Jay-Z Reviews

Jay-Z – Magna Carta…Holy Grail album review

There is hardly an artist active in the popular music industry that has a career that can match the fame and success of Jay-Z’s. Not to say that there aren’t more talented musicians or more successful business people but Jay’s rag to riches story is one of the most well known tales to date. Throughout his discography, Jay has made two things perfectly clear: he is always striving for the next level and that he is his own biggest fan. Keeping this in mind, the circumstances surrounding the release of Magna Carta Holy Grail should come as a surprise to no one. In what many are calling an unprecedented venture, this new album was given free to the first 1,000,000 owners of the Magna Carta app on the newest Samsung Galaxy phones. This landmark deal secured platinum status from the RIAA but also jeers from those who accuse Hova of becoming more and more of a sell-out.

Examining the music of the album aside from all of the business and politics reveals a project of good quality but not nearly an example of the best Jay Z has to offer. Magna Carta has a much darker and more serious tone than more recent releases. While Blueprint 3 and Watch the Throne were more of a celebration of success and wealth, this newest release is more focused on the cost of having such success and the insecurities that linger when responsibilities begin to mount.

In fact the best songs on the album feature deeper lyrics from Jay-Z that give insight into his mindset as his life moves along. ‘Jay-Z Blue’ is the clearest example of this as Jay raps about the fear he feels towards being a good father and husband. ‘Heaven’ is a gut honest song on Hov’s beliefs on spirituality and the place religion has in his life and society. ‘Oceans’  is by far my favorite song on the album for the deep hook sung by Frank Ocean, solid lines from Jay and amazing beat that is nothing short of epic.

On the topic of beats, be assured that there are many hands involved with the top-notch production of the album with all efforts spearheaded by Timbaland and J-Roc. Beats are built off samples from a number of sources ranging from music to movies. The instrumentals are varied, moving and do a great job of setting the mood for the songs they support.

While Magna Carta does have a lot to offer listeners, it will undoubtedly disappoint many who are long time fans of Jay. The key problem unfortunately lies with Jay-Z himself. This is Hov at his least lyrical with some songs coming off as lazily written with the worst being ‘FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt’, a totally pointless track with Rick Ross. It is a shame that this is the case considering the quality of features he has with him on songs such as Justin Timberlake, Frank Ocean and Beyonce.

Magna Carta…Holy Grail is a portrait of Jay-Z at new point in his life. As he states in his songs, he never lets the opinions of others affect his drive to make new music, new deals and new avenues for success. Whether you are impressed with the quality of the songs he offers is up to you but know that Jay has remained the same driven man behind the sound.


Various Artists – Music From Baz Luhrmann’s Film The Great Gatsby album review

Much like the ultra modern 2013 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, we get a sense that the days of flapper skirts and bootlegging depicted through the lens of a greyscale are just a faint memory. For a soundtrack so densely saturated with pop-culture and trend, The Great Gatsby endeavors to traject the original story’s concepts of hope and hopelessness, haves and have-nots and in many ways, it does.

It’s only right that a Jay-Z track opens up the album as he also doubles as the soundtrack’s executive producer, though the privilege of this position was likely more for his relevance in pop culture and less about his extensive knowledge of 20th century literature and the Age of Prohibition. “100$ Bill” is an embodiment of the film and album concept and even serves as a slight juxtaposition of nouveau riche culture both now and then—what will always remain is the insecurity and incessant desire for relative significance masked by opulence, bravado, and greed. How apropos that Jay-Z’s (or do we mean Jay Gatsby’s) post American Gangster narrative fits this bill.  And “100$ Bill” doesn’t slip through the cracks. On the surface lies minutes of mindless chatter, bragging, and trash talk, but there’s an inkling that beneath the boom-boom-kat’s there may be raw feeling we’re not allowed to see. Even with empty lyrics, when the bass hits and the staccato snares clap with the ominous opera vocals that precede the jazz era horn solo, you’ll realize that “100$ Bill” is undoubtedly the hottest, most significant record on the soundtrack.

The recurring themes on the album are of the ornate, illustrious, and showy, and you’ll find The Great Gatsby includes some odd features to convey this. Q-Tip even makes an appearance on “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” albeit with Fergie and GoonRock on an EDM track. It’s fun.

We’re happiest about Coco. O of Quadron appearing on the soundtrack. “Where The Wind Blows” is a little boring, but her vocals deserve mention.

