Moment Of Clarity: Jay-Z's Holy Grail Of Advertorial Hip Hop

The landmark deal between Jay-Z's camp and Samsung has already made its mark. And if we're lucky, there will be some actual substance on "Magna Carta Holy Grail" too.

“For those that think Hov’ thing is bling blingin’ / Either haven’t heard the album or they don’t know English / They only know what the single is, and singled that out / To be the meaning of what he is about / And bein’ I’m about my business, not minglin’ much / Runnin’ my mouth, that shit kept lingerin’ / But no dummy, that’s the shit I’m sprinklin’ / The album with to keep the registers ringin’ / In real life, I’m much more distinguished...” –Jay-Z, “The Bounce.”

On Sunday, June 16, during game five of the NBA Finals, the pop culture zeitgeist was dominated by the two teams participating in the series—the eventual champion Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs—and to a lesser extent, Kanye West’s latest album, Yeezus. Then, Jay-Z stepped in to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming. Hov and the good people at Samsung made a declaration, “We need to write the new rules.”

Since his official debut in 1996, Jay-Z has been a relevant cultural figure and arbiter of all that is trendy in mainstream Hip Hop. We’ve seen this from early co-signs of Cristal, $850 Manolo Blahnik Timbs, and more recently, “Rollies that don’t tick-tock.” Jay-Z’s lyrics have likely appeased companies like these, as well as impacted their sales. And even when things went sour with brands Jay gave his stamp of approval to (observe how shouting out Belvedere and Cristal respectively gave way to Armadale and Ace of Spades), he just changed gears and backed another brand.

As a fan of Jay-Z’s early work, I’ve watched his current ventures with RocNation Sports and his partnering with Samsung to give away one million free copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail. I’ve seen him applying the Jay-Z touch of formerly unpaid endorsements cloaked as trendsetting be applied to legitimate business ventures. And, if Jay-Z’s recent moves—direct forays into advertising and sports branding and unofficially campaigning for President Barack Obama to name a few—are any indication, I think he is now much more valuable as an ambassador for Hip Hop than a contemporary, competitive emcee.

Cashmere Thoughts: Jay-Z’s Early Brand Associations

“Fresh to death in Moschino / Coach bag / Lookin’ half Black and Filipino, fakin’ no jax / Got you a beeper to feel important / Surrounded your feet in Joanie Dega’s and Charles Jourdan...” –Jay-Z, “Ain’t No Nigga.”

I’ve always felt Jay-Z’s mission has always been the same. When he dropped Reasonable Doubt in 1996, it wasn’t about getting famous; it was about getting on top. His moneywise rhymes represented an authentic, artistic talent fostered by an upbringing in the Marcy Projects and a history of drug dealing. Singles from the album like “Feelin’ It” and “Dead Presidents” balanced mainstream inclinations with honest, personal expression. Similarly, On “D’Evils,” he famously asserted, “Nine-to-five is how you survive, I ain’t trying to survive / I’m tryina live it to the limit, and love it alive,” hammering home his money-hungry persona. Ingenuity, coupled with an all-star roster of contributing producers helped cement Reasonable Doubt as a notable release next to other albums in 1996, like Nas’ It Was Written and Tupac’s All Eyez On Me.

Back then, I don’t think Jay-Z was so much shouting out brands as he was trying to link himself via association with the upper echelon. I still remember when he had the umlaut above the letter A in his name. Rappers have been flossing since Eric B & Rakim were posing in Dapper Dan outfits. But, to me, it felt as if Jay was differentiating himself through the brands with which he was associated. Back on “Imaginary Player,” he boasted, “I gotta be like the pioneer to this shit, you know. I was popping that Cristal when all y’all niggas thought it was beer and shit...wearing that platinum shit when all y’all chicks thought it was silver and shit.”

True to his word, Jay was ahead of the pack in terms of flossing. If other rappers were wearing Rolexes, he was rocking an Audemars Piguet. If the competition was pulling up in Mercedes Benzes and BMWs, Jay brought out the drop top Bentley Azure. As the flossing and unofficial brand endorsements continued, I thought the lyrical introspection waned a bit. Jay-Z maintained steady popularity with singles reinforcing his lust for money and women, while still providing catchy beats and hooks. As a listener, the new approach felt vapid to me. But Jay continued to drop reminders that his plan was now a two-pronged strategy.

