Jay-Z's latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, has the rapper delving into previously unexplored themes and lyrical territory, an impressive feat given the fact that this is his twelfth full-length effort. It also features the same well-worn yet still entertaining fare—namely well-worded, conspiracy theory-baiting boasts about his Mount Everest pile of cash.
One of late era Jigga's favorite ways to express his wealth and culture? His art collection. Both fans and critics alike knew to expect several references to some of his favorite artists, namely Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Mark Rothko, at the very least. Instead, playing on expectations, he trolled us all, relegating most of the album's numerous fine art references to one song which, wouldn't you know it, riffs on his endless art obsession.
The album cover itself has two sculptures which haven't been identified, but they are likely interpretive combinations of well-known works. Jay-Z famously debuted the cover art on July 3 at the Salisbury Cathedral in the UK, where one of the four remaining copies of the real Magna Carta document is housed. Not long ago, upon the release of Decoded, Jay-Z licensed Warhol's 1984 Rorschach work for the book's cover. He has even gone so far as to call himself Andy WarHOV on his website, Life+Times, and also licensed a Basquiat painting for a D'Ussé liquor ad last October. So yeah, his love for contemporary art, at least, hasn't gone unnoticed, but he made Magna Carta Holy Grail his opportunity to glorify and fetishize visual art even more.
The second track, "Picasso Baby," has (in addition to a ferociously funky beat from Timbaland and Adrian Younge) an endless barrage of art and culture name-drops. But as we said above, Hova's getting deeper than ever on this album. Like he told Rick Rubin—who may or may not have been awake during the explanation—"Picasso Baby" aims to do more thematically than just allow him a chance to reiterate everything he saw at Art Basel. We've explained all the art references on "Picasso Baby" and the rest of the album so that the non-art history major can figure out exactly what the hell Jay's talking about. Some of them may be deeper than you initially thought. Read on for a breakdown of The Art References on Magna Carta Holy Grail.
Written by Frazier Tharpe (@The_SummerMan)