“Back to Black” is Andre 3000 and Beyoncé’s audacious cover of Amy Winehouse’s track and it’s a pleasant surprise to hear Queen B. lull in a softer indie voice and not the usual overbearing, vibrato laden belt. Dare we say that it’s actually quite good? The song could still do without the extra bit of runs and natural roundedness of Beyoncé’s vocals that she likely had trouble killing, though.

In terms of the real indie (not indie imposters, sorry, Bey) Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” may be the core of the album. It so evocatively represents the yearning and emptiness that symbolizes anything Gatsby. The xx’s “Together” is similar. The breathy vocals on both tracks give you the sense of unbearable longing for something beyond reach. And as a body of work, that’s what The Great Gatsby represents.

This soundtrack adequately illustrates the emotional range of the film and its characters by use of randomized artists and abrupt tempo and mood changes that signify the many ups and downs of the painfully wealthy. At times, the songs may seem incongruent and inconsistent, but embedded within the fluctuating instrumentation remains the sentiments of conceit, opulence, self-absorption, and self-consciousness of the hideously affluent.

Jay-Z Kanye West Media

Kanye West, Jay-Z & Big Sean – Clique audio

Kanye West, Jay-Z & Big Sean – Clique audio from Cruel Summer

Jay-Z Kanye West Reviews

Watch The Throne Tour – Kanye West & Jay-Z in Montreal

Yesterday, amidst a crowd of 15,000 fans, two of the biggest names in hip-hop took the stage for a two-hour and forty minute marathon of rhymes and beats. As Ye and Jay rose above the crowd on fourteen foot platform covered in LEDs, you could tell this show would be one for the ages. Spitting their verses on “H.A.M.” from their respective “thrones,” and moving right into “Who Gon Stop Me” without a pause. And then joining each other on one stage to belt out their lead single with pyrotechnics and lasers spazzing all over the Bell Centre: “Otis.”

Did I mention this was only the first ten minutes of the show?

The Throne worked through a large chunk of their new album, and then started taking turns on their solo tracks. Hova was right at it with “Where I’m From,” “Nigga What? Nigga Who?” and coming back later on for “Hard Knock Life” and “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).” It seemed to me like Jay wanted a lot of the stage time to be given to Kanye – who was sporting a skirt/kilt and leather leggings for the better half of the night. For every Jay-Z song, there were three Yeezy songs. While I don’t mind the imbalance, as I’m a bigger fan of Ye than Jay (crucify me now – you have my permission), it still seemed strange to me.

Regardless, Kanye was flawless when it came to renditions of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” (that had a laser light show reminiscent of his Glow in the Dark tour) “Jesus Walks,” “Touch the Sky,” and “Good Life.” Heck, the songs I’ve listed are just the tip of the iceberg. The duo went through about forty tracks in total, and Kanye even got the chance to do his eight minute version of “Runaway,” as well as  a powerful sing-a-long to finish off “Heartless.” All while standing on a raised platform, of course… in a kilt.

They got through the majority of their new album. “New Day” was definitely a highlight, with the two rappers just sitting on the stage, spitting their rhymes about being fathers one day soon. And when it came time to finishing off the night, “Niggas in Paris'” Blades of Glory sample came through the speakers – the crowd went off! And when they were finished? Again. Went off for the encore. Came back on. Guess what? They played it again. And when it was done? Jay yelled, “AGAIN!” And finally… one more time. Unless my ability to count was lost, they played “Niggas in Paris” five times. And you know what? The majority of us didn’t mind one bit, dancing and bumping to it like it was the first time it had been played. Every. Single. Time. The Bell Centre hasn’t been so electrified by a hip-hop crowd in a while.

Egotistical much? Yeah, but a well-executed show no doubt. They gave the fans more than their money’s worth in lasers, lights and pyrotechnics. I have no idea if another tour like this will hit your town after this leg, especially with Jay’s baby on the way. If you can make it out to a show, despite the pricey tickets, it’ll be well worth your time. That shit cray.


J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story album review

J. Cole has grown from Roc Nation underdog to Hip hop prince. Having made a stir this year, J. Cole proves his Hip hop status in debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story.

Cole’s strength lies in his storytelling: “Lights Please,” although a story of sexual passion at its highest, highlights issues of parenthood. “How you gon’ look in yo’ son’s face and turn yo’ back,” J. Cole says, providing a reflective perception on a common problem in today’s society.