Show You How: Shawn Carter The Emcee & Ad Man

“I do this for my culture / To let them know what a nigga look like when a nigga in a roadster / Show them how to move in a room full of vultures / Industry is shady, it needs to be taken over / Label owners hate me, Im raising the status quo up / Im overcharging niggas for what they did to the Cold Crush / Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you hoed us / We can talk, but money talks, so talk more bucks... –Jay-Z, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).”

I always found it interesting that one of Jay-Z’s more profound lines about Hip Hop’s history and his place within it was buried in a shallow hit like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).” On the most basic level, the single was a commercial success; it peaked at the #8 spot on Billboard magazine’s “Hot 100” while in the midst of a 20-week run. On the other hand, this was Jay-Z’s case for increased cultural relevance. I thought it was Jay explaining that he wasn’t just amassing wealth for sport as if he were Donald Trump. He links himself with The Cold Crush Brothers, who were one of Hip Hop’s pioneering groups. But the vast majority of people outside of Hip Hop weren’t (and still aren’t) familiar with them. Part of that is because Big Bank Hank of the Sugarhill Gang stole some of Cold Crush member Grandmaster Caz’s rhymes and used the unaccredited bars on “Rapper’s Delight.” But part of their lack of recognition and commercial compensation was also rooted in a bitter label dispute between Tuff City and Profile Records, which stunted the sales of their 1984 hit “Fresh, Wild, Fly & Bold.” So I thought Jay-Z was trying to toe the line between establishing and maintaining an amount of cultural significance while assuring that he didn’t get financially cheated like so many of Hip Hop’s founding fathers. This was something we saw pre-Blueprint on singles like “Come And Get Me,” but it appeared more frequently after “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).”

Fittingly, another thing that appeared more often in the post-Blueprint era was official brand endorsements. The talk of Belvedere vodka–the brand Jay name checked on songs like “Get Your Mind Right” and “Fiesta (Remix)”–gave way to Armadale. Since Roc-a-fella bought the domestic distribution rights to the Scottish vodka in 2002, it only made since to plug the in-house brand. Roughly two years later, Jay-Z signed an endorsement deal with Reebok’s RBK division for an undisclosed amount. To me, the release of the Reebok S. Carter shoe marked one of the moments where Jay-Z not only understood his power as a trendsetter, but he also harnessed that power to boost his net worth. These were the kinds of moves that forshadowed the 2008 partnership between Jay and Steve Stoute as co-chairmen of Translation Advertising. Again, I can’t say I was as much of a fan of the music from that era, but I can say I definitely understood there was a plan in place. What was Jay-Z’s ultimate goal though?

Moment Of Clarity: Jay-Z’s Artistic Reincarnation

“I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars / They criticized me for it, yet they all yell ‘holla’ / If skills sold, truth be told, Id probably be / Lyrically Talib Kweli / Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense / But I did 5 mill, I aint been rhyming like Common since...” –Jay-Z, “Moment Of Clarity”

I think the above bars, on what I and many others feel was Jay-Z’s last album of worth–The Black Album–lay out the strategy. All subsequent works showcased a noticeably slower, deliberate flow and rhyme scheme, and many critics felt things sort of bottomed out with 2006’s Kingdom Come. If you subscribe to the theory that Kingdom Come was Hov’s lyrical nadir, then it may have been the beginning of his financial apex. By the time Jay-Z channeled Michael Jordan circa 2002 with his grand comeback to Hip Hop, Fortune magazine estimated his net worth at $320 million. Previously, Jay had hinted at the notion that his “death” in the 2004 music video for “99 Problems” was in fact a depiction of his artistic reincarnation. But if that wasn’t clear enough, I thought his infamous line, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man” from the remix to “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” certainly was. Jay-Z evolved from being a trendsetter, to a bona fide pitch man. Reebok gave him a shoe, Def Jam temporarily gave him the presidency of the label (along with the masters to Reasonable Doubt) and Budweiser gave him a lucrative check to become the co-brand director of Budweiser Select. There was nothing under the table about those deals.

