Double Feature: Jay Z

magna carta holy grail

Magna Carta Holy Grail

By Liat Rubin

This summer, the words “Magna Carta Holy Grail” have acquired a whole new meaning thanks to Jay Z’s new album of the same name. Fans were overjoyed when the announcement of the upcoming album was made public through a Samsung Galaxy S4 commercial in May. Jay Z followers rushed to iTunes where they pre-ordered the album, making it go platinum before it was even released.

The album includes catchy, intelligent tracks su      ch as  Picasso baby  and Holy Grail. Picasso baby has raised some eyebrows in the art community because in it Jay Z states that he is the “modern day Picasso” and that at night he sleeps next to  “Mona Lisa with better features.” Despite its controversial message, Picasso baby holds up to the Jay Z standard of a well-instrumented, well-produced track. Holy Grail relies on a mixture of Jay Z’s smooth lyrics and Justin Timberlake’s powerful and angelic voice to mesmerize the listener.

Jay Z, and producers Rick Rubin and Timbaland used an experimental mush pot of different sounds to create the unique album, which holds 14 songs to add to Jay Z’s long repertoire. It includes songs such as Somewhereinamerica, a more upbeat song accompanied by piano and a unique trumpet line; and Part II on the run, a duet between Jay-Z and his talented pop-singing wife Beyoncé. Part II on the run is hypnotic with Beyoncé’s eerie yet beautiful background vocals. Another interesting track on the album is Jay Z Blue. This song expresses Jay Z’s worries about fatherhood as well as his hopes for the future of his child Blue Ivy Carter.

Despite these tracks, many Jay Z fans are unimpressed with the overall album. Although it has a few gripping and stimulating songs such as Picasso baby and Holy Grail, there are a few tracks that fail to stir a listener like past Jay Z albums have.  One song in particular Tom Ford has faced criticism for its monotonous tone and repetition. Simon Vozick-Levinson from Rolling Stone magazine said of Jay Z’s performance in Tom Ford that  “He sounds bored half to death by the basic rhyme, listlessly repeating the designer’s name like it’s going to magically transform into a clever or catchy hook. It hurts to see him waste a primo Timbaland beat like this. What happened to the guy who would have devoured those jiggly synth squelches a couple of years ago?”

Although Magna Carta Holy Grail may not have lived up to some of Jay Z’s past albums, it has still created a few unforgettable tracks that are sure to become part of the Jay Z  legacy.

Jay Z Debuts Album

by Hana Beach

Recently, performance art has ventured out of the obscure and isolated art world and into mainstream culture. 2013 led the way to many celebrities exploring this mode of self expression. First Tilda Swinton famously slept in a glass box, and most recently with Jay Z’s rap marathon at Pace Gallery.

Jay Z’s “Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film” is a film about his six hour long performance of “Picasso Baby.” This eleven minute study of Jay Z’s rap marathon, and his interactions with the guests who included artist Marina Abramovic, director Judd Apatow, and actors Alan Cumming, Rosie Perez and Taraji P. Henson, is a cultural phenomenon. The piece focuses on intimate personal performances between Jay Z and members of the audience, as well as exploring the differences that come with each of his performances. Jay Z fed off of the energy of his specified guest and changed the way he performed the song to match their mood.

The film debuted on HBO this summer, and was later placed on Youtube for the rest of the world to see. It opens with Jay Z talking about the relationship between musicians and artists, stating “We’re artists. We’re cousins.” Jay Z then explains his concept of the video, and his thoughts on the relationship between hip hop and performance art. “Hip-hop is performance art, but the venues change. And just by nature of the venues the performance changes.”

Jay Z, an avid art collector, was inspired by performance artist Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist Is Present,” which also featured close interactions between the artist and the guests. Abramovic has a large cameo throughout the study. She later said that “It’s really important that I can shift the public from the one field [i.e., pop music] to the arts, which rarely happens. So, this was really a very meaningful thing.” Abramovic hopes that this performance will bring fans from the hip hop world into the arts.

Jay Z ended the film rapping in crowd of people, a scene that looks much more like a rap concert than a performance art piece. Jay Z continued to comment on the similarities between hip-hop and performance art at the end of the study. “Rap is pretty much thinking out loud…It’s there for the world to see.” This belief of placing yourself on display is recognizably the view of a performance artist.

Categories: Culture

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