Breaking Down The Art References on Jay-Z's "Magna Carta Holy Grail"

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Mentioned In: "Picasso Baby," "Oceans," "BBC"
Lyrics: "It ain’t hard to tell/I’m the new Jean Michel,” “Yellow Basquiat in my kitchen corner/Go ahead lean on that shit Blue, you own it” (Picasso Baby), “I hope my black skin don’t dirt this white tuxedo/Before the Basquiat show and if so/Well fuck it, fuck it” (Frank Ocean, “Oceans), “Versace plates got the Basquiat/collab from Versace’s place”
Notable Accomplishments: In 2007, a Basquiat piece sold at Sotheby’s for $14.6 million. Last November, one of his Untitled paintings (made in 1981) sold for $26,402,500 at Christie's, which was in total a record-breaking contemporary art auction for the auction house.

Jay has made it crystal clear that Basquiat is his favorite artist through numerous name-drops in his music over the past several years, to the point where a betting man may have gambled on there being more than just five on this album. Before declaring himself rap’s Picasso, he appoints himself as the new Basquiat. Jean-Michel is widely considered one of the most successful black artists, Jay is one of the most successful black rap artists, and Jay likely feels as if he has had to deal with the same adversity and struggles that Basquiat had to. The two also had meteoric rises to fame and success, even if Basquiat died at the age of 27, unable to deal with a heroine addiction, the loss of Andy Warhol, and likely, the pressures of getting bigger and bigger in the art world.

Even when he’s shilling out new projects through phone companies, do remember that Jay-Z's releasing art, nonetheless. It’s grandiose, sure, but also fitting since a lot of Basquiat’s work focused on dichotomies, and duality is definitely a central part of Magna Carta Holy Grail overall, even at risk of being highly, annoyingly paradoxical. This album also sees Hova get more politically and socially introspective than perhaps any of his previous works, perhaps channeling his art idol.

In detailing a studio session with Jay-Z, the result of which was almost undoubtedly “Oceans,” Frank Ocean told Elliott Wilson that Hov gave him the Basquiat documentary The Radiant Child as inspiration, which helped spark his idea for the hook. The lyric talks about going to a “Basquiat show” to flaunt one's improbable ascension to the predominantly white upper class.

The “BBC” chorus contains a rest in peace shout-out to Gianni Versace. To hear Jay tell it, he recently copped a collaboration piece that he did with Basquiat from dude’s personal collection.

Finally, Jay’s art collection is so vast that he’s got million dollar works just chilling against the kitchen counter before he finds a spot to hang them. And in a supreme display of stunting, he’s totally cool with his 18-month-old daughter leaning on it, because fuck it, what’s his is hers anyway.

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