The Rolling Stones of Rap

With Magna Carta … Holy Grail, Jay-Z drags hip-hop into its post-youth period

By Steven Hyden

Article Reprintts 77

From the moment it was introduced via a handsomely filmed three-minute commercial that first aired during Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Magna Carta … Holy Grail was one of the most hyped albums of 2013. Which actually means it was over-hyped, as there’s no such thing as just the right amount of hype. Hype is commonly understood to be sound and fury signifying nothing; in the case of MCHG, the noise was supplied by Jay-Z’s promotional and distribution partnership with a smartphone company. The wave of ads that followed packaged MCHG as an uncomfortable dichotomy of touchy-feely artistic pretension and cold-blooded corporate cynicism — a brazen display of greed disguised as a noble act by a visionary game-changer. But no matter the album’s gaudy and annoyingly glitchy big-business baggage, Magna Carta … Holy Grail truly is unique, even unprecedented.

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