Today in Hip-Hop: Jay-Z Drops ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ Album
On this day, July 4, in hip-hop history...
Announced during a Samsung commercial during the 2013 NBA Finals, Magna Carta is a project that saw Hova team with the electronics company for one of the most unconventional rollouts in rap history. On July 4, the LP, which marked album No. 12 for the Roc Nation founder, was made available as a free download for Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy Note II owners after they secured the official Magna Carta app.
Recorded between 2011 and 2013, the 16-track LP finds an even more corporate, mature Hov who's more focused on defining Black excellence and reflecting on the dimensions of fame ("Holy Grail") than returning to the dark streets of the Marcy Projects. Magna Carta carries the Afrocentric vibes of Jay and Kanye West's Watch the Throne joint album as Hov jumps into newer, more ostensibly classy flexes.
"I don't pop Molly, I rock Tom Ford," Hov raps on the album, evoking the acclaimed fashion brand on the hook for his futuristic, Timbaland-produced single, "Tom Ford."
While the high-level flossing on Magna Carta is abundant, Shawn Carter still finds time to dive deep into the dimensions of Black existence as a means to contextualize his status in the world's upper-echelon.
For every bit of wealth discussed on the LP ("FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt"), there are conversations about the nature of being Black and rich in America ("Oceans"). While Hov shot the video for "Picasso" in an upscale museum, he spends most of the song explaining why his music deserves to be in one. With a clever Mona Lisa reference, he also finds time subvert Eurocentric beauty standards.
With Jay-Z's iconic brand name and production from Hit-Boy, Pharrell, Timbo, No I.D. and Boi-1da, Magna Carta was always going to be a massive success. As should have been expected, the LP ended up debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It moved 528,000 units within its first week of release. All in a day's work for Mr. Carter.
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