Have you ever listened to an album and been inspired to respond to it for publication in WEEKEND? Jay-Z’s most recent release, “Magna Carta … Holy Grail,” did it for me.
I had a moment the other day, Jay-Z in my earbuds, walking across Cross Campus. I looked up at Sterling Memorial Library in all its grandeur, and “Picasso Baby” came on, and I felt thankful that Jay-Z had given us a pitch-perfect soundtrack for senior year at Yale. I might be late to the Jay-Z party, but I’m here, so Boola Boola.
“Magna Carta … Holy Grail,” Jay-Z is speaking not to the American dream, but to the Yale dream.
This album is a Yalie’s Swiss Army Knife — its 16 tracks have you covered in virtually any situation on campus or in the immediately surrounding area.
There are a lot of high points throughout the album’s 59 minutes, but Jay-Z is at his very best when he’s touting his art swag. This music brings you back to Nemerov’s Art History lecture, and to those precious moments in section when the TF would put up a painting on the projector and everyone would be like, “Oh I love this one — it’s sick.” That’s exactly what my art history major roommate and I say, in unison, when “Picasso Baby” comes on.
In that song alone, Jay-Z manages to shout-out Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko, Jeff Koons, Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Leonardo DaVinci, as well as the MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre and the Tate Modern, where he is variously living or “throning” — and Art Basel (a contemporary art showcase), outside which he keeps two Bugattis. This sounds like a baller fellowship.
In “F.U.T.W.” — Fuck Up This World — Jay-Z claims to do just that, in the manner of any good old Yale boy: he eats steak, he owns an estate, and he’s “got strip clubs feelin’ like Oxford,” which is to say, he gentrifies.
Elsewhere on the album, Jay-Z invites us to his housewarming party.
He officially makes #BookJacketRap a thing when he refers to himself as “the best-selling author of Decoded.” I bought that book for the spring 2012 DeVane Lecture. He gives us a reassuring picture of what it might be like to retire, when he boasts of playing “Frank Sinatra on my Sonos.” On “Tom Ford” Jay-Z spits the line, “fuck hashtags and retweets,” and it sounds like something you’d overhear at Mory’s during reunion season. In context, the turkey bacon aroma Jay-Z wakes up to in “Picasso Baby” smells like Sunday brunch in the Saybrook dining hall.
Or maybe nostalgia’s just got the best of me.
This is the anthem of courtyards and entryways and frocos. It has me excited for Parents’ Weekend.
As Yalies, we can take comfort in the fact that someone in the rap game is making music for us. As seniors, we enter the twilight of our college careers with this, the masterpiece of Mr. Carter. Our timing is impeccable.
Can anyone think of a better headliner for Spring Fling? Can anyone think of a better commencement speaker? Can you picture the op-eds that would run after that announcement? The ivory tower would shine once more!