I am going to go ahead and repost part of the Washington Post's review of the Magna Carta:
Eight summers ago, Jay-Z described his impossible journey from no-name to brand name in eight sly words: “I’m not a businessman/I’m a business, man.”
A triumphant little zinger, no doubt. But what about the rest of us? When an artist self-identifies as a corporate entity, are we still Jay-Z fans? Or are we Jay-Z customers?Throughout “Magna Carta,” the 43-year-old pretends he’s a threat to a system he’s so eagerly become a part of, as if his life as a champion capitalist is some perpetually escalating act of subversion. Hooray? Rooting for this man in 2013 is like rooting for Pfizer. Or PepsiCo. Or PRISM.
Plus, all of this Samsung hullabaloo has only distracted listeners from the fact that, musically and lyrically, “Magna Carta” is one of Jay-Z’s blandest offerings. Over 16 joylessly professional tracks, our hero laces up his sneakers for his bazillion-thousandth victory lap around the hip-hop universe. There’s no mood, no verve, no vision to this music. It’s the sound of champagne being sprayed around an empty locker room.And that’s disappointing considering the blitz of web and TV ads for “Magna Carta,” which suggested we’d be basking in a richly sculpted songbook. The first television spot crash-landed during game five of the NBA Finals, with Jay jawing about his craft in the studio with the album’s producers, Timbaland, Pharrell Williams, Swizz Beatz and Rick Rubin — the last of whom wasn’t actually involved in the making of the album at all.
Also in the ad, the rapper promised to document the difficulty of maintaining his sense of self in the riptides of fame and fortune. But as ever, Jay-Z maintains Oz-like distance on this album, refusing to expose the personal vulnerabilities that Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Drake and a generation of hip-hop stars rising in his wake have built their careers on.
Instead, “Magna Carta” is packed with his patented American dreaming at its most unimaginative. He name-drops Jean-Michel Basquiat and Francis Bacon as if the only point of art is to own it. He name-drops convicted D.C. gangster Wayne “Silk” Perry on a song named after fashion designer Tom Ford. And in a mysterious courtship ritual with Gen X, he recycles the hooks of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”