Jay-Z Magna Carta Holy Grail
**** (out of four)
Jay-Z set the bar high for himself with the buildup given this album in the three weeks since the surprise announcement that it would be available for free to 1 million Samsung customers today.
But that's just the kind of challenge the rapper, who once claimed to walk on water, thrives on. The music was more that worth the wait.
A coolly confident Hov boasts of his wealth, but also ponders what is it really worth and when is enough enough on Picasso, Baby. He also contemplates his fitness for fatherhood in light of having been raised without a father on Jay-Z Blue, and questions on Nickels and Dimes whether his charitable giving stems from genuine concern or guilt. He has fun, too. BBC is an old fashion posse cut with Nas, Beyonce, Swizz Beatz, Pharrell and Timberland. Elsewhere, he gets help from Justin Timberlake, Rick Ross and Frank Ocean.
The breadth of his subject matter - which also touches on family, loyalty, spirituality and fame - is matched by his lyrical acuity. His perspective is that of someone who has achieved much but hasn't lost sight of what brought him to this point.
With platinum status guaranteed even before his album goes on sale July 9, he could have just mailed it in. But he stays on top, because he refuses to do anything less than epic.
Steve Jones, USA TODAY