay was going to knock it out the park on this release anyway.
The most important question ultimately is: How does Magna Carta Holy Grail stack up next to the Reasonable Doubts and Blueprints of Jigga’s catalog? While I sincerely say that MCHG does sniff the rare air of greatness that the aforementioned albums occupy, it eventually will rest at flying a little below their stratospheres. But don’t get it twisted, this latest offering from Jay-Z really is quite good in its own right, and conclusively lives up to the hype that surrounded its release.