Label: Roc-A-Fella, Roc Nation, Universal
Jay Z recently ranked the album he put out this year, Magna Carta Holy Grail, as the sixth best solo effort of his career. That seems close to right. (Though: Vol. 3...Life and Times of S. Carter all the way down at no. 9?! No way! "Big Pimpin'" and "Come and Get Me" and "NYMP" alone put that one in the top 6!) But where does Magna Carta rank amongst all the albums that came out in 2013? Exactly 23st, it turns out.
This album had a very strange run this year. Starting with the surprise announcement of its arrival, with that three-minute commercial that aired at halftime during Game 5 of the NBA finals, and then the disclosure of the huge super mega deal with Samsung that grossed-out anti-capitalists and assured the album would sell a million copies before it was even available to the public.
But then, once everyone got out from under the hype, and settled down to actually listen to the thing, it was...pretty good. Very listenable. A survey of current high-gloss production, with strong-enough rhymes and one standout song, "FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt," that would turn into one of the years biggest hits. Inescapable, that Jay Z; he's always got something that's gonna get ya. —Dave Bry