After roughly three weeks of unprecedented hype, Jay-Z’s new album "Magna Carta Holy Grail” is available nationwide today (July 9). His 12th studio solo effort is a personal one. From jump, the usually guarded rap mogul mentions his daughter Blue Ivy Carter, only to be followed by series of revelations buried with the set’s 16 cuts.
Some lines are heavier than others, but know that each listen has its own nugget to enjoy. That said, here are 10 things that caught Billboard’s ears during a couple of “Magna” plays. Below, find out how Miley Cyrus caught his eye, the penalty for screwing with his wife Beyoncé and what sparking article of Michael Jackson’s wardrobe got a shout out.
Jay-Z’s Scared He’ll Be a Cruddy Dad
It’s no secret that Jay’s father wasn’t much of a dad at all. And with no guidance from him, Jay’s now fearful that’s he’s not equipped to handle his and Beyoncé's daughter, Blue Ivy.
“Isn't she lovely?” Jay asks about his first-born on “Jay-Z Blue." “Now I'm staring at her praying that things don't get ugly/ And I'm stuck in that old cycle/ Like wife leaves hubby/ Fuck joint custody/ I need a joint right now/ Just the thought alone fucks with me.” Undoubtedly, he’ll try his best to be a stellar family man.
Jay's a Fan of Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Jay and Justin Timberlake break into Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit" when rhyming about the pitfalls of fame and the damage it can do to a psyche on the album's first track, "Holy Grail." Just after Jay refers to Kurt Cobain’s tragic suicide, they sing, “And we all just entertainers/ And we're stupid and contagious/ And we all just entertainers.” “Teen Spirit” was the biggest single from Nirvana’s 1991 sophomore album, “Nevermind.” Cool to know that Jay-Z’s a part of the bunch that loves the song.
Jay Watches ‘Homeland’
On “F.UT.W. (Fuck Up the World)," Jay raps, “Feelin' like a stranger in my own land/ Got me feeling like Brody in ‘Homeland.’” Nicholas Brody is the lead character on Showtime series “Homeland.” A little background? He was held as a prisoner of war by Al-Qaeda for several years and when he’s finally brought back to America, Brody’s a hero. But he can’t adjust to stateside living.
Jay-Z’s nearly 20-year music career probably wasn't as stressful as Brody’s, but we can see the places he used to frequent as plain ol’ Shawn Carter as not being as comfy as they are now that he’s a millionaire mogul (!!!). “Homeland” returns for it’s third season this fall. Trust that Jay’s anxiously waiting for it.
R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” is a Jay-Z Favorite
Jay-Z breaks into lyrics from R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion" on the bridge following his first verse on Heaven. It's here where he challenges the idea of what and who is behind the pearly gates and those that accuse him of being a part of the Illuminati. "That’s me in the corner," he starts. "That’s me in the spotlight/ Losing my religion.” He doesn’t sound as good a Michael Stipe. Still, it’s a nice touch.
Jay-Z Deeply Appreciates Michael Jackson (and his Socks)
Jay-Z makes several references on "Magna Carta" to Michael Jackson in his prime and how he’s just as amazing now as M.J. was then. One of the most fun King of Pop-related lines i on “SomewhereinAmerica,” where Jay’s basically a living lamp, totally not interested in a shade for his bulb.
So when haters, “Try to dim your lights/ Tell you ‘Be humble,’” he balks. “You know I'm gon' shine like a trillion watts / You know a ni--a trill as Michael Jackson socks.” Remember those white rhinestone-encrusted socks Michael used to rock in the ‘80s? Boy, those were bright!
Like the Rest of Us, Jay’s Watched Miley Cyrus Twerk
You thought Mr. Z spends his day closing major business deals and changing diapers? Well, sure. But, he also slides in some time to catch up on pop culture happenings, whether they be cable TV dramas (see No. 3) or Miley Cyrus twerking on YouTube.
The closing line on “SomewhereinAmerica” is devoted to Miley’s moves. Jay talks about how hip-hop culture is spreading throughout the country, "'Cause somewhere in America, Miley Cyrus is still twerkin'.”
Miley appreciates the line and took to Twitter to curb any thoughts that it might have been a diss.
Call it what you want. But I don't see Mr. Carter shoutin any of you bitches out. #twerkmileytwerk ✌
— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) July 8, 2013
He’s Paying Suckers (Suckas?) No Mind
On the comically brief “Versus,” Jay dedicates a few lines to chumps that think they’re his competition. “You’re nowhere in my rear mirror,” he spits, just seconds before letting out a dismissive chuckle. (#mylaugh)
He is Absolutely NOT a Penny Pincher
Jay talks about blowing thousands of dollars at New York City hotspots on “Beach is Better.” When you’re as rich as him, a realization that eventually comes is that you, in fact, can't bring your cash to the afterlife. “Can’t take this money with ya/ Burn this shit up like I’m Richard,” he raps. The “Richard” in question is late comedian Richard Pryor, who once set himself on fire while high on drugs. He lived to joke about the ordeal later. Watch below.
Jay Has a Bad Case of Survivor’s Guilt
The closing track, "Nickles and DImes," finds Jay recognizing that surviving the tough street life of Brooklyn, New York — being once a drug dealer and all — makes his success story that much more miraculous. He also wonders why he didn’t end up dead or in jail like many of his peers. Now, he’s proud to say that “everyone around me’s rich.”
Jay Will Kill for Beyonce
On “Part II,” the sequel to their 2002 cut “'03 Bonnie & Clyde,” Jay and wife Beyoncé go back and forth on how inseparable they are. Though from the outside looking in, they seem like an odd fit for each other, Jay raps that their marriage will last till death splits them. “I hope it's obvi’,” he adds.
He also mentions that if anyone attacks her, gunplay is an option. “Cross the line, speak about mine/ I'mma wave this TEC, I'm a geek about mine/ Touch a ni--a where his rib at/ I click clat/ Push your muh'fuckin’ wig back.” In layman's terms, Jay-Z feels about Beyonce how nerds do technology. And if you mess with her... well, you get the picture.