“Sideline Story” sneers at the faces of the faithless: Cole attacks with a confident swagger, delivering rhymes that tell of his journey from sideline assistant, to MVP youngblood.

Cole has propelled himself into the spotlight in ways that are comparable to mentor Jay-Z and Hip hop’s egotistic Kanye West. Cole delivers somewhere in the middle, providing hard rhymes laced with reflection on his beginnings and his growth as an artist. His do-it-yourself ethic towards the album is noteworthy: His production is lush, filled with varied samples, intricate chord progressions and electronic percussion that takes from the nostalgic sounds of the ’80s and its present-day contemporaries.

Cole World: The Sideline Story is an impressive debut from J. Cole: He shows an understanding of the conventional side of mainstream Hip hop, while incorporating a new approach that may take a few listens to fully understand and appreciate.


J. Cole – The Album Before The Album review

Yo! Who Dat Who Dat!

I was incredibly excited to get this review under my belt. He has been releasing tracks day in and day out for the past couple months. I have caught some snippets here and there, but finally I had the chance to listen to the “The Album Before The Album” Boy oh boy! I was not disappointed in any which way.

He has Kanye West flow and Lil Wayne lyrics. After this album I wouldn’t be surprised if see him every where. Of course signing with one of the biggest and most respected artists in the world didn’t hurt him in any way. Obviously signing with Jay-Z would be the best things for anybody’s career. Yet, it takes a real man with real talent to make the most of it. If you listen to “Premeditated Murder” you will realize why Jay-Z acted so fast. In a small biography that I read about him he mentions that a lot of music tells stories. I repeat this in a lot of my reviews, but, one of the only ways for me to connect with the music, or even enjoy it Is for me to relate in one way or another. J. Cole does this incredibly well. “Show Me Something” is definitely the album’s outstanding track for it’s passion and depth.

“Premeditated murder” is just a taste of what he’s capable of. It tells a story of the journey he or any musician has had to go through to get where they are now. I have so much respect for people that have had to work incredibly hard to get to the point of success. One of the struggles that he talk about is if people will recognize him when he’s famous. For any individual, success is the hardest thing to handle. People change and become different people. He asks a question mid way through the song “Do you prefer the broke me, or rich me”? I could only imagine what the changes would be like for a spouse, girlfriend, and family. One day your wearing your bunny slippers, the next your walking the red carpet to the Grammys.

Overall J. Cole showcases his talent, passion and drive. Nothing has compared to this in a while.


Catfight: Battle of the Divas

Beyoncé vs. Mariah Carey

New feature. Biggest divas in the music world today, head to head. Let’s get to it.

There aren’t a lot of people who haven’t heard of Beyoncé and Mariah; they’re only two of the biggest selling female artists ever. Both multi-platinum artists came from well-documented (and marketed) beginnings: Beyoncé pulled a Justin Timberlake and after leading Destiny’s Child to all-time-best-selling-female-group success, branched out into an even more lucrative solo career, while Mariah Carey owes much of her earlier success to the sharp eye of music mogul and ex-husband Tommy Mottola.

The fascinating thing about these two artists is that they’re not just all-glitter and no-talent like your average pre-packaged pop star. They have pipes. Mariah is famous for her ability to break glass with her high notes, and even though Beyoncé doesn’t have quite as great a range, her vocal virtuosity has always earned much acclaim, even since the Destiny’s Child days. That doesn’t stop these two women from flaunting what they’ve got though; a few seconds of either’s music videos is enough to notice that sex appeal is just as strong a selling point as talent (who would’ve thought Mariah would still be going this road as she’s nearing the big 4-0?), and don’t they know it. Well, at least their management people do.

Tight race so far, but I have a feeling this debate can be settled by looking at how disgracefully divalicious their backstage demands are. Or… maybe not, since no list of outrageous requests made by divas these days is complete without Beyoncé and Mariah. Oh, I’ve got it now – this will definitely decide the winner of this Catfight: arm-candy. That’s right. Jay-Z may not be much to look at, but he’s certainly intriguing, and by intriguing we mean dirt-rich- all-powerful-hip-hop-king. Nick Cannon, on the other hand, can be counted on for a good laugh – he is (was?) a comedian after all. I think we can safely say that Beyoncé has chosen well, based on the Eminem Test: Eminem may enjoy picking fights with people, but he probably won’t be messing with Mr. Sean Carter anytime soon… at least, not in the way he disrespected Mimi and Nick. With her husband’s less than stellar career, her own waning popularity, and B’s sheer overpowering star power, Mariah Carey loses out by a hair in the battle of the divas.

