REVIEW: Magna Carta… Holy Grail – Jay-Z

Jay-Z - Magna Carta Holy GrailJay-Z
Magna Carta… Holy Grail
 Roc-A-Fella / Universal; 2013

Score (Potholes In My Blog scale): 3.5 / 5.0

Click over to Potholes In My Blog — the god of online indie rap criticism — to read my take on Jay’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail.

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Growing Pains: Jay-Z’s In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 Turns 15

The good folks at Potholes In My Blog occasionally run retrospective pieces on the milestone anniversaries of landmark albums. They asked me to do such a piece for Jay-Z’s sophomore LP, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, which turns 15 today. Click here to read my thoughts.

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DOWNLOAD: “Something is Happening Here” – Spekulation

Click image to D/L.

There actually is something going on here. It’s a remarkable alchemy between the rugged flow of area MC Spekulation and legendary folk-ster Bob Dylan. Here, Spek interpolates Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man” into rapped commentary on today’s multimedia-consumed culture. I think Robert himself would be please with the results.

Spekulation showed us his knack for crafty mash-ups (actually, call them “virtual collaborations”) on the previously released Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em (get it here), a reworking of Jay-Z vocal tracks with new, original backing by The Jason Parker Quartet.

Watch for Spek’s self-titled EP dropping on 1.10.12.


REVIEW: Watch The Throne – Jay-Z & Kanye West

The danger in scribbling down a hasty review of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne, especially for a writer who is quick to react to the bellow of so-called “significant” pop music projects like this album (tentative raised hand), is that said writer might immediately be taken by the triumphal calls of a track like “Lift Off” which, upon first listen, glistens with an orchestral rap radiance befitting such a pair of pop icons, when, in reality, the track is just a jumble of overwrought synth bloat, a wasted Beyonce cameo and lame half-sung half-rapped auto-tuned nonsense. On the other hand, the danger in waiting for the gold and platinum dust to settle before writing about the album is that one could be swayed by the reviews that came before, especially the negative ones accusing Jay and West of recklessly indulging themselves in their fame and excess, thereby further diluting hip-hop’s greater meaning within the mainstream context. So what’s a writer to do? I suppose some comfort can be taken in the old proverb about history ultimately determining the legacy of its people, places and things. It’s impossible to tell now if Pop Music will canonize Watch The Throne, but if there’s one thing this critic has gleaned from listening to the record at least a dozen times in succession, it’s that it’s much more fun to deliberate over the question than it is to actually listen to the music. And that alone should tell you something about this project…

(Click here to continue reading at SSG Music.)

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READ THIS: Jay-Z Launches “Life + Times,” a Lifestyle Blog

Click image to view Life + Times.

Life + Times is a new lifestyle blog, curated supposedly by one Mr. Shawn Carter. Launched yesterday afternoon, it looks like the emcee might finally be taking a cue from 206UP.COM and expanding his presence into the World Wide Web. Go on young ‘un, someday all that hustle might just pay off.

Read This

DOWNLOAD: Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em – Jay-Z feat. Spekulation & The Jason Parker Quartet

#LatePass. I overlooked this drop admittedly because it appeared to be yet another Jay-Z mash-up. But after some light email prodding by Spekulation (the homie responsible) and after reading a couple other local writers’ opinions (which I hold in high esteem), I finally listened last night.

Can’t say much that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll just relay the same: Spek’s production value and attention to detail are on point, right down to the album’s intro that samples Hov joking with the crowd on his Unplugged album. And now the local jazz musicians responsible for the sonic backdrop, The Jason Parker Quartet, have a nice hip-hop feather in their cap.

If you’re on the fence about downloading this, I’ll make the decision  easy for you: do it.


VIDEO: “Decoded: Jay-Z in Conversation with Cornel West” (NYC Public Library)

Reason #1,265 why living in New York City is so f-cking dope: nights like the one last at The New York City Public Library when the incomparable Shawn Carter shared a stage for nearly two hours with the inimitable Dr. Cornel West. They discussed artistic process, the cultural significance of hip-hop, and just humanity in general. Jay’s long-awaited memoir/lyrical compendium, Decoded, provided the catalyst for their meditations which went far beyond a cheap marketing opportunity which it was never in danger of becoming with the Good Doctor West in the house.

These gentlemen are probably my two favorite living celebrities today and I was dying to attend this event. Alas, it was sold out, but the whole thing was streamed live and still available to watch in its entirety. Click the photo below for the link.

Photo courtesy MTV