While songs like “Moment Of Clarity,” “The Bounce” and “Come And Get Me” hinted at it, I thought Jay-Z had a very direct, two-tiered approach to the second half of his career. I think that somewhere in between The Blueprint and The Black Album Jay-Z made a conscious decision to focus more on net worth, cultural impact and branding than lyrics. The tradeoff was that Jay could use his wealth and cultural capital to further promote the culture of Hip Hop and fund social initiatives instead of being a socially conscious rapper. As for the rhymes, he could pick and choose the times when he wanted to tap back into the intricate Reasonable Doubt style, subject matter and delivery.

To me, the question becomes how do you quantify the influence of emcees like Talib Kweli, Common, dead prez or others that have been tabbed with the conscious label? I don’t know. But I do have a rough idea how you quantify the influence of someone with 12 number one albums and a net worth that Forbes.com estimates at $450 million. The latter is a person who can repeatedly and openly admit to selling crack yet still help an incumbent senator become president by adding a bit of cultural cache. I don’t think you can be featured on terrible but profitable songs for charitable causes alongside U2 members such as “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)” without that post-Blueprint shift. And while I’d admit that Jay was definitely self-serving at points, few people have eloquently (and popularly) articulated the case for Rap as poetry the way Jay-Z did on the Dream Hampton-assisted Decoded. Like them or not, I’m not sure those moves are even possible if Jay-Z doesn’t water down his flow for mainstream consumption and keep ringing up hit singles and number one albums. Was it worth it? Could a more lyrically intricate emcee have made the same moves? How do we compare the cultural value of a song, such as will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” or Young Jeezy’s “My President” against Jay-Z and Beyonce palling around with President Obama as he brushes the dirt off of his shoulders. I don’t have an answer for that.

I Did It My Way: Assessing Jay-Z’s Real Value

“I made it so, you could say Marcy and it was all good / I aint crossover I brought the suburbs to the hood / Made ‘em relate to your struggle, told ‘em bout your hustle / Went on MTV with do-rags, I made them love you / You know normally them people wouldnt be fuckin with you / ‘Til I made em understand why you do what you do / I expected to hear, ‘Jay, if it wasnt for you’ / But instead, all I hear is buzzing in your crew...” –Jay-Z, “Come And Get Me.”

As we’ve seen previously on Rick Ross’ “Hustlin’ (Remix)” and Big Boi’s “Flip Flop Rock,” dumbing down one’s flow has its disadvantages too. When in lyrical cruise control, sometimes it’s difficult to turn that proverbial off switch back on. Back in March, listeners waited for a much-hyped collaboration between Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar. I’m among those that believe K.Dot lyrically ran circles around S dot Carter, but few seemed to care at that point. The artwork for “Bitch Dont Kill My Vibe (Remix)” featured Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant on the court together. But it may as well have been a screen shot of a rookie Allen Iverson crossing Jordan over at the top of the key. I think the reason why is pretty clear to most of us. At this point, Jay-Z is more valuable as a cultural arbiter and ambassador for Hip Hop than a contemporary, bar-for-bar, competitive emcee. He’s far from the point where he can only be paraded out for the latest edition of VH1’s “Hip Hop Honors.” And I think he’s too smart to let that happen anyway.

I feel, by accumulating an impressive catalog of hit records, having owned a share of the Brooklyn Nets, and even campaigning with the President, Jay-Z has accomplished as much as he could as a rapper. So it makes perfect sense that he, the businessman with a constant itch for more, would move his first love to the side in favor of something new and exciting. Also, as part of this new partnership with Samsung, Jay appeared in a commercial with Timbaland, where he loosely alludes to “rewriting the rules,” albeit with regards to his becoming an agent, or by giving away one million copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail–an unprecedented move by an artist of any genre, while simultaneously setting it up for even more sales.

I’m reminded of that moment on the Dynasty Roc La Familia “Intro” where Jay-Z called himself “Stevie Wonder with beads under the do-rag.” In the 13 years between then and now, Jay has essentially tried to be both Stevie Wonder and Berry Gordy. But as Jay’s turn next to Kendrick (or even next to a sober, more focused Lil Wayne circa 2004) showed us, there will always be emerging artists vying for the title of “Best Rapper Alive.”

