“I Did It My Way”: Black Excellence According to HOV on Magna Carta Holy Grail

 

magna_carta_holy_grail_coverJay-Z’s last album Magna Carta Holy Grail dropped at the peak of summer 2013 and is often looked at as “Eeehh” and criticized by many as not meeting his standards compared to his previous work.

It might just be the Jay-Z stan in me but I can’t see how you can deny Magna Carta Holy Grail. This album not only set the tone for a summer dedicated to rap releases, with Yeezus, The Gifted, and Born Sinner dropping around that time, but also brought out a side of HOV that embodied black excellence. Magna Carta Holy Grail represents when dope boy dreams turn into a rich reality. We all know Jay-Z’s come up story of bricks to billboards and grams to Grammy’s and this album is a representation of the end results.

A song like “Oceans” perfectly shows HOV’s ode to black excellence. (It also happens to be my favorite.) This track is a celebration of how blacks were once brought to America as slaves, overcame and are now able to voyage the same waters on big yachts. Jay-Z is a black man living the American dream and doesn’t forget his roots.  He also emphasizes this idea on another song ,“FUTW,” while also encouraging to bring out the best in other black men.

“After that government cheese, we eating steak/ After the projects, now we on estates/I’m from the bottom, I know you can relate”

In this song, he also calls out for other blacks to reach a similar pinnacle of success.

“Make a million another million let my niggas make a million/’til we all check a billion, shit it’s just the way I’m feeling/We have yet to see a ceiling, we just top what we top/Cause the bars don’t struggle and the struggle don’t stop”

Additionally, he pays homage to popular black figures, such as Mohammad Ali, Malcolm X, Michael Jackson and Spike Lee while stating he won’t let anyone tries to take away his shine.

“America tried to emasculate the greats/Murdered Malcolm, gave Cassius the shakes/Wait.. tell them rumble young man rumble/Try to dim your lights tell you be humble/You know I’m gon shine like a trillion watts/You know a nigga trill as Michael Jackson socks/Sendin light out to Compton and the hundred blocks/Lil bastard boy, basking on top”

While white America has tried their best to bring the black man down, Jay-Z makes it clear he won’t be chased away and will continue to break down barriers. In “Somewhereinamerica,”he refers to this topic again.

“New money, they looking down on me/Blue bloods stay trying to clown on me/You can turn up your nose high society/Never gon turn down the homie/Knock knock I’m at your neighbor house/Straight cash I bought ya neighbor out/You should come to the housewarming, come and see what your new neighbor bout”

He also references how whites often shun black people when we move in on “their” territory like rich neighborhoods but embrace our culture. In the line “Cause somewhere in America, Miley Cyrus is still twerking,” he emphasizes how whites thrive off of black contributions.

Even while acquiring all of his success, Jay-Z continuously strives for more. In “Picasso Baby,” Jay-Z paints a picture of leading an even larger luxurious lifestyle tied together with art references.

Some say they “can’t relate” to Jay’s expensive name dropping throughout the album but I see it as a living testament to his level of achievement as one of rap’s biggest moguls and talents. Jay-Z came up in the midst of the “jiggy rap” era, so me hearing him bring up big brands is no stranger to me. “BBC” was a track with name drop nostalgia as HOV collabed with Nas, Pharrell and Timberland to pay respect to old school hip-hop fashion. I live for his brand braggadocio, it’s music to my ears. I get a high from it similar to the same one HOV gets on “Tom Ford.” HOV states he doesn’t get caught up in the height of drugs and fame, instead he gets off on wearing well tailored suits, and looking good in them, with the line “I don’t pop molly, I rock Tom Ford.” HOV earned is bragging rights with the success of his rap empire. He reminds us on songs like “Crown” and “Heaven” that he was constantly doubted and denied but rose to the top despite what others say.

 

Critics may deem this album as shallow and superficial, but I see Magna Carta Holy Grail as a toast to the new black elite. With this album, Jay-Z commands respect from white America, embraces black culture and black history, and motivates others to be successful, he also happens to make it known that he’s very rich. It may not be the most poetic and it’s definitely far from the most humble, but is nevertheless a nod to being black and being at the top.

What was your take on MCHG? F*ckwithmeandleaveacomment.

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