Jay Z’s latest LP ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ was a strange pillar in what has been one of hip hop’s busiest ever years. In short, HOVA sounded a little spent. There was an appeal to the production on cuts like ‘Tom Ford’ and ‘Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit’ but on the whole the album was little more than 16 tracks of flossing that was veiled in artistic integrity through statues on the cover and a fancy title. That might be too harsh, ‘Tom Ford’ is a jam but the album was upstaged this year pretty heavily. That aside, there is no denying that Jay Z is the archetypal hip hop top dog (an image many try to impersonate) and this world tour won’t put that status in danger by any means.
Opening with ‘Holy Grail’ which included a chorus from Jay’s new BFFL Justin Timberlake. It’s a surefire arena-ready anthem and it brings Jay on in suitably lavish fashion. Dressed in all black- he ungrudgingly bounces across the stage. Any sense of distance and enigma that was built by the ‘Watch The Throne’ is getting deconstructed on this world tour. Jay is mere metres from the fans. When a circle breaks out and a girl dances in the center he points and says, “I like how you do it ma!”. It’s actually really refreshing to watch. Tracks from his latest record like ‘Oceans’ and ‘Somewhereinamerica’ come across playful and fun whereas on record they sound slightly pseudo-highbrow. The highlights come (unsurprisingly) from the hits. ‘Public Service Announcement’ is slick and inarguably world class. ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ still stands as one of the all time best makeshift swagger anthems and Jay knows it. It’s the moments when he revels in his own status by dragging out cuts like ‘Encore’ and ’99 Problems’ where he flexes his showmanship and it’s thrilling to watch. The only weird element of the Magna Carta World Tour is the addition of Timbaland who live DJs and hypes the crowd up when Jigga needs some water. It’s just a little bit pointless and at times slowed Jay Z down ever so slightly. But as soon as you’d feel confused by a Timbaland beatboxing section, Jay would whip out tracks like ‘Izzo (H.O.V.A)’ and all would be forgiven.
The fact of the matter is, Jay Z is so buckled down to his spot on the throne that moving him is impossible. Even if he’s there a little bit by default- he won’t be moved. ‘Magna Carta...’ is one of the weakest hip hop releases of the year but it doesn’t really matter. On the final verse of encore he spits, “So this here is the victory lap”. If you are able to look at this world tour as a victory lap then it’s thrilling. It’s a celebration of the first ever true rap superstar. 30 songs strong, performed to perfection and barely a bar-off. Shuf were seriously rocking with the best.
Words: Duncan Harrison