What there may not be–at least for the foreseeable future–is a rapper capable of rubbing elbows with the President of the United States, helping Kevin Durant, Skylar Diggins and Robinson Cano boost their Q-rating, lunching with Warren Buffett, bringing Oprah Winfrey to the projects, hopefully schooling Gwyneth Paltrow on the correct time and setting to drop any iteration of the n-bomb (hint: never), and eloquently explaining the nuances of Hip Hop music and culture better than most of the talking heads on CNN, all while possibly notching a record thirteenth number one album.

Billboard Editorial Director Bill Werde has already indicated the one million copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail freely released to Samsung users July 1, won’t count as sales. This comes despite the fact that Samsung allegedly coughed up $20 million plus up to another $7.5 million in music rights and endorsement fees for the album.

“The ever-visionary Jay-Z pulled the nifty coup of getting paid as if he had a platinum album before one fan bought a single copy,” Werde wrote in the June 29 edition of Billboard. “(He may have done even better than that—artists generally get paid a royalty percentage wholesale. If Jay keeps every penny of Samsung’s $5 million purchase price, he’d be more than doubling the typical superstar rate.) But in the context of this promotion, nothing is actually for sale.”

All of which means we shouldn’t expect a ton of substance behind RocNation Sports or Magna Carta Holy Grail. But I do think they’ll both have significant cultural and financial impact and be profitable. The fact that folks have been talking about Jay-Z and Samsung for the last few weeks means they’ve both already won. I don’t think it’s disrespectful to call Magna Carta Holy Grail one long commercial for Jay-Z and Samsung. The album’s actual commercial debuted when the NBA Finals put up a 12.0 overnight rating. According to Nielsen, those are the highest ratings since the 2004 series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Detroit Pistons. So this landmark deal between Jay-Z’s camp and Samsung has already made its mark. And if we’re lucky, there will be some actual substance on the album too.

Additional reporting by Homer Johnsen.

Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @OmarBurgess.

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73 Comments

  • mfuraz

    'Hov keep getting that Deniro,Got it Even if a N***A gotta rob-it,get it' HOV IS THE GREATEST,NUFF SAID.

  • Nas the best

    Read Decoded before you talk about Hov, this album might not be his best but he's still the god MC, all you youngsters claiming to listen to lyrics but if you downrate Jigga you don't listen to lyrics fam, be real..

  • MIQ VERSE

    Unfortunately in Hiphop I feel there is a point where you have so much success that the culture (meaning the fans) resent you for it. When Jay was just a drug dealer turned rapper fresh out of Marcy projects we all celebrated his success because if "he made it then I can too" was in the air. But now that Jay is married with a child and worth ALOT of money and though he still seems to be true to his roots he is miles away from Marcy projects and has had and is still having experiences that the average American will NEVER experience in their lifetime. This brings him to a crucial point in his career that a musician of no other genre of music really has to deal with. It is as if this guy NEVER loses. As chastised as he was for Kingdom Come he did 680,000 copies and the album in its entirety was available on the net long before its official release. So why did people still go out and support? I personally think he was at his lyrical best in the 90's and early 2000s but that is not to say that I don't enjoy what he has done as of late and even more than that I greatly enjoy the fact that we get to see a Black man who has had incredible success yet has a wife and child that he is participating in raising. The REAL reason most people don't like Jay-z has nothing to do with whether or not they like his albums or if he is apart of some Illuminati. The basis for most of the hatred is rooted in the insecurity of most individuals who are jealous of his success because they are too afraid to reach for their own goals or they are limited in their education and are unable to relate to anything other than rappers who rap about sex, getting money, selling dope and why they are the dopest rapper alive. That is not to say that Jay hasn't ever released a song I didn't like but name one musician who has had a career as long as his and has never released a song that someone somewhere thought was wack? Opinions on music are just that. Opinions. It doesn't matter what the critics say or what the blogs say. At the end of the day it is about whether or not anyone wants to hear what Jay has to say and I think that we can agree that there is still an audience who wants to here Jiggaman!

