If you are one of the Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners who received one of a million free copies of Jay-Z’s new album "Magna Carta ... Holy Grail," you have no need for this review. But if you are an iPhone owner — or the owner of merely a landline — you should beware of spending your hard-earned cash on the latest from HOVA, whose album contains at least 99 problems. Never before has Mr. Beyoncé sounded so irrelevant and lazy, with his run-of-the-mill trap beats and indolent rhymes (not to mention cribbing lyrics from Nirvana and R.E.M.) paling in comparison to his comrade Kanye West’s game-changing, brilliant album released just a few weeks before "Magna Carta." Throughout, Carter’s status as an East Coast heavyweight is diminished by his fumbling dabbling at Southern hip hop, and his signature cleverness is disappointingly absent, resorting to boastfulness about the good life that he enjoys in all of its opulence. "Reasonable Doubt" and "The Blueprint" are still sterling evidence of Jay-Z’s mastery when he is at the top of his game, but "Magna Carta" is a pedestrian effort. The worst things in life are sometimes free.
Billy Yang co-wrote this review.
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