Magna Carta... Holy Grail

Music review by
Angela Zimmerman, Common Sense Media
Magna Carta... Holy Grail Music Poster Image
Lots of ego and explicit lyrics in rap king's uneven opus.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive messages

Though Jay-Z raps about the love he has for his daughter and wife and reveals conflicted feelings about his wealth and fame, most of the positive takeaways are negated by rampant references to drugs, sex, violence, and money.

Positive role models & representations

Jay-Z is an empowering example of a self-made artist. His huge ego is front and center on Magna Carta... Holy Grail, but the blatant self-assurance of hip-hop's reigning king is forgivable and perhaps even inspiring when considering the hard work and business savvy he applied to his success.

Violence

There are a few references to violence. Examples include the lyric "enough to make me wanna murder" in "Holy Grail"; the lyric "carried a nine in my projects" in "BCC"; and Jay-Z's threat to Lil Wayne in "La Familia" about starting a war (a response to Lil Wayne's shot at his wife, Beyonce, in his 2011 song "It's Good").

Sex

There are some overt lyrics about sex. Examples are found in "Picasso Baby" with lyrics like "I want a wife that f--ks like a prostitute" and "let's make love on a million," and the song "Part II (On the Run)" with Beyonce, which has some intimate lyrics about making love.

Language

The unedited version has strong language in nearly every track. They include all the big ones, like "f--k," "s--t," "motherf--r," "a--hole," "ass," "bitch," "hell," "goddamnit," and lots of usage of the "N" word. Parents of tweens or younger teens may want to buy the edited version of the album.

Consumerism

Much of this record finds Jay-Z both bragging about and ruminating over his wealth, fame, and power. As such, there are numerous references to symbols of money and status, like Mercedes, Hermes, Adidas, Ray Bans, Lexus, Cadillac, Reebok, and Lamborghini. There are also plenty of name drops of famous painters and designers like Basquiat, Tom Ford, Versace, Rothko, Da Vinci, and Picasso in "Picasso Baby" and other songs. There are mentions of major media outlets like CNN, ESPN, and Instagram, and it's also notable that Jay-Z partnered with corporate giant Samsung for an app distribution of this record.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

There are a lot of references to drugs and drug dealing throughout Magna Carta... Holy Grail. Lyrics about "getting high" in "Holy Grail" and champagne and cocaine and selling dope in "Oceans" are among them. There are lyrics in "BCC" about drug dealers, reefer, and cocaine, and in "Jay-Z Blue" Jay-Z raps about rum and whiskey and needing a joint.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Magna Carta... Holy Grail is Jay-Z's 12th solo album, and there's plenty of mature content and strong language in songs about drugs, sex, family, wealth, fame, art, religion, and his own global domination. Superstars like Justin Timberlake, Frank Ocean, producer Timbaland, Rick Ross, Pharrell Williams, and Beyonce contributed to the album, but Magna Carta... is Jay-Z's personal manifesto, as the hip-hop tycoon ruminates over the glories and complexities of money and fame while name-dropping numerous people and brands, from Basquiat and Reebok to Kurt Cobain and ESPN. This album is full of strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "goddamnit," and persistent use of the "N" word; parents with tweens or younger teens may want to consider buying the edited version. Additionally, the app that Jay-Z created with Samsung as a way to distribute the record is being investigated by the Electronic Privacy Information Center for potentially invasive software.

User Reviews

Adult Written byclarence August 5, 2015
Teen, 13 years old Written byRyanlaps October 25, 2013

Magna Carta is lazy and not for kids

This is not for kids. This album is one of hovas worst ones. But unfortunly it dosnt do anything for me
Teen, 17 years old Written byHorace Williams November 21, 2014

Great job, Jay Z.

Boy, this is good. Awesome music, great lyrics, and it's a really catchy song IMO. Listen to it!

What's the story?

MAGNA CARTA... HOLY GRAIL is Jay-Z's reflective, egotistic, and world-weary rap opus, captured at a crossroads in his life and career. Through his various identities as husband, father, superstar, consumer, and philanthropist, Jay-Z is very self-aware here, offering up personal insights while gloating over his ever-expanding empire. Themes range from bitter musings over the slavery of his ancestors ("Oceans") to spirituality ("Heaven") to fatherhood and family ("Jay-Z Blue," "La Familia") to superstardom ("Picasso Baby", "Crown") to his condemnation of Miley Cyrus ("somewhereinamerica").

Is it any good?

As one of the best rappers on the planet and a vastly influential hip-hop tycoon, Jay-Z's 12th solo record is worthy of most any contemporary music fan's time and interpretation. Some of the industry's biggest superstars lend their respective talents to the 16 tracks, and highlights include the Justin Timberlake collaboration "Holy Grail," "Picasso Baby," BBC," "F--kWithMeYouKnowIGotIt," and "Oceans." But while the album does have some great songs, an equal number sound flat and distant, and overall it lacks the urgency and focus that define much of Jay-Z's other work. Bottom line, Magna Carta... Holy Grail is a fine addition to Jay-Z's sprawling catalog, capturing a transitional moment in his evolution as both a man and superstar. But he's released much better records throughout his career. Ultimately, we just want more from him.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the autobiographical nature of Magna Carta... Holy Grail. How does Jay-Z reveal himself as an artist, superstar, and man through the songs on this record?

  • How does Magna Carta... Holy Grail differ from Jay-Z's earlier albums? Do you think he's evolved as an artist, or do you think he's remained static and predictable?

  • Families can talk about Jay-Z's massive worldwide fame. How have some of his projects outside of music contributed to his success and influence?

Music details

  • Artist: Jay-Z
  • Release date: July 4, 2013
  • Type: Album
  • Label: Roc-A-Fella
  • Genre: Rap
  • Parental advisory: Yes
  • Edited version available: Yes

For kids who love popular hip-hop

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