  • Why

    HOV's lyrics have always been the most analyzed and most talked. Hov embodies every thing rappers wish for or want to accomplish, jay raps about the things he when true, challenges and where he's heading to and the do all of these through his music and say less about other peoples/rappers way of life.. when we talk about Hov we put his lyrics or verses first for you to read before any argument.. i don't know much about America, NY or how blacks are treated because i haven't being there before but after listening to Hov and saw a video of Mike Tyson's real life video, i could picture how most of the things Hov said in his songs because their stories were similar and when i looked at Mike and what he wished he would have accomplished i see reasons why Hov have struggled to stay relevant, grow in the game, away from paparazzi, away from little black minds with no real ambition that like myth rap with no substance and gangster, guns and lames words from some rappers out there.. i believe some lames envy his life and how he have kept him self with his family knowing he started as a hustler but now his the talk of Hiphop/rap music.. is it because they can't be him or tell whats his about to do next... i listen to his verses on WTT dem!!! sorry thats all i can say. Open Letter to you all.

  • Ezra

    I think when most people comment on Jay, they just regurgitate shit that someoone else has said previously. Case in point: "Eminem murdered you on your own shit". Great line from Nas, but truth be told, Jay's flow, lyricism and substance were TOP NOTCH in both verses. Em's breath control with the flow he used was great, and I think that's the SOLE reason people make the argument. But that's like saying Layzie Bone is better than AZ. And what is substance? Someone define it for me. This argument could be had for ANY MC. Cause for every Black Girl Lost or One Mic, there is a Braveheart Party, You Owe Me or Oochy Wally. Jay-Z had admitted to dumbing down his lyrics, repeatedly. Doesn't mean that there is no substance. Izzo was one of the most simplistic flows to date, but it had a lot to say. Slick Rick's flow was simple as hell, but his ability to storytell was impeccable. And by the way, true hip-hop isn't all about lyricism. Because, Chuck D, is not a lyricist per say, BUT HE DAMN SURE HAD A MEANING BEHIND WHAT HE SAID. And one of the best ever. With all that said, Jay has stood the test of time, because he makes very good to great music 95% of the time since 1996.

    • NONO

      Very TRUE....but the comment sections in the media these days are all about getting attention and not about anything thought provoking.

  • fuccya

    lol aint advertising the realest definition of selling out? most of his fame truly belongs to niggas whose rhymes he stole

    • MIQ VERSE

      I always find comments like this hilarious. In case you have forgotten Jay-z is in the music BUSINESS. He is selling a product which is himself and his music as is ANY musician who ask the music buying public to purchase their music. Advertising is apart of every business. Period. You can be the dopest rapper in the world and have the greatest album since Illmatic but if noone knows about it who is going to buy it? I'll answer that for you. NOONE.

  • Kelly J. Crump

    just as Ronald responded I am in shock that a student can earn ($)4082 in 4 weeks on the internet. have you seen this site... can99.c.o.m

    • Vitamin Dee

      Quality over quantity, the one thing to be said about him over other emcees is his integrity. He dosen't put words together just to match. What he says is what he does and that says alot, esp when ery'body and they momma start to do it... He's a Vet, from the Rakim era, who figures out how to not only to still be here, but remaining relevant and keep winning somehow. Not to mention, look at who his wife is, 'Ain't No Nigga' & then some, uno!

  • Jerry

    The slow flow jay and some others have taken on just sucks. Less content on a record and makes it annoying. On top of it all, they work half as hard as they put out songs withhalf the words. Nas really is the only older one who hasn't gotten worse

  • The Debater

    IMO EM is no where near Jay-Z level or Nas. (count the clasic albums) Renegade... every stan says EM jay on that song... really??? One of the biggested quotables in hihphop on that song... is from EM or Jay?? "Do you fools even listen to music or do you just skim through it?" EM spazed on Renegade(a beat he orginally did with royce) but Jay's lyric are timeless. End of Debate.

    • Mike

      Em beat Jay in Renegade, Kendrick did the same. It's not even debatable. Don't be in denial... Jay is my favorite rapper.

    • nick

      Em merked Jay on that track and you dont need to be a stan to hear that. Still to this day if you watch ice t's the art of rap or catch random interviews of rappers being asked about Em, no one wants to battle him.

