Back in February 2009, I listened to a very monumental album that would alter my variety in music interests from that point on – to once again, to incorporate hip-hop from its hiatus in my life. Until that point, I was a classic rock fiend, only bumping the styles of 60’s acts like The Beatles or The Doors. That album was named The Blueprint 3 by my favorite rapper Jay-Z, and it would change me forever. The versatility of Jay-Z as an artist continues to be proven over the years with each successive release and for four long years (with the exception of collab album Watch the Throne with Kanye West), I had to wait for this rap phenom to prove the hip hop industry’s doubts wrong yet again and release Magna Carta Holy Grail on July 4th, 2013. When I talk about hip-hop production and how it can ultimately make or break your final product, there are not many touching the craft of the sound on Mr. Carter’s twelfth solo album. Following the promotion videos for the album that showed Jay-Z and carefully selected producers in the studio creating the album, I was given a ear taunt like no other, which kept me anxious and on my feet. Jay-Z hit the nail on the head by bringing in geniuses like Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, No I.D., Pharrell and even the legendary Rick Rubin to produce the sonic boom that blew the headphones off of listeners worldwide. Hard hitting beats such as for “Holy Grail” featuring Justin Timberlake offer one of the dirtiest beat drops/switch ups and the gritty instrumentation of incorporating the electric guitar to the latter half of “Picasso Baby” took the listeners on a musical journey. Fans were no longer listening to just rap music, but truly listening to a hip-hop album with a revolutionary feel. Tracks such as “BBC”, which features production from Pharrell offers a fun and fierce runway type feel and oppositely, on darker tracks such as “Oceans” featuring Frank Ocean features a more focused appeal, where the lyrical content takes the reigns over the beat, which is even still A-1. Jay-Z has never been your hard-hitting bar for bar rapper like most of the new stars coming in the game today, he is still the same cool and smooth Brooklyn rapper we met nearly two decades ago, and that is what he wants you to know with this album. This is the album for those who think Jay-Z might have changed, for old fans that have been riding since the beginning and even to attract some new followers. I chose this album as my number 9 pick because Jay-Z is a monumental artist and he continues to exceed expectations with whatever he does in the classiest and most clever of ways.
Best Song: “Holy Grail” ft. Justin Timberlake/ “BBC” ft. Nas
Best Production: “Picasso Baby”