Album: Magna Carta... Holy Grail
Label: Roc-A-Fella, Roc Nation, Universal
Producer: Boi-1da, Timbaland & Vinylz
Sure, it's more of a Rick Ross song than a Jay Z song, but pretty appropriate that for Jay's big cell phone marketing ploy, he also managed to swindle Ross's only meaningful hit of the year (give or take a controversial "U.O.E.N.O." guest appearance). Kicking off with the audio of Pimp C defending the younger generation's fascination with all that glitters, the song seethes with restrained potential energy, which Ross and Jay mirror in their respective start-stop verses.
With a cascading synth line behind them and a roiling bassline offering an ominous surface to stand upon, the two sound like the last rappers on earth, or the first to the moon. Either way, Ross's biggest moments in 2013 (this, "U.O.E.N.O.") sounded massive in the absence of bombast, in their collected reserve. It's something Jay has mastered—that coiled, conservative presentation. It should tell Ross something that his biggest songs were also his smallest, musically, and might suggest a change of direction for MMG. —David Drake