    • foreal

      Begin the Debate I love and Em and Jay. and as far as Renegade goes, both of them killed the track. I do not like it when people say, yoo Em killed Jay on Renegade... they collaborated on a track and made a classic record, the both killed it. Someone is going to be better, but it isnt like they are battling. and on "Bitch Dont Kill My Vibe Remix" i thought Jay's verse was really good, better then K Dot. just my opinion

  • Mike Mitch

    Great post Omar. Opinion with good supporting details. My only objection is to the "falling off" part. As an avid fan of Hip Hop and the culture, I've listened to so many great artist throughout the years and it seems like when an artist "grows up" or his lifestyle changes, which ultimately changes his story, we say they're "falling off" rather than attempting to understand the new perspective most of us have never seen (which is very beneficial information). Almost as if the stories have to stay "gangsta" and relative to what we expect of them, not realizing or dismissing the fact that they're the artist. If the culture is to transcend and grow, we must do so with it. As for the verse on "Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe", Kendricks verse was very nice, yet was more of an illusion in the sense of delivery. Quite like Busta Rhymes verse on "Look at Me Now" with Chris Brown. The aggressive tone would and flow he used would convince most that the verse was harder. Not to mention that most would love to see the younger, humble Kendrick Lamar beat out Jay-Z, "The God of Rap" for the best verse. The same way we wanted every other talented MC who did a track with Hov. However, when you break down the verses and see what was actually said, along with the flows used, delivery, and presence, Hov had the better verse.

    • Anonymous

      How delusional. Jay doesn't have it anymore. His verse on Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe was horrible. He needs to hang it up

    • Anonymous

      was with you until you said jay had a better verse.. no matter how u break it down that is just not true.. kendrick had hotter flow, pin point delivery, better rhyme scheme AND more substance..PARTICULARLY his 3rd verse!

  • Happy

    Jay did all of this and he is still not better than nas!

  • Nuff said...

    Im lovin this "Lets suck Jay z's dick" campaign the HHDX got goin on. Thats coo and all, but all ima say is, this shit bet not be pop album or no other type of bs that aint rap/hip hop album! if so, this shit is goin st8 to download. I dont give a fuck how much they hype it up. nuff said.....the realest comments thus FAR!

  • Sigh

    I can not deal with so called "hip-hop" heads like this writer and some of you on this thread. STOP TRYING TO BOX RAPPERS INTO WHAT YOU THINK AN MC IS!!!!!!! If you young wannabes were around in the 80's your head would explode with all the party and bullshit raps that were coming out. Songs made by the LEGENDS mind you. Cats determined to knock Jay down a peg can fucking forget it. Jay has ALWAYS had substance in his work. Dudes STILL haven't caught all the shit he said in Reasonable Doubt let alone his even more multi-leveled shit now. All yawl know is a 90's beat and 90's flow- you're slow.

    • simple reasoning

      I have an ear for Jay's music until I die forreal and I was born in 89. This writer had a lot of good shit to say about Jay too imho.

    • A Person

      The whole point of art is to interpret it however the hell you want, therefore, I can interpret hip hop as pure lyricism over a minimal sample based beat, if I felt like that. People have different preferences either way. The way I look at it, I personally am not a fan of Jay-Z, because I think as a lyricist, he is not up to par with other artists that I enjoy listening to, doesn't mean he can't be good to someone else, but to me, I am not a fan. And Nas>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Jay-Z as a pure lyricist, and at making diss tracks. To me, Jay-Z just doesn't scream the essence of hip hop in his work as consistently as many other artists, that isn't to say that he can't to someone else, but as I define the art in my mind, he isn't one of my favorites.

  • Anonymous

    It's OK Omar you're a little slow.

  • Mr. NYB

    Cant Wait For That Holy Grail but yall should check out B.Hudson, hes been releasing new eps every month this year and they all go hard. I just recently found out who he was dudes dope, check him out, He just released his newest ep today 'July' maybe his best one yet. i found his music over on www. hiphopgood. com

  • Anonymous

    Jay is just king, plain and simple.

  • Happy

    Nas the greatest of all time,

  • Happy

    He accomplished all that and I am so proud of Jay but dude is still not better than Nas! Nas the greatest of all time!