Winning cat: Beyoncé

Jay-Z Reviews

Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3 review

He’s baaaaack.

All that hanging around Kanye must’ve given Jay-Z the resolve to take hip-hop in a different direction (and we don’t mean auto-tune), because the experimentation on this album is producing some much appreciated new sounds. He’s also brought in a staggering number of guests, from Swizz Beatz and Drake to the more obscure Luke Steele (from psychedelic pop group Empire of the Sun) and J. Cole, the first signee to Jay-Z’s own label Roc Nation.

While you can definitely hear the musical innovation that having Kanye West as the main  producer brings, Jay-Z’s lyrical stamp is still all over the album. What that means, unfortunately, is that most of it is typical, predictable, Hova fare. You’ve got the bravado, the swagger, and the (repeated) declaration of his position as hip-hop king. While Jay does switch things up on tracks like “On to the Next One” and “Young Forever,” which sample “D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice and “Forever Young” by Alphaville respectively, the rest of the album is missing that spark that makes a rap album blazing fire. Two of the best songs on the album are only memorable because of the featured artists – note to other rappers: R&B divas do your tracks good. Phoning in Rihanna and Alicia Keys was a good decision; the only minor setback is that Jay-no longer owns the spotlight on “Run This Town” and “Empire State of Mind,” although I have a feeling he doesn’t mind.

Unlike its immediate predecessor American Gangster, which focuses thematically on – what else – the life of a street king, The Blueprint 3 is (structurally and lyrically) more akin to The Blueprint²: The Gift & The Curse. It even has a second try at a duet with Beyoncé, but while “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” was a pump-up-the-jam kind of song that I wouldn’t mind cruising to, “Venus vs. Mars” is just plain awkward. Jay-Z has a seductive side now? Maybe only to Beyoncé, and I’d rather we keep it that way.

For true fans, this album would be a worthwhile purchase; there are three or four truly remarkable tracks that would make your regular playlist rotation easily, but you’d have to be a real fan to actually take the time to sift through the rest. That being said, Jay-Z can still spit rhymes with the best of them, and the fact that he’s turning the big 4-0 at the end of this year has not escaped his attention – it probably really does hit home for him because “Young Forever” is brilliant both in lyrics and delivery. How fitting that it also serves as the conclusion to Jay-Z’s latest offering; it makes the lesser songs easier to forget… and much easier to forgive.

What are the chances that Mr. Shawn Carter will finally “retire” when he’s 50?


Who Killed Auto-Tune?

Jay-Z knows what’s on your mind. And on mine too, come to think of it. What is with you Rappas Ternt Wannabe-Sangas?” Why you gotta drown your songs with a sorry excuse for a voice that’s so annoying that the only reason people aren’t bleeding out of their ears at the club is because they’re too wasted to notice the (T-)pain their ears are in? Hova’s new single, “Death of Auto-tune,” is stirring up almost as much controversy in the hip-hop world as Chris-Brown’s-fist-versus-Rihanna’s-face. I know, I know; it’s a stretch, but you know what I mean. Jay-Z knows how to get attention when he wants it. Just in time to sell some Blueprint 3 records too.

Make no mistake; auto-tune’s made its rounds since way before hip-hop’s less vocally gifted jumped on the bandwagon. Remember Cher? Ever since T-Pain came onto the scene with Rappa Ternt Sanga, he brought with him that wonderful little program called Auto-tune, and detonated it all over the face of hip-hop. To give T-Pain credit though, he does know to write a catchy hook. That’s why “Buy U a Drank” was on every radio DJ’s database, “Blame It (on the goose, gotchu feelin’ loose)” was hot at the clubs, and “Freeze” was spewing out of every kid’s iPod ear buds. The guy knows what he’s doing.

But when you start having Lil Wayne and Snoop “singing” about erupting lollipops, we’ve got a problem. For the fans who love the electric atmosphere of a good hip-hop concert, no matter how good those songs sound now, they’ll never be performed live. Well, they might, but it won’t sound anything like the album version – I promise. Kanye West would know. His entire 808s & Heartbreak album was auto-tuned to pitch-perfection, and it did phenomenally on the charts when it first came out and everyone was oohing and aahing over the utter craziness that is an album fully saturated with voice distortion. While I have the utmost respect for Kanye as an artist, ego or no ego, “Heartless” and “Amazing” didn’t last long in my playlist after the novelty and catchiness wore off. I have an Auto-tune Quota, and “Love Lockdown” unfortunately filled most of it.

