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Picks and Pans Main: Music

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Magna Carta … Holy Grail |


“Welcome to the magnum opus,” announces Jay-Z on his immodestly titled latest, Magna Carta … Holy Grail. But don’t believe the hype: His real magnum opus remains 2001’s The Blueprint. This isn’t even on par with 2009’s The Blueprint 3, the rapper’s last solo album. In fact Magna Carta – uneven, sometimes tossed-off and lacking a killer single – is easily Hova’s weakest effort since 2006’s Kingdom Come. Still, this is Jay-Z we’re talking about, and he knows that he doesn’t have to bring his A game to beat most of the competition. “Your best s— ain’t better than my worst s—,” he boasts on “Versus.” Certainly Jigga is in capable hands with much of the production by Timbaland and Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon, who also worked on Justin Timberlake‘s The 20/20 Experience. JT himself returns the favor for “Suit & Tie” by appearing on three tracks, best of which is the melodic, melancholy “Holy Grail.” The song notably riffs on Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” while the hypnotic “Heaven” borrows from R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion.” Elsewhere Mrs. Jay-Z, Beyoncé, pops up for “Part II (On the Run),” a smooth sequel to ’02’s hit ” ’03 Bonnie & Clyde.” And their daughter, Blue Ivy, inspires “Jay Z Blue,” a daddy’s indulgence.