  • Typo

    You quoted his lyrics in "D'Evils" and got the line wrong, its "Im tryna live it to the limit and love it a LOT" not "alive." Great article though.

  • Crazy12

    Lyrically Jay fell off.....he has no substance in his rhymes anymore....the complex rhyme schemes he used on Reasonable Doubt are over...100% of his rhymes now are basically about what every other rapper is rappin about.....bling, expensive champagne, Maybach's, and bitches. When is he gonna make an album for the common man again?

  • Anonymous

    Of course it's a traditional hip hop album. When has Hov stepped out of his comfort zone or done anything creative.

  • Anonymous

    Hov hasnt dropped a classic album since The Black album. I know some ppl will argue American Gangster but dat was good at best not great. Expectation levels are high for those widely promoted and it should be way better than Yeezus. But Hov has fallen off a bit over the years so lyrically it would be foolish to think he's gonna be great.

  • Anonymous

    In terms of ability Jay has been terrible since 09. Blueprint 3 was weak as shit. Marketability wise he's one of the top draws in hip-hop. Jay needs to hang it up and focus on being business man Jay. Dude has nothing to say except rapping about quail and shit

  • Anonymous

    Who's the BEST RAPPER OF ALL TIME? is it Eminem, Tupac, Biggie, Jay-z, or Nas? Vote Now @ bigblogtalk.com/whosthebest ^^^^^^ Vote now & Download the hottest songs of the week for free! Thanks for the support!

  • Kryptondavillain

    By the way let kendrick and Jay get in the booth and lets see who comes out top. Kendrick wrote his 2 verses to Jay's verse and hov still had the best verse.

  • Kryptondavillain

    billboard doesn't certify albums RIAA does. and from recent updates the digital sales of MCHG would is being acknowledged. MCHG already platinum. Don't believe me jay watch.

  • sam

    Kingdom Come might be a weak album but Lost Ones is lyrically up there with the best of Jigga

    • Kingdom come

      is a great album god... lame niggas slept on it basically he content and rhyme skills.

    • Mike

      People sleep on this album sooooo much. Shit has some heat: Kingdom Come ---Do U Wanna Ride? --- Hollywood -- !!TROUBLE!! --- !!DIG A HOLE!! ---Minority Report --- Beach Chair. Trouble and Dig A Hole are too ill.

  • Anonymous

    This writer is a hov hater. we all know kendrick lamar and Jay-z were not both in the studio when that song was recorded and Kendrick heard Jay's verse before he spent three days writing his two verses. that point should have been made in the article too.

  • Anonymous

    I need people to stop mentioning post black album Jay-Z without mentioning American Gangster. That album was unbelievable and probably in his top 5 albums.

    • New_Skool7

      Thank you. People blast him for his commercial songs and then ignore his thought-provoking, lyrical songs. American Gangster had Fallin, Ignorant Shit, American Dreamin and Success, just to name a few. But this writer wants to talk about a Kendrick Lamar remix. SMH

    • Anonymous

      Shit is a classic off the strength of Pray alone.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you! People always let American Gangster slip by..

    • Anonymous

      yeah killer album. neptunes, puffy and LV killed the production. omar burgess never heard the album

  • SC

    Great article. Very well written

  • Truth

    Jay is probably the most balanced mc in Hiphop history...dude is approaching 20 years of high relevance in a game of one hit wonders and overnight trend changes. Lets not act like Jay 100% sold out...pretty much all of Jay's albums are balanced with commercial singles and raw shit.

  • Omar B

    You guys have no idea what real hip hop is. Before you knock my article you stans need to do your homework. I SAID I respect him and used to love his music. I think my article proves a point. Magna Carta Holy Grail will have little to no substance PERIOD!

    • ChevDibiase

      Your Article, while certainly well written; didn't MAKE a point. It STATED a point, but provided little evidence to support the claim that post Black Album Jay totally lacks substance. Jay never inundates us with social consciousness in the vein of artist you referenced, but to say his albums LACK SUBSTANCE is a gross untruth. Foremost the term SUBSTANCE includes more than just social commentary. IMO it represents a certain depth of thought that exceeds vanity and materialism. To suggest that Jay hasn't offered listeners more than vanity and materialism post Black Album; I would have to agree with the comments that say you haven't listened objectively. I contend that BP3 and WTT both offer their fair share of "substance", and certainly should not be characterized as shallow, or vain.

