A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
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.
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?