Jay-Z unveiled his Magna Carta Holy Grail today, making headlines for the new album's much-hyped exclusive debut through a smartphone app, an audacious display of its cover art in the U.K. and incorporating beats created by a Canadian teen.
The rap mogul, fledgling NBA player agent and businessman has been ubiquitous on the web and across traditional and social media in the past few weeks after striking a landmark deal — said to be worth $5 million US — to give away one million digital copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail to Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners three days before the album officially goes on sale.
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Trade magazine Billboard said it would not include the Samsung giveaways in its weekly music chart. Its rules prevent bulk album sales distributed for free from counting towards total sales and giveaways are ineligible for inclusion on its music charts.
However, the album will be considered for gold and platinum status immediately, because the Recording Industry Association of American announced this week it was amending its policy to count digital sales right away, rather than wait the usual 30 days after release.
Along with firing up music industry chatter, the New York rapper has also sparked controversy for putting the album's cover art on display next to a copy of the original Magna Carta documents in the U.K.
Considered the first significant document on the modern concept of human rights, the Magna Carta — also known as the Great Charter of Liberty — defined limits to royal power and was signed by King John at Runnymede in 1215.
Jay-Z's album art is currently on show next to one of the four surviving original documents in England's Salisbury Cathedral and will remain there until the end of July.
Canadian teen beat-maker featured
Magna Carta Holy Grail also has a Canadian connection, courtesy of budding Brampton, Ont.-based producer Ebony Oshunrinde, a.k.a. WondaGurl.
The 16-year-old Oshunrinde, who first delved into hip hop production using music software at the age of nine, has been building her profile over the past few years. Under the wing of Canadian producer Boi-1Da, she triumphed at the 2012 Battle of the Beatmakers and has created beats for Canadian rappers SonReal & Rich Kidd, singer-rapper Ryan Leslie and rapper-producer Travis Scott.
Her work with Scott led to her inclusion in Jay-Z's Magna Carta: Oshunrinde just happened to send Scott a new beat she was working on while the Texas rapper was in studio with Jay-Z. Subsequently, the teen's beat is now featured on the album's track Crown.
"It's a really good feeling. I want to show young people that they can do it," Oshunrinde, who just finished Grade 11, told the Toronto Star. "Anybody can be successful. It doesn’t matter where you're from."