  • Omar B

    Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @OmarBurgess. CHURCH!

  • A Person

    With all due respect to Jay, who has been incredibly influential, in terms of raw lyrical and emceeing ability, I don't think he is that great. And Nas Ethered him..... But as far as music goes, Jay-Z has lost some of the sound that made me at least respect him. Anyway, just my two cents. Off to go listen to some classic soul, and maybe The Breaks by Kurtis Blow.

  • 2music3

    Omar, I don't understand how you arrive at the conclusion that you shouldn't expect a ton of substance from MCHG... Take WTT for example; I'll admit, WTT worked best when Hov and Ye talked about how awesome they are. But even there amidst all the brand name checking, they went well out of their way to address matters beyond their awesomeness/bank accounts. On "Why I Love You", it's Jay's dismay at past crewmates' betrayals. On "Murder to Excellence", it's black-on-black crime and the scarcity of people of color at society's upper echelons. On "Made in America", it's the hardships of youth and coming of age. "New Day" a letter to the pair's imagined sons (daughters), which gives them a chance to be introspective. They are literally working overtime to bring a sense of empathy to the album. Once in a while, they even sound vaguely humble, well as close they can to anyway (and I know that's arguable lmao). With regard to Hov not having bars anymore lol... I'm just gonna politely disagree with you there.

  • Assassin221

    This article perfectly sums up both why Jay is interesting, and why his music is boring.

  • Manny Faces

    Well conceived, written and executed. In fact, I would say that Jay-Z's biggest feat, coup if you will, is that he made it acceptable to be a sellout, something hip hop has never embraced, and continues to have disdain for (see: backlash against Macklemore & the NBA). Jay's now done it so often, so well, and so creatively, that his name is chalked up in the G.O.A.T. column way more than the sellout column, this DESPITE the extremely valid points made in the article. That he did this "on purpose." The question will be, what KIND of ambassador of hip hop will he be? As some of us struggle to advocate for the greater spectrum of hip hop music and culture, will someone like Jay-Z, with the power to do no wrong, help this vastly underserved audience, or just continue to represent the best that hip hop capitalism can create?

  • GGENERAL

    I thought the article was very well written and made some great points. I disagree with the authors assertions that Jay's work post Blackout album has been sub par or whatever. I think more than anything, the sound and flow evolved, but you can still find lyrical prowess within Kingdom Come, American Gangster, and BP3...What many people fail to take into account when judging jay is, his work gets judged by his old work, not by the music of that particular time. Also, He's done almost everything there is to do in music. He's made more than enough money from it and his subsequent businesses. In short, he's ate good and is no longer hungers after the same things. It's been 17 years since his first album and over 2 decades of making music. This is his 13th solo album, he's done 3 collaborative albums, and countless features. Instead of looking for him to rap like he did in the 90s, people should appreciate the music that he's still making. Truth be told, it's actually pretty good. Especially if you can get past the notion that he should be rapping like he did almost 20 years ago. Some of my favorite Jay songs came after the Blackout album; Do You Wanna Ride, So Ambitious, Forever Young, Beach Chair, Roc Boys, Party Life, Lost Ones, etc, etc, etc

  • Confused Reader

    I liked this article. Great read. Great points. Great insights. Good job sir.

  • Retro

    Great article, but Kendrick didn't technically run circles around Jay. Jay's tempo, cadence, flow, delivery, and presence fit the beat. He put his lyrical prowess on that record. He didn't sugar coat it with a double time. He brought the pictures to your front door. Secondly, everyone is forgetting the Jay-Z dropped American Gangster in 2007 so you can't technically say that he fell off after Kingdom Come. And if you pay close attention his flow may be quote unquote "slowing down a bit," but his imagery is consistent, if not increasing. Here American Gangster all the way through and even on Watch The Throne.

  • Hip Hop Head

    go big or go home hopefully his album simple one beat and three verses ...fuck a hook ..throw some scratches in

  • Hip Hop Head

    Moment of Clarity like jays best song