Jay-Z has everything and he’s not ashamed to brag about it again on his 12th release Magna Carta Holy Grail. He’s rich as fuck: “A million sold before the album dropped / White Lexus before I had a deal.” He’s married to Beyoncé: “My baby momma harder than a lot of you niggas.” He has swag: “Leonardo Da Vinci flows / Riccard Tisci Givenchy clothes.”
Unlike Kanye West, his protégé and collaborator who pushes his music into uncharted territories, Jay can’t get beyond his comfort zone. As a result, even his most clever drug tale in “Picasso Baby” sounds staled: “Let’s make love on a million, in a dirty hotel / With the fan on the ceiling, all for the love of drug dealing.” On the other hand, his silly punchlines turn out to be quite witty like, “Fuck hashtags and retweets, nigga / 140 characters in these streets, nigga,” and “When I was talking Instagram / Last thing you wanted was your picture snapped.”
Beside the bravado as usual, the strongest moment comes up in “Oceans.” With Frank Ocean covering the hook, Jay rhymes about cruising on his luxury yacht while reflecting on the slave ships. Here’s one of Jay-Z’s brilliant wordplay: “On the holiday playing “Strange Fruit” / If I’mma make it to a billi I can’t take the same route.”
With Timbaland laying down infectious productions (for the most part), MCHG is an enjoyable listening. While Jay-Z’s gifted flow is unmatchable, his lyricism has yet to reach the personal level since The Black Album. Other than “Jay-Z Blue,” in which he shows his affection for his daughter, he uses wealth and success to mask his true feelings.