Back to Jay-Z’s declaration of war on auto-tune: he’s careful to not name names, but really, you know who you are (i.e. any rapper who’s tried to actually sing one of his auto-tuned songs live and have it turn out like a half-rapped, half-shouted mess). Ironically enough, Kanye is producing most of Blueprint 3, though he promises to keep the auto-tune far, far away (is that why Jay-Z didn’t call him out?). Whenever you pour on the hate though, you always get some back, especially if dissing you means instant publicity. Jay-Z’s gotten his share of criticism for “D.O.A.” already from younger rappers who think he’s getting too old for the game, but I have to give Jay the last word: “Get back to rap, you T-Pain’n too much.”

Press Releases




Santa Monica, Ca – Only King James (aka LeBron James) could bring together three kings of hip-hop and one of the hottest new emcees in the game. “Forever,” the new single from the forthcoming album MUSIC INSPIRED BY THE FILM MORE THAN A GAME, headlines rising star Drake and features Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Eminem in a song about endurance and staying power. “Forever,” produced by Boi-1da, will be available at iTunes September 15th. MUSIC INSPIRED BY THE FILM MORE THAN A GAME (Harvey Mason Music/Zone 4/Interscope Records) will be released September 29th.

Earlier issued from the album was the heartfelt, richly textured ballad “Stronger” from Mary J. Blige. Among the other tracks are “History,” produced by Kanye West, from rap giant Jay-Z; “I’m Ballin’” from young sensation Soulja Boy Tell’Em; “King On Set” from T.I. featuring Young Dro; and “Drop It Low,” the debut single from one of today’s most sought after songwriters, Ester Dean (Mary J. Blige, Pussycat Dolls, Keri Hilson), which features Chris Brown. Also heard are “Top Of The World” (Rich Boy), “We Ready” (Ya Boy), “Go Hard” (Hayes), Frozen (Jared Evans) and “If You Dream,” with its impressive lineup of Tank, Tyrese, Toni Braxton, Jordin Sparks, Omarion, Faith Evans, JoJo, Charlie Wilson, Tamar Braxton and Steven Russel, produced by Harvey Mason Jr. (whose credits include Beyonce, Chris Brown, Whitney Houston, and Jennifer Hudson).

MORE THAN A GAME, from Lionsgate and Harvey Mason Media in association with Interscope Records, opens in Los Angeles, New York and Cleveland on October 2nd. Five talented young basketball players from Akron, Ohio star in this remarkable true-life coming of age story about friendship and loyalty in the face of great adversity. Coached by a charismatic but inexperienced player’s father, and led by future NBA superstar LeBron James, the Fab Five’s improbable nine-year journey leads them from a decrepit inner-city gym to the doorstep of a national high school championship. Along the way, the close-knit team is repeatedly tested — both on and off the court — as pressures within, including James’ exploding worldwide celebrity, threaten to destroy everything they’ve set out to achieve together. MORE THAN A GAME, directed by Kristopher Belman, combines a series of unforgettable one-on-one interviews with rare news footage, never-before-seen home videos and personal family photographs to bring this heart-wrenching and wholly American story to life.

‘More Than A Game’ Synopsis:

Five talented young basketball players from Akron, Ohio star in this remarkable true-life coming of age story about uncommon friendship in the face all too common adversities. Coached by a charismatic but inexperienced player’s father, and led by future NBA superstar LeBron James, the “Fab Five’s” improbable seven-year journey leads them from a decrepit inner-city gym to the doorstep of a national high school championship. Along the way, the close-knit team is repeatedly tested—both on and off the court—as James’ exploding worldwide celebrity threatens to destroy everything they’ve set out to achieve together. MORE THAN A GAME combines a series of unforgettable one-on-one interviews with rare news footage, never-before-seen home videos and personal family photographs to bring this heart-warming and wholly American story to life.

Lionsgate and Harvey Mason Media in association with Interscope Records present a Harvey Mason Media Production in association with Galley Boy and Spring Hill Productions a film by Kristopher Belman. MORE THAN A GAME is written by Kristopher Belman & Brad Hogan and directed by Kristopher Belman. The film features LeBron James, Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III, Willie McGee, Romeo Travis and Coach